By the afternoon of Saturday, April 1, volunteers from the Eden Prairie chapter of Let’s Go Fishing were frying fish in the parking lot of Immanuel Lutheran Church – a parking lot that had been buried under eight inches of snow from the previous night’s storm earlier in the day.
While the church’s snow plow service cleared the lot, the Let’s Go Fishing volunteers had plenty of their own tasks to do for their annual fundraiser, which offered a dine-in option this year for the first time since 2019, as well as take-out meals. For instance, they had to defrost 450 pounds of Alaskan fish in preparation for serving 553 meals at the event.
Let’s Go Fishing provides free fishing and boating experiences for youth, veterans, seniors, hospice patients, disabled individuals, and more. In 2022, the Eden Prairie chapter took over 3,700 people on 323 fishing and boating trips on Lake Riley. Currently, the all-volunteer organization has 85 participating volunteers.
They were looking for more volunteers at the fish fry, as well as donations to support expenses such as equipment, fuel, maintenance, and bait. With ticket sales, a “pass the gas can” appeal, raffle sales, and direct donations, the event raised $10,000.
A major donation last year came from Scheels, which contributed $50,000 for the purchase of a new boat. The Eden Prairie Let’s Go Fishing chapter is currently operating two pontoon boats on Lake Riley. One of those boats has been in service for 10 years, since the chapter’s founding in 2012. Currently under construction in Wisconsin, the new Scheels boat is a 30-foot tri-toon that can accommodate 12 guests and two crew, with seating that can be easily rearranged to accommodate up to three powered wheelchairs. It should be ready for launch this summer. Let’s Go Fishing also plans to replace its second boat this year.
Each boat can take up to three trips a day during the season, hosting a variety of passengers. For instance, said Let’s Go Fishing board president Steve Wilson, it could be “people from a nursing home. You take ‘em out and they get a sunfish, and their eyes light up like a pinball machine. And then a big bass comes out and swallows the sunfish, and now they’ve caught a big fish.”
Registration for trips for the 2023 season opens May 1 on the Eden Prairie Let’s Go Fishing website.
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