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Want to spend some time on the water this summer? Let's Go Fishing volunteer orientation is May 14

This group of area veterans came dressed for the occasion during a 2017 trip they scheduled through the Detroit Lakes chapter of Let's Go Fishing. (Submitted photo)1 / 5
The Schuler girls enjoyed their Let's Go Fishing excursion on Detroit Lake; the local nonprofit has provided fishing and boating trips to more than 7,000 seniors, youth, veterans and physically challenged people of all ages since it was started in 2008. (Submitted photo)2 / 5
The Detroit Lakes chapter of Let's Go Fishing depends on the support of sponsors like the Cormorant Sportsman's Club and the Holiday Inn on the Lake, which supply them with everything they need for the 125-130 trips they schedule each season. (Submitted photo) 3 / 5
Some trips scheduled with the Detroit Lakes chapter of Let's Go Fishing are more of the scenic variety, with the pontoon captain pointing out some points of interest along the way. (Submitted photo)4 / 5
Youth groups including the local Boys & Girls Club also regularly schedule trips with the Detroit Lakes chapter of Let's Go Fishing. (Submitted photo)5 / 5

Boating, fishing and water recreation are a huge part of life for people in the Detroit Lakes area.

But what about those who do not have ready access to the water, either due to decreased mobility, or a lack of someone to take them there?

Since 2008, the Detroit Lakes Area Chapter of Let's Go Fishing has been filling that gap, serving thousands of area seniors, veterans, youth and physically challenged people of all ages.

"This will be our 12th season," says Dave Hochhalter, one of the chapter's founders, and its current treasurer.

The start of the 2019 fishing season may still be a few weeks away, but LGF already has over 80 trips scheduled, Hochhalter added; technology advancements on the chapter's website, detroitlakes.lgfws.com, have made it easier than ever to do so.

Once a group is registered with the local LGF chapter's scheduler, Betty Hochhalter, anyone in that group can go to the website and schedule a date and time from the list of available slots, he added.

"It's just a matter of a couple clicks to schedule a trip," Hochhalter continued. "Our volunteers can also see what trips are out there, put their name down and they're booked for that day."

Last year, the chapter's 45 active volunteers completed 130 trips, including both scenic and fishing excursions. And speaking of volunteers... that's one thing that the local LGF organization can always use more of, Hochhalter said.

"We need to have at least a captain and a first mate on every trip," he added, noting that the captain runs the pontoon, while the first mate assists with docking and launching the pontoon, boarding and offloading passengers, getting them set up with fishing gear, or whatever else is needed — so for larger groups, a second mate is sometimes recruited as well.

Though it's helpful when the pontoon captain has some prior boating experience, that's something that also be taught, if a volunteer wants to learn; the local chapter's 2019 volunteer orientation session is set for Tuesday, May 14 at the Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn, starting at 6 p.m.

"There is no minimum number of trips required," Hochhalter said, noting that while some have done 10 or more trips per season, those who are interested should still sign up "even if they can only manage one or two."

Madalyn Sukke serves as the chapter's volunteer coordinator, Hochhalter said. "She always follows up to make sure there are volunteers scheduled for every trip," he added.

Trips are typically scheduled Monday through Thursday, at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Other times can be arranged by special appointment, however.

"We're very fortunate," Hochhalter said. "We've never had to cancel a trip due to lack of volunteers."

They have occasionally had to rescheduled or temporarily postpone trips, however, due to weather or mechanical difficulties. While it has been refurbished and overhauled a few times, the chapter's original pontoon is still in service, and has done a great job for them, Hochhalter said.

Local businesses have also been very supportive, he added; since the beginning, the Holiday Inn has provided a slip for their pontoon on its dock, and At Ease Dock & Lift has provided the lift for it, though the chapter recently purchased a solar powered mechanical device to run the lift automatically. Quality Bait & Tackle also provides all the bait for their fishing excursions, and the local Cenex station provides all the fuel.

"All of this couldn't happen without our sponsors, or our volunteers," Hochhalter said.

Those who are interested in getting involved — by serving as a volunteer on the pontoon for a fishing or scenic trip, or by helping out in other ways — please call 218-847-5670, email dbdlmn@arvig.net, visit the website at detroitlakes.lgfws.com or check out their Facebook page, "Detroit Lakes MN Let's Go Fishing."

The contact information for scheduling a trip through LGF is the same, Hochhalter added.

"We're hoping to get in another 125-130 trips this season," he said. "We're looking forward to another good, fun year."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454