MANISTEE — Over the past 10 years, rain and even snow has never interfered enough to prevent Tight Lines for Troops from honoring veterans from around the state.

However, this year, the Tight Lines for Troops Board of Directors decided to err on the side of caution and made the decision to cancel the event that was slated for May 16-17 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers work on the event — which brings around 500 military veterans and active duty personnel to Manistee for a day of free fishing — year round.

“We all try so hard to make it be possibly the event of a lifetime for our veterans. So, to cancel our event was heartbreaking for us all,” said board secretary Bonnie Livingston. “This was a very difficult decision to make, but we had to take into consideration the health and safety of our veterans and our communities. We appreciate all of the positive and understanding responses we have gotten regarding the cancellation and we look forward to a great event in 2021!”

During the two-day event, veterans from over 160 communities across the state, including the Upper Peninsula, descend on Manistee for a fishing tournament. In past years, the event begins on a Friday with a registration dinner where participants meet their boat captains and enjoy a complementary meal. The next day, participants set out for a morning of fishing on Lake Michigan; before coming into shore boats gather outside of Manistee’s pier heads and then proceed through the channel for a patriotic welcome home.

Several factors went into the decision to cancel this year’s event, including the number of people that come into close proximity during the banquets.

“Another reason being that probably over 80 percent of (the participants) that come are … older — from Vietnam vets down to World War II vets, which are — according to everything you watch on the news here — are the most vulnerable. That was a big reason,” said Bob Guenthardt, president of the Tight Lines for Troops Board of Directors. “We wouldn’t want to hold an event to show everyone a good time and honor them for what they did and then have someone get sick. It just wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”

Judy Ball, board member, said the decision wasn’t an easy one for organizers to make.

“It wasn’t easy but it was quick. We didn’t take a lot of time to figure out that this coronavirus was so unpredictable that we didn’t want to put our participants in the midst of it. We also wanted them to have plenty of time to plan too,” she said.

At the beginning of March, confirmation letters were sent out to 620 applicants.

“We have a postcard that’s going to be mailing on Tuesday to all the participants to tell them that the event has been canceled,” said Ball. “A decision on the raffle will be forthcoming. We will notify everyone that the event has been canceled (including our sponsors).”

Any participant who has already sent their $20 deposit can request a refund or donate the money to Tight Lines for Troops.

“We hadn’t gotten to the point where we ordered food, but we had ordered a lot of supplies already, a lot of things that we still have to pay for a lot of that stuff. We aren’t so far into it where we are losing a ton of money,” said Ball.

For anyone interested in participating in next year’s event, the application period begins Nov. 1. Visit or search Tight Lines for Troops on Facebook page for updates.