Garrison volunteer heading to state’s Fishing Hall of Fame

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

GARRISON, N.D. (AP) — You can find him conducting regular meetings of the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame, or maybe filling bags of popcorn at the theater on a Friday night. He’s Keith Witt, a 31-year former resident of Bismarck who moved here in 2012 following his retirement from the Bismarck Police Department.

Witt grew up in Hankinson, a town similar in size to Garrison. A desire to return to a smaller community, and good fishing, led Witt to the community.

“In the mid-’90s I started coming quite often up to Fort Stevenson to go fishing,” Witt told the Minot Daily News. “My wife and I spent a lot of time in town and always liked Garrison. My wife also grew up in Hankinson so our goal was always to get back to a small town.”

Witt secured work with the Garrison Area Improvement Association as executive director, a position he held for nearly two years before stepping aside, sort of. He now operates a small engine repair business and continues to do volunteer work, something he found difficult to do with a varied and uncertain work schedule while living in Bismarck.

“For me it’s an important part of giving back to the community that you live in,” said Witt. “I think it’s important in every community, large and small. My wife and I do a lot of volunteering together. It’s enjoyable. A lot of what we do is focused on youth. Whatever we can do to help them is a good thing.”

Jill Gackle, Garrison, approached Witt with the possibility of revitalizing the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame. The group originally started in 1981 but ceased operation in 2005 due to a lack of volunteers and difficulty in securing a site to house artifacts and properly recognize inductees.

“In 2012 I agreed to try and get things going again,” recalled Witt. “We got a new group of board members together and have been active ever since. We had our first inductions in 2013.”

Witt continues to serve as the Fishing Hall of Fame president who sees an important purpose of the organization.

“There’s been a lot of people who have done a lot of volunteer work as far as habitat, boat ramps, fish cleaning stations and educating people on how to up their success rate as a fisherman,” said Witt. “A lot of these people have done years of hard work volunteering. I think it’s important to recognize them. To me, that was my primary motivator to be involved, to get those folks the recognition they truly deserve.”

Under Witt’s guidance the N.D. Fishing Hall of Fame has welcomed inductees each year since 2013. The inductions are held every year in conjunction with the rules meeting and team gathering on the eve of the long-running Governor’s Cup Walleye Derby hosted by Garrison. This year’s induction ceremony is set for July 18.

For Witt, the resurrection of the Fishing Hall of Fame is another example of the value of volunteering. Without volunteerism, he says, popular public activities and events often disappear.