Veterans of fishing
With 40-degree temperatures and thick cloud cover, last Saturday was not ideal for a fishing excursion. That didn't stop Fishing with Vets, a nonprofit founded by Jeremy Colsen and Justin Bailey, from getting on the water and catching a few fish.
Established in 2015, Fishing with Vets is a community of avid fisherman that provides a way for military veterans to get together and enjoy the outdoors.
"Veterans were posting on Facebook for gear and we thought to ourselves, 'What can we do to help?'" Colsen said about starting up the nonprofit.
Colsen and Bailey talked to each other to figure out what exactly they were going to do and came up with a model that put the nonprofit where it is now. Currently there are eight board members and everyone involved is either a veteran or fishing industry professional.
Colsen said fishing events the nonprofit leads are successful in large part because of the community — the most recent trip being no different.
"The community was fantastic, we couldn't ask for better community support than what we received," Colsen said.
Overall there were 27 veterans, 13 guides and 15 people to help with the fishing trip. The group met at the Bay City American Legion Post 357 and was provided an escort by the Legion Riders to Everts Resort in Hager City, Wis. Dinner was held in the evening and Colsen said oftentimes, the community has a large role in the dining, too.
"Fish fries are usually held and it's common to see local Boy Scout troops coming in to help out," he said. "The vets love to see youth involved, and it's always great to see high community involvement."
Out on the water
Fishing with Vets aims to provide the best local fishing guides that know the waters well. The quality of fishing guides didn't go unnoticed by those participating in the event.
"(The) guides were doing everything they could to get people around to be on fish," said Jeremy Hinton, an Iraqi Freedom veteran. "Everyone got a fish that I was aware of."
Most guides are usually known by the nonprofit, but they don't like to reuse guides on multiple trips because so many people want to get involved.
Fishing in itself is not necessarily the main draw for many veterans, however. Hinton said that the fellowship was the highlight of his day.
"I had a guide, myself and a Vietnam War veteran on the boat," he said. "The banter that took place on the boats made it a good time."
Fishing with Vets typically hold up to five trips each year with most being held in northern Minnesota — including upcoming trips to Leech Lake in Walker, Minn., and Lake Minnewaska in Glenwood, Minn.
Last weekend's trip at Pool 4 on the Mississippi River was the first in southeastern Minnesota. Colsen said a big reason for the southern Minnesota trip was because of feedback from veterans wanting more local opportunities.
"So many people want to get involved," Colsen said. "We want to make sure everyone gets an opportunity."