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Let's Go Fishing chapter reports biggest year yet

Submitted Volunteers with the Willmar chapter of Let's Go fishing host Bethesda Daybreak residents on an outing in June. The local volunteers hosted more than 2,000 guests in 2017, a record season.

WILLMAR — The Willmar chapter of Let's Go Fishing is reporting a record season in 2017 as it puts the pontoon boats away for the winter and prepares for next year.

Volunteers with the local chapter hosted more than 2,000 people and a record 73 groups registered for outings on the water, an increase of 108 percent over last year, according to chapter director Jim Gauss.

Those who came to enjoy outings on local waters included many from Kandiyohi County, but also many who came from as far away as St. Cloud, Buffalo Lake, Hutchinson, Litchfield and Olivia.

Launched in 2002, Let's Go Fishing provides senior citizens, adults with disabilities, military veterans, and youth boating and fishing excursions.

In one case this year, a couple came all the way from Portland, Oregon. In a news release to local news outlets, Gauss reported that the husband was a military veteran with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. He was an avid fisherman with his own boat before the affliction. His wife was trying to find a way to get him back out fishing, according to Gauss.

An internet search led her to Let's Go Fishing, and she decided to give it a try. The couple flew from Portland to Minneapolis and drove to Willmar for the opportunity.

"He seemed a little apprehensive at first, but after catching some fish, the smiles erupted,'' stated Gauss in the release.

Veterans from the St. Cloud Medical Center made 15 fishing trips to Green Lake thanks to the Let's Go Fishing chapter volunteers this year.

The volunteers started the 2017 season by taking a record 585 elementary school students on the waters of Green Lake in May, a 54 percent increase from the previous year.

Gauss said Let's Go Fishing is looking forward to a big year in 2018 as well, and is beginning fundraising to make it possible. The local chapter is hosting a cake auction Nov. 4 at the Willmar Community Center. See today's "Good Neighbors" on this page for more.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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