This past Saturday marked the opening of the walleye and northern fishing season. As I looked forward to attending another fishing opener I began thinking back to a few of the past openers. It was quite a few years ago now that I first met Jeff Anderson, a recently retired sportscaster from Watertown, SD, and his fellow sportscaster Danny Olson from Sioux Falls. We became friends and have looked forward to fishing the opener together each year. Unfortunately, Danny passed away about five years ago, but Jeff and I still carry on the tradition and always take time to reminisce about some of the fun times that we shared with Danny.
The first governor’s opener I attended was in 1995 and it was held in the Wilmar area where Green Lake is the featured lake. I was working at the Tribune in the Graphics Department and Jim Lutgens, who was the sports editor at the time, asked me if I wanted to attend the Governor’s Fishing Opener. I asked him what I would have to do and he said, “Take some pictures and write, in your own words what you see and I will edit it.” I was a little hesitant at first, but finally agreed to do it even though I had to use a day of vacation; as the time grew near I was anxiously anticipating a new adventure.
When I arrived at the designated place for registration there were media folks everywhere, and after registering I was given an itinerary and directions to my motel. That evening I met my fishing host, an area dentist and a very nice guy. He said he would pick me up at the motel in the morning and with the weather the way it was we would be better off fishing a smaller lake other than Green.
Yeah, the weather: It was about 40 degrees, raining and the wind was gusting at a steady 25-30 mph. I had never been to one of these openers before and when I left home I was totally unprepared. I had my reporter’s notepad, a couple of pencils, a rain poncho to protect me from the elements, canvas gloves and non-waterproof boots. Nothing prepared me for the cold and wind which blew my poncho around as if it was purposely trying to make sure the rain found its way to every piece of clothing I had on. The weather was just plain brutal and the fishing left much to be desired. When fishing in those conditions your hands get so cold that it feels like they are clubs on the end of your arms. Putting a minnow on the hook is all but impossible and it seems as if your limbs are trying to avoid any command your brain is sending out.
We fished for a couple of hours with only one fish to show for it and then loaded the boat on the trailer and headed to shore lunch, which was at a resort on Green Lake. Neither one of us hesitated when calling it quits was mentioned. My fishing host had on a top-of-the-line Columbia rain suit and he was also soaked to the gills. That shows how brutal the weather was. After shore lunch, which was one of the best I’ve had since I started attending this event, we drove around Green Lake and he pointed out all the high-end summer homes and other interesting and historical landmarks of the area. After that we went to his home where his wife fixed us hot chocolate while he found us a dry change of clothes and we sat by the fireplace and tried to warm up. This was probably the highlight of the weekend for me.
After the weekend was over I returned home, and that following Monday turned my story in to Jim. Later he told me that he didn’t have to edit much of it at all. I really do think he was just being nice, but that’s just Jim. I owe him a debt of thanks because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become a writer.
I have attended the Governor’s Fishing Opener every year since. I can truthfully say I have fished in all kinds of weather and with many different hosts; some were actual guides but most were just area fishermen who knew the area and have fished the lakes. With this being said I can truthfully say I have never been as cold or as miserable as I was on that first opener, but each one has its own unique story to tell.
Even with that first experience, I keep coming back because I really like learning about not only the different lakes, but also the history of so many great communities. It is really impressive to see how the members of the local community come together with the Minnesota Department of Tourism to volunteer their time and many hours of hard work to showcase their respective communities. Over the years I have met a lot of nice folks and learned a lot about the history of many areas of this great state of ours. By the time this column goes to print I plan to be sitting in a boat on Big Sandy Lake near McGregor, Minnesota and with any luck at all, I’ll have a few walleyes to show for it.
Until next time, the fishing opener is upon us so get out and wet a line; whether it is fishing from a boat, one of the area fishing piers or just sitting on the bank of one of the lakes.
Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers for they are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms we have today.