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Fishing Has No Boundaries: Annual fishing outing brings joy to participants

From left, Joe Britt, a volunteer with the Christian Motorcycle Association, and Scott Peterson help dock the pontoon captained by Steve Roozing with assistant Gayle Lofthus. Seventy-six anglers took part in Fishing Has No Boundaries Saturday on Lake Bemidji. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Hugs, laughter, excitement were all a part of the 20th annual Fishing Has No Boundaries events Saturday and today.

"It's like a family reunion every year," said Vance Balstad.

Vance and his wife, Suzie, are among the organizers of the annual event designed to open up the great outdoors for people with disabilities through fishing.

"I caught two perch," said Julie Sherrer of Bemidji, who said she started fishing 22 years ago when the event was held on Kitchie Lake.

"I like fishing," said Matt Stanton of Bemidji.

"Try to get big fish," said Pam Shoquist of Bemidji.

All the anglers demonstrated the size of their catches by holding their hands apart in the classic fisherman's measurement gesture.

"They're having a blast - they're loving it," said Lois Holleman who accompanied three anglers from Lutheran Social Services Tamarack House.

Besides fishing, she said her anglers were excited to see a pelican swoop over them and land in a bay. And they whooped and giggled when the wind blew someone's Fishing Has No Boundaries hat into the water. Their guide was able to rescue it with a net, bringing on shouts of "We caught a hat!"

Suzie said 76 anglers participated Saturday with an uncounted number of volunteers helping distribute equipment, lending pontoons, guiding the boats, assisting with bait and serving meals. The Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University football team members pitched in, and Subway and KFC donated food for the lunches. The Bemidji Lions Club set up their griddles Sunday morning to treat the anglers and volunteers to a pancake breakfast.

"It just speaks about our community that so many people help," Suzie said.

Fishing Has No Boundaries has 23 chapters in 11 states enabling thousands of individuals with disabilities to participate fully in this outdoor recreational activity.

To commemorate the event Saturday, the anglers gathered in front of the Paul and Babe statues for their traditional "family photo."