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30th annual Fishing Has No Boundaries event held for anglers with disabilities

Dozens of anglers gathered at the shore of Lake Bemidji on Saturday for a day of fishing as part of Bemidji’s 30th annual Fishing Has No Boundaries event.

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Participants prepare to take off on a pontoon during a Fishing Has No Boundaries event on Saturday, June 18, 2022, on Lake Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Dozens of anglers gathered at the shore of Lake Bemidji on Saturday for a day of fishing as part of Bemidji’s 30th annual Fishing Has No Boundaries event.

The event, with the purpose of offering those with disabilities a chance to go fishing, drew about 55 anglers from around the region.

Attendees enjoyed breakfast at the shore under the FHNB tent before taking off on the lake, with groups of anglers boarding a fleet of pontoons. Nearly every boat used at the event was privately owned and donated to the program.

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Participants begin boarding pontoons during a Fishing Has No Boundaries event on Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Vance Balstad, co-chair of the FHNB Paul Bunyan Chapter, said participants were provided with everything they needed for a successful fishing trip, from life jackets to fishing bait.

“We furnish everything they need,” Balstad said. “We give them a rod and reel combo, tackle boxes on the boat and a cooler with water.”

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Attendees fished in the morning and returned to shore for lunch, with plans to head back out on the water afterward. However, in typical Minnesota fashion, the weather took a turn for the worse and stormy skies didn’t allow for any afternoon fishing.

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A group of anglers make their way to a pontoon during a Fishing Has No Boundaries event on Saturday, June 18, 2022, at Paul Bunyan Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Despite the circumstances, participants gathered under the FHNB tent on the shore, chatting and telling fishing stories while they waited for the weather to improve.

As the storm passed and the clouds parted, the event wrapped up with a fish fry prepared by Bemidji firefighters, complete with coleslaw, cake and fresh mini donuts.

“No one went home hungry,” Balstad said with a laugh.

Participation medals were awarded to anglers, and they were each given a gift bag of fishing tackle before heading home.

‘A big deal for our anglers’

Balstad said that after the event was canceled the past two years, the Paul Bunyan Chapter's 30th year of FHNB was a long time coming. Throughout the years, the program has drawn anglers with disabilities from around the region to Bemidji.

“It’s been very successful,” Balstad said about the program. “We’ve had a ton of people go through.”

He mentioned that many of the anglers who participate in the event look forward to it each summer.

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“This is a big deal for our anglers,” he continued. “This is like the Super Bowl or the World Series — the things that we look forward to, they probably aren’t interested in, but they want to go fishing. For some folks, it’s just a good boat ride and catching a fish is a bonus.”

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A group of anglers take off on a pontoon during a Fishing Has No Boundaries event on Saturday, June 18, 2022, on Lake Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

With members of FHNB's Paul Bunyan Chapter and several volunteers helping out, each year’s event is able to go off without a hitch.

“We appreciate everybody,” Balstad remarked about the volunteers at the event. “We count on our volunteers.”

While FHNB members and volunteers work hard to ensure the event is a success, circumstances like poor weather can’t be changed. However, Balstad expressed that the most important thing is that participants have a fun time and create lasting memories.

“There’s a lot of smiling faces out here,” he said while watching attendees board their boats before heading out on the lake. “That makes us feel good, as long as they’re feeling good.”

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Bemidji's 30th annual Fishing Has No Boundaries event for anglers with disabilities was held on Saturday, June 18, 2022, on Lake Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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