On one Eden Prairie Area Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing excursion last summer, fisher people caught, and released, an estimated 150 panfish.

Needless to say, the fishing/catching was easy.

There’s even an easier way to net your fish, and eat it too.

On Saturday, the Eden Prairie Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing is holding its annual fish fry fundraiser.

The cost to attend Saturday’s event, at Eden Prairie’s Immanuel Lutheran Church (16515 Luther Way, Eden Prairie), is $13 for adults and $7 for children under 10. Fish will be served from 4-7:30 p.m.

The meal includes all-you-can eat fish, baked beams (secret recipe), potato salad, coleslaw, hush puppies and cookies.

Last year, the event served a record 650 supporters.

Everyone was hooked on a good cause, or the fish.

The Eden Prairie Area Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing, one of 30 such chapters in Minnesota, got its start at the end of the 2012 season. Its vision is based on the notion that lives can be changed by experiencing the joy and freedom of being out on the water to fish or just enjoy the beauty of a Minnesota lake.

Last year alone, the Eden Prairie chapter guided a record 325 fishing excursions on Riley Lake. In August, it facilitated 450 pontoon rides as part of the city of Eden Prairie’s Riley Lake Park Grand Reopening.

Patrons include seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and youth. Their families are also welcome.

“One of my favorite trips included a hospice patient,” said Chapter President Steve Wilson. “He had a chance to fish with his son, who lives Ithaca, New York, and his grandson.

“The son said that the excitement of going fishing made his dad feel better,” added Wilson. “It still brings a tear to my eye.”

Sunfish are the most popular catch, with crappies coming in a close second. Bass, northern pike and walleyes have also been fooled, as has the occasional carp and bullhead.

Last year’s most memorable catch was sunfish that turned into a 5-pound largemouth bass.

Huh?

“One of our guests was reeling in a sunfish when a big bass grabbed the sunny and swallowed it, hook and all,” said Wilson. “We cut the line and released the fish.”

“While it’s catch-and-release,” said Wilson, “every once and awhile someone wants to bring a few fish home.”

And no, Let’s Go Fishing volunteers won’t clean them.

Fishing partner

Funds raised from Saturday’s event will go toward the purchase of a second pontoon lift. The group has two pontoons and one lift.

“Having a lift is a big deal,” said Wilson. “Not only does it keep our pontoon safer during storms, but it keeps it a lot cleaner.”

The chapter paid for a second pontoon last year. It was needed because of demand, youth-group demand in particular.

“There are lots of kids who want to learn how to fish, but don’t have the opportunity at home,” said Wilson. “For some kids, their parents don’t know how to fish. For the others, they don’t have lake access or equipment.”

Volunteers, like Wilson, are easily hooked.

“I thank the Lord for the opportunity to do this,” said Wilson.

Last year, some 85 volunteers contributed to the Eden Prairie Area Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing’s success.

“We need captains, first mates, photographers, schedulers, you name it,” said Wilson.

The fishing season runs from the beginning of June until the end of September. Excursions are scheduled twice per day, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Evening trips are held on occasion.

To request a trip, volunteer, or support with a donation, go to lgfedenprairie.com. Trip requests will be accepted soon.

To help immediately, hook into Saturday’s fish fry.

Sports editor

Dan Huss covers Eden Prairie sports and especially loves reporting on sports features and outdoors-related adventures. He lives in Shorewood with his wife, Marnie, daughters Aili and Britt, and Wilma, a pheasant-finding Deutsch Drahthaar.

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