For the last 24 years, a growing number of Minnesota veterans and charter boat captains have kept the last Monday in June open for an annual fishing trip on Lake Superior in Silver Bay, MN. The event was started by combat veteran and Lake Superior charter boat captain Jim Latvala, who wanted a way to thank disabled vets for their service. The volunteer coordinator at the time suggested he take a vet fishing. Latvala called up his fellow charter boat captains and set his sights on a bigger event, and a tradition was born.
Event participation has swelled since, and the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported that this year 60 vets on 17 boats were scheduled for the June 27 event. Northland News Center reported that 49 vets from the Silver Bay Veterans home attended. The remainder of the participants were to come from Hastings, Minneapolis, and Fergus Falls veteran homes.
The Pioneer Press observed that the event is a complex operation, including the vets, the ship captains, and VA personnel to aid with mobility, safety, and medicinal requirements. This year, a small crane bolted to the marina’s gasoline dock helped hoist a wheelchair user and his wheelchair aboard a vessel. The charter boat captains come from communities along the shore from Duluth to Grand Marais.
Latvala explained to the Pioneer Press that it’s become easy to coordinate the annual day of the event among the ship captains. “That first year, the other captains had been skeptical. Giving up a day is giving up a day. Our season is only a few months and a lot of us book every day. It’s a long trip from Duluth, and gas is expensive. But after we were done, all of us saw how much the guys (vets) loved it. The other captains came up right away and started asking, ‘Which day next year, so I can keep it clear?’ Last Monday in June.”
The vets wake at 3:30am, attend the Knife River Marina by 5:30am, and fish until 11am. They then return to the shore to have a fish fry with the catch – this year they brought in more than 50 lake trout and salmon, in addition to 16 pounds of walleye filet donated by Pike for Vets from Grand Rapids, according to the Northland News Center. Their biggest catch was in 2013, at a whopping 154 fish.
The event is well-received by the vets, and eagerly anticipated by the vets every year, a fact Latvala is very satisfied with.
He told the Pioneer Press: “For a long time, I kept thinking we’d do this 15 years and that’ll be it. But now I know it’s never going to go away, and I’m damned proud of that. We’ve got young captains getting involved. When I can’t do it anymore, they’re gonna lift me into one them charter boats. And one of those young captains will take me fishing.”