Fishing For Fun lures seniors and others out onto Lake Johanna this summer

Just more than a week after Minnesota’s Fishing Opener, Fishing For Fun, an organization that bills itself as “a nonprofit offering free boating and fishing trips on Lake Johanna in Arden Hills,” held its own opener, of sorts.

Forced indoors by unseasonably gloomy and chilly weather on May 18, Fishing For Fun christened its brand new pontoon fishing boat, putting into motion the 501(c)3 group’s inaugural season that will kick off with its first fishing trip on Lake Johanna on June 1.

Fishing For Fun is an independent, local offshoot of the state-wide organization, Let’s Go Fishing. Both groups operate with the same goals in mind: bringing seniors, veterans and young people on free boating and fishing trips.

“We just wanted to serve our community,” said Julie Overbye Ledy, president and development coordinator of Fishing For Fun.

Just days after the christening, Overbye Ledy said that 87 of the group’s 96 planned fishing trips were filled—that’s about 800 individuals who will get out on the water this summer. Even with the full booking, she said Fishing For Fun wants to work with as many people as possible.

“We are willing to schedule special trips and we have been doing that for individuals,” Overbye Ledy said, mentioning one-off trips planned for a 19-year-old girl and her father. “We would be more than happy to see if we could accommodate them at a different time.”

The organization, with eyes on perhaps expanding service next summer, will run two trips per day, four days a week, getting out on the water from the first day of June until Sept. 17.

All necessary equipment—fishing reels and rods, life jackets and bait—are provided by Fishing For Fun, and the organization’s custom 25-foot boat can accommodate up to three people in wheelchairs.

‘Fishing for sunnies’

“Love of water, love of being outside, love of service,” is what Overbye Ledy said motivates her and the others who formed Fishing For Fun.

The nonprofit’s board consists of 10 people and, said Overbye Ledy, “With all of us, we can get things done.”

Beyond the board, she said, volunteers will staff the the summer’s trips, and 65 captains and mates have signed on to fill out the schedule.

Jack Overbye, Julie Overbye Ledy’s father, a Fishing For Fun board member who is scheduled to captain four trips on Lake Johanna this summer, said he’s pretty new to volunteering, but he’s got plenty of experience with lakes.

“I’ve been on the water since I was 10 years old,” Jack said, mentioning too that he has been involved with the Rotary Club of St. Paul.

One of the main missions of Fishing For Fun, Jack said, is getting people who live in nursing homes out on the lake.

“Many of them were boaters or fisherman ... they don’t have the access to the water [now], and they do enjoy being outdoors,” he noted. “We’re just lucky we can do a little fishing with them.”

Jack says anyone can learn to fish in about ten minutes. He summed up the activity simply: “We’re out fishing for sunnies on Lake Johanna.”

“It’s fun to watch them enjoy their time on the water,” Jack said. “It’s a good way to help people out.”

Speaking from his point of view as the organization’s equipment coordinator, Jack said the fishing boat and its trailer have been paid for, as well as most of the rods and reels, though Fishing For Fun welcomes donation of time or money.

“Our ongoing needs are relatively modest,” Jack said. “But nevertheless, we appreciate support from the community.”

Combining passions

Jack said he taught his children how to water ski, and in turn, Overbye Ledy said she previously worked with Courage Center, teaching people with disabilities how to water ski as well.

She said she and other volunteers with Fishing For Fun see the nonprofit as a way to enjoy being on the water while volunteering as well, combining passions.

Overbye Ledy related memories from fishing trips she volunteered for previous to the formation of Fishing For Fun, remembering taking out a 101-year-old, as well as getting an 82-year-old native Minnesotan out on a boat for the first time in her life.

“Just to watch her experience it ... that’s why we’re all doing it,” Overbye Ledy said. “We just get so much in return.”

“It’s not the giving—it’s what you get back,” she added.

Fishing For Fun has an agreement with the Johanna Shores senior living community, located at 3200 Lake Johanna Blvd. in Arden Hills, to use its dock and parking lot. Trips are Monday through Thursday from 9-11 a.m. and 12:15-1:45 p.m., with fishing or boating in the morning and boating in the afternoon

Guests on trips will need a fishing license if they are younger than 90 years old or are not care center residents. Other guests may need to fill out a Department of Natural Resources form.

For more information, call Overbye Ledy at 651-373-3457 or go to www.fishingforfunmn.org.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

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