The pontoon has been put away and ice now covers the surface of Lake Shetek, and with the boating season now over volunteers of Let's Go Fishing are celebrating their first full year on the water.
The Lake Shetek chapter of Let's Go Fishing is a local non-profit with a goal to enrich the lives of senior citizens by taking them on fishing and boating excursions on area lakes.
This fall marks the end of the group's first full year on the lake. During that time, volunteers with the organization logged more than 90 hours for the Lake Shetek Chapter and provided 22 cruises and eight fishing trips for a total of 30 outings throughout the season.
"We had a great season," Jackie Esping, a volunteer for the Lake Shetek chapter, said. "For our first year out we did very well."
In total, the chapter put 264 guests from throughout the region on the water. The group led excursions from nearby towns such as Marshall and Tyler and received interest from as far away as Sioux Falls, S.D.
"There were some fishing trips," Esping said. "They caught little fish, but they were proud to be out on the water getting fish."
For the volunteers and board members, it is the bright smiling faces at the end of the trip that keep them committed to the Let's Go Fishing program.
"I had a lady that's wheelchair bound and not able to get out of the community much," Esping said. "She had never been on a boat. It was awesome to see her smiling out on that boat."
The group purchased a pontoon last year at a cost of $38,500. It might seem like a lot, but the boat is specially designed with accessibility in mind to make it easier to take elderly citizens out on the water.
The pontoon has wider gates for wheelchair access, complete overhead canopies for sun protection, removable seats to make space for wheelchairs, and a third pontoon float on the underside of the boat that provides additional stability.
Fundraising during the last year has helped the group pay-down a large chunk of the boat, but $23,088 remains to be paid. During the winter months the chapter board will continue to plan fundraising events, such as a dart tournament planned for March in Garvin.
The pontoon has been put into storage for the winter, but already volunteers are gearing up for next year.
"Our goal is to get a group of people on the water soon after fishing opener," Esping said. "Next year we'll be in full force."
The group has been training volunteers throughout the season and hopes to have enough to provide trips three days a week during the next boating season.