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'Let's Go Fishing' secures new pontoon

The Headwater's Area chapter of Let's Go Fishing now possesses the pontoon for their fishing focused program. Committee member Kurt Hansen beams that the vessel, constructed by Crestliner Boats of New York Mills, MN, has "a lot of bells and whistles", including a full bimini top to keep occupants out of the sun, a sonar and GPS. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

The Headwater's Area chapter of Let's Go Fishing has recent reason to rejoice. The pontoon, constructed by Minnesota company Crestliner Boats, is ready to make its maiden voyage.

Community members may have seen the custom created vessel recently on display along Highway 34 in the Ace Hardware parking lot.

Kurt Hansen, member of the Headwater's Area Let's Go Fishing committee, is as excited as anyone as the project, which has been in the organizational stages for a couple years, reaches a new level.

A training session for volunteers, essentially a training that educates pilots (those captaining the pontoon) to train other pilots was held this past Thursday at Northwoods Bank in its conference room.

As the program takes flight, two trained and qualified pilots will take a group of anglers out fishing on the pontoon. The occupants will additionally have support staff, which is required to attend, meaning family, nursing home staff or other affiliated partners who know the specific needs of the guest.

The program is centered on senior citizens, which Hansen admits is a broad term, noting 55 or 65-years of age is the general criteria.

However, Hansen says the program isn't only for seniors. Youth groups and organizations are invited to assist seniors on the excursions. Other programs such as Kinship are other likely matches for the Let's Go Fishing mantra of simply assisting community members in getting out on the water.

"Many of the participants will be senior citizens who simply need assistance to get out fishing. Individuals not falling within the age classification of senior citizen with physical limitations are also a large focus," says Hansen.

The pontoon itself is a $40,000 investment. The Let's Go Fishing committee thus far has generated a little over $10,000 through fundraising and donations.

The group has secured a loan for the balance and through annual fundraising efforts and donations that amount should dwindle to simply operating expenses within the next few years.

Hansen says that after the pontoon is paid off, the yearly operating expenses will total $2,500-$4,000. The greatest of those costs is insurance, but also includes fuel, maintenance and provisions for the occupants.

The formal kick-off for the Let's Go Fishing pontoon will be next spring, though Hansen says a preliminary trial for volunteers to see how the boat handles and operates may take place yet this fall on the Fish Hook River.

Park Rapids Community Education has committed to handling the scheduling for both guests and volunteers, which will streamline the process.

Even though the chapter is centered in Park Rapids, nearby communities like Osage and Nevis are also invited to take an active role.

Individuals and businesses interested in donating money to the Let's Go Fishing program or for more information on volunteering can call Hansen at 732-1283.

"This is a great program for the area," says Hansen, "and if there's enough demand, we may look at purchasing a second pontoon, which has been the case in several communities offering this wonderful program."