March 7, 2023 at 9:31 p.m.

Kettler follows in father’s footsteps

Kettler follows in father’s footsteps
Kettler follows in father’s footsteps

By Carol [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Darkhouse banquet draws generations of spearing, fishing enthusiasts

It was the 19th annual Heartland Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association Banquet Feb. 4, and Ben Kettler was in his usual spot – volunteering in the northern pike dart tournament booth on the north side of the Freeport Community Center in Freeport.  

It’s a booth his dad, Ron Kettler, had worked in and had a hand in. Ron Kettler made the Styrofoam northern pike target competitors took aim at. 

“Ten years on the other side of this fish, and then we flipped it, and now it’s been five years on this side of the fish,” Ben Kettler said.  

Ron Kettler, who was an avid ice fisherman and spearer, passed away May 25, 2016, at his Melrose home. So continuing this dart throwing target tradition is a must for his son. 

“It’s original artwork, a Ron Kettler special,” Ben Kettler said. “It’s cool.”

There were many cool things at the banquet. Long-time spearer and decoy carver Dennis Bertram was in his usual spot, displaying his homemade decoys, known for their big lips. His decoys are tried and tested by him. Bertram has a video of one of his spearing experiences, showing he  doesn’t spear every fish he spots. 

To him, it is more of a watch and release endeavor. 

On this evening, he enjoys talking to experienced and novice spearing enthusiasts about the sport he has a passion for, with hopes youth will become as hooked on it as he is. Connor Kotzer, of Albany, and his cousin, Cora, of Groton, South Dakota, each held a Bertram-made decoy they were given, as their dads watched. Connor said he has been spearing, but Cora has yet to do so, but now she has a reason to start.

Around 330 people attended the banquet, which included drawings, raffles, a meal and Bob Show music by Bob Niehaus. Long-time member and avid spearer Gail Schlicht led everyone in prayer before the meal, reciting a prayer she composed for the first banquet 19 years ago and has read each year after. 

“Heavenly Father, tonight we, the great fishermen and women of central Minnesota, have gathered again to celebrate the great sport of fishing. Teach us to carry out our fishing responsibilities in order to preserve the art of fishing for generations to come. We ask especially to protect those men and women that are defending our country. Bless them, bless all of us, bless our food and the cooks that worked so hard to prepare it for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen,” Schlicht read. 

Heartland Chapter members present from Albany, Melrose, Cold Spring, Avon, Holdingford, Freeport and the surrounding areas could relate to what she said about fishing. 

The banquet is one of the chapter’s activities held throughout the year. Standing in front of a collapsible fish house that was being raffled off were Dale Lyon, Rita Schmid and Glen Meyer, all wearing the familiar Heartland Chapter jean shirts. Lyon, who was a long-time board member, kiddingly said he was filling in for president Ed Atkinson, who was not able to attend the banquet. Current board members include Atkinson, Meyer, Schmid, Tim Hennen, Dennis Rohe, Dilon Hoppe, Gary Pierskalla, Ben Kettler, Tim Linn and Gerald Wiechmann.

Many attending the banquet had one thing in common – a love of the outdoors and fishing and spearing. 

That includes Ben Kettler, who was following in his dad’s cool footsteps. 


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