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Let's Go Fishing program comes to DL

A couple years ago, Joe Holm proposed the idea of Let's Go Fishing in Detroit Lakes. Paul Sukke was on board, but died before he could get the organization started. Now his friends are taking over and ready to start the program in his remembrance.

Let's Go Fishing is a non-profit organization that provides boating and fishing opportunities for seniors -- a chance for them to relax and build relationships.

Holm, executive director and founder of the organization based out of Willmar, said in the beginning, he "knew that it would put smiles on faces, but I never realized the depth (it would touch seniors)."

When he talked to Sukke about bringing the program to Detroit Lakes, he said, "you could see the wheels turning in his mind. He knew the impact it'd have on the community."

Dave Hochhalter, who is leading the local branch of the organization along with Dave Heyer, said Sukke "just started to get it rolling, got sick and passed away." He had talked to several of his friends and convinced them to keep on with the project.

"He twisted our arm a bit," Hochhalter said with a laugh. "He's still working up there."

The board now consists of Hochhalter, Heyer, Jarred Bridgeman, Dan Berg, Dave Pratt, John Fuglesten, Brenda Labine, Dave Karsnia and Judy Peterson.

"Paul was a close friend of mine," Bridgeman said as part of the reason he agreed to get behind the project. "I do for the Boys and Girls Club, so why not do something on the other end of the spectrum for seniors."

The board has been meeting and working to fill positions and get the needed pontoon and fishing equipment. Now they need volunteers to take a safety training class to take the seniors out boating, and they need funding as well.

The pontoon, lifejackets, equipment, bait, everything that's needed for the trip is furnished for seniors. All they need to bring is their excitement.

There are 20-plus branches of the Let's Go Fishing organization throughout Minnesota. In 2007, the organization took 7,000 seniors out for boating trips. It estimates 13,900 seniors in 2008 with the addition of chapters and pontoons.

"The important thing is good leadership to get this going," Holm said, which he added he's found in Detroit Lakes.

"You need seniors and water to make this float," he said. Detroit Lakes happens to have some of both.

"I sense that the community is getting behind this," he added.

The handicap accessible pontoons can handle small groups of seniors, whether they want to fish or just enjoy a tour around the lake. Outings average one to four hours, depending on what the seniors want and volunteers can commit to.

Committee member Fuglesten said he joined the group because it's a great opportunity, one that he may be utilizing soon, he added with a laugh.

"I'm on the borderline. I'll help now and in a couple years I'll be on the boat with my wheelchair," he joked.

Hochhalter, who is retiring from the Chamber of Commerce in May, said being a part of this program will give him the opportunity to get out on the lake more often.

"Fishing is a universal language," Berg said.

Those interested in volunteering or donating to the Detroit Lakes Area Chapter of Let's Go Fishing can call Hochhalter at 847-5670. For more information on the program, visit