June 6, 2023 at 3:16 p.m.
Freeport Family Fishing celebrates 25 years
One-hundred-sixteen youth got a taste of fishing June 3, some maybe even got hooked, on this sunny Saturday.
It was the Freeport Family Fishing tournament on Kings Lake in rural Freeport.
“This will be the 25th tournament,” FFF Committee President Rick Hoeschen said May 31 at Larry and Elaine Beuning’s home in Freeport. “We actually started 26 years ago, but we had one year off because of COVID.”
The Beunings, Rick Hoeschen, Russ Hoeschen and Don Petermeier went over details of this year’s event, while reminiscing on the tournament’s history.
“Our original idea was to get kids fishing,” Larry Beuning said. “That’s how it got started.”
There are many fishing tournaments in Minnesota. Freeport’s is a suggested catch-and-release tournament for youth under 16 years old, too young to require a license. For three hours, on Kings Lake, they are the ones hoping to land the top fish.
“We wanted to get them away from games and get them out on the lake,” Elaine Beuning said. “We’ve had people come from the cities for the tournament. Once they come, they like it.”
The number of participants have varied over the years. Larry Beuning said between 40 and 50 youth fished the first years.
“One year we had 176,” Petermeier said. “It’s down a little bit because the kids are aging out.”
It’s not just about catching fish and bragging rights. Prize money is awarded for the first, second and third largest northern, walleye, bass, crappie and sunfish.
In addition, each child received a prize, just for fishing, which over the years has included vests, rods and reels, coolers, landing nets, ice-fishing rods, minnow buckets and tumblers.
FFF committee members start planning in January for the June event, and they volunteer on tournament day. Some got together in 2020, when the tournament was not held, for a walleye stocking drawing. Funds raised are used to stock walleye in area lakes. Other projects they have worked on over the years include installation of fishing piers at Kings Lake and Long Lake and sponsoring a professional fishing instructor for a community education class and trips for students to the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in Little Falls. Their premier project is the fishing tournament.
The FFF committee has grown from 10 to 23 active members.”
“We’ve had a lot of support from sponsors,” Rick Hoeschen said. “We could not do this without the sponsors.”
They have made changes. The first year they tried weighing fish on a pontoon in the middle of the lake, which worked but not very well, so the committee settled on having fish brought to the shore for weighing. They now have two scales, one for the larger fish and one for smaller fish. Over the years a dunking stand, casting contest and some other elements were tried and discontinued. The fishing time itself has changed.
“It goes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Elaine Beuning said. “It used to go to 3 p.m. but for the younger ones three hours is long enough.”
At 2 p.m., contestants have to be in line to have their fish weighed. Awards, door prizes and raffle drawings are presented starting at 3 p.m. This year it was at Pooch’s Corner Pub in Freeport. The location rotates between Pooch’s and the Pioneer Inn.
“Everybody gives 100%,” Elaine Beuning said. “By the time of the tournament we are burned out, but you see one smile from those kids, because they are so excited, and you forget about it.”
Happy youth hooked on fishing is what Freeport Family Fishing is all about.