The smell of fried fish flooded Immanuel Lutheran Church in preparation for the Let’s Go Fishing Eden Prairie area chapter’s annual fish fry fundraiser on March 19.
Let’s Go Fishing is a volunteer organization that gives fishing experiences to seniors, veterans, youths and disabled adults free of charge. Beginning in Willmar in 2002, the organization has grown to 19 chapters throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Eden Prairie chapter began its trips on Lake Riley in 2012 and around the same time began holding their annual fish fry fundraiser (done as a drive-through event this year) to raise money for insurance, engine upkeep, docks and other equipment.
“There’s no paid employees, we’re all volunteers. That’s amazing, isn’t it?” said Let’s Go Fishing Eden Prairie President Steve Wilson, who has been volunteering for 10 years.
In 2019 the chapter took 4,175 people out on the water. In 2021 the number decreased to 3,000 people due to safety precautions taken during the pandemic.
“The benefits (guests) get is they get out and experience nature’s healing,” Wilson said. “(They) get out and experience sunshine, experience the joy of what they used to do as little kids and as adults taking their grandkids out.”
Above all, Let’s Go Fishing Eden Prairie is accessible to everyone. This includes those who use wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks.
Though fishing experience is not required, many volunteers and guests grew up learning from their parents and/or grandparents. Bob Anderson, who began fishing as a youngster with his dad, is going into his fourth season of volunteering with the chapter.
“I enjoy fishing, but sometimes I enjoy this type of fishing better. When I (am) baiting hooks for these people and watching them catch a fish or helping them catch a fish,” said Anderson.
Since the beginning, Let’s Go Fishing has helped over 190,000 people get out on the water. Some, for their last time.
“We took (a man) out fishing. He got 25 fish that day. He had an oxygen tank on him and in a wheelchair and two weeks later, we heard he passed away,” said Wilson. “We got him on his last trip. Yeah, that’s what his son wanted.”
Going into this season, Wilson hopes to break their annual record of 4,175 guests while still keeping everyone safe.
The Let’s Go Fishing season starts June 1 and runs through Sept. 30.
For more information on how to volunteer or participate visit the Let’s Go Fishing Eden Prairie website.