From his wheelchair, Bill Block felt a tug on his fishing rod just below the surface of misty Lake Riley in Eden Prairie. Along with his bright yellow life jacket, Block brought on board another life-saving element — his oxygen tank — as he battled the fish thrashing left and right.
Then Block, a U.S. Navy veteran, broke into a knowing smile as he reeled in his ferocious opponent: a sunfish no bigger than his hand.
Block was 80 at the time and residing in an assisted living facility in Burnsville when he made that memorable trip in 2017. His sponsor was the Eden Prairie chapter of Let’s Go Fishing (LGF), a volunteer-run nonprofit with 17 affiliates across Minnesota and Wisconsin. The organization provides free fishing trips to seniors, hospice patients, youth and families.
Last year, the chapter provided 320 trips to more than 4,100 people.
“Can you imagine being in an assisted living facility and [having] the chance to go fishing?” said Block’s son, also named Bill Block. The elder Block’s grandson also made the Lake Riley expedition, the fifth in the line of Bill Blocks.
“Get outside in the water and the sun and the pontoon boat and it’s all set up for someone in a wheelchair. That was key,” said his son.
Having grown up fishing on lakes in McLeod and Kandiyohi counties, Block seized the opportunity to relive the joy of his youth with his family alongside him. Like so many seniors whom LGF serves, Block continued to regale facility staff with tales of the trip until he died in 2020.