Trout Unlimited chapter helps veterans fish at Lakenenland

Steve Niebuhr, standing, a member of the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited, helps Dale Hillier, who lives at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans, fish at Lakenenland. The TU chapter spent part of Wednesday afternoon teaching the veterans about fishing. Inset, A bluegill, caught by a Jacobetti veteran, is unhooked by the Lakenenland pond. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

HARVEY — Like riding a bicycle, fishing for trout is something some people never forget.

Even if they’re fishing for bluegill.

The Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Wednesday helped members of the Jacobetti Home for Veterans cast lines into the pond at Lakenenland, a sculpture park created by Tom Lakenen along M-28.

A little advice, however, helped during the outing.

TU member Steve Niebuhr suggested a side-arm cast to veteran Dale Hillier to reel in a fish.

That type of cast was made, with a decent-sized bluegill caught on the end of the line. In fact, that small pier proved to be a particular pond hotspot, with more fish caught.

“It’s what we do, to help out,” Niebuhr said. “He got a good spot. This is the magic spot.”

Dale’s son, Sam Hillier, was alongside the two men, giving a helping hand to his dad, who he called an avid trout stream fisherman.

“It’s better than sitting in the living room,” Sam Hillier said.

On Wednesday, the veterans used fishing reels instead of the spincast or spinning reels typically used in bluegill fishing.

It probably helped that they received some pre-trip training too.

TU member Herb Grenke, who helped supervise the Lakenenland trip, said he had been visiting Jacobetti recently to give casting lessons.

“These folks, I mean, they really help these veterans in many ways,” Grenke said of the home’s staff.

Sara Morrison, activities therapist at Jacobetti, said the home takes veterans on fishing excursions, but Wednesday marked the first time a trip was held with TU. However, they had been at Lakenenland in 2017, she said, using casting rods instead of fly rods.

However, it definitely wasn’t the first time they had fished.

“It’s stuff they’ve done in the past,” Morrison said. “Some of these guys were lifelong fishermen.”

Grenke said: “They’ll you some stories.”

What also helped Wednesday’s success rate was the fact that Lakenen recently stocked the pond in time for the TU/Jacobetti outing.

That’s not unusual for him.

“He stocks for a lot of different things,” Morrison said.

The vets reeled in many fish, but she acknowledged the fishing was easier than when they practiced indoors earlier in the spring. They also practiced in the Jacobetti parking lot for the past several weeks.

Aesthetically, Lakenenland was a big improvement, with the trademark metal sculptures, trails and wildflowers adding to the experience.

TU might become further involved in the community.

National TU chapters are involved with Project Healing Waters, a nonprofit dedicated to the emotional and physical rehabilitation of disabled active military personnel and veterans through fly fishing, fly tying and outings.

Grenke said the Upper Peninsula has plenty of veterans.

“We’re trying to get that going here,” he said.