*click on pictures to enlarge
From what I heard over the weekend, the walleyes won the first battle of the season, with an assist from the brutal weather. 2 weeks ago however, just getting on open water would be considered a win. Despite ice remaining on a couple of the preferred larger lakes, waters along the various river systems in the area were open and provided opportunities to float your boat. Of course that didn’t necessarily equate to great fishing. Mother Nature showed she still had a trick up her sleeve when she served up a fisherman’s worst nightmare, a weather change.
We did end up with more windburn than walleyes, but no one was complaining. I spent the weekend in Park Rapids, taking part in the celebratory activities related to the Governor’s Fishing Opener. As we mentioned here on Saturday, Governor Dayton caught his first GFO walleye on Friday night at 12:25 am (technically Saturday morning). Guide Jason Durham earned his keep and put him on the fish. The Gov impressed with his insistence on getting out at midnight despite the cold front that had attacked that evening. Most fishermen had decided to wait it out until morning.
What impressed me more the next day, was Lieutenant Governor, Yvonne Prettner Solon’s determination to do what she could to boat the prized fish before the day was through. Her guide, event chairman Dennis Mackedanz put them on three different rivers throughout the day, trying to put fins in the net. Each time the boat would be trailered back to town, Prettner Solon would say, “We’re going back out, right?”. Finally, while not far downstream from the headwaters of the Mississippi, her son pulled an 18″ walleye from the frigid waters and that was close enough. I’ve got to hand it to her for trying.
I’ll also give her credit for her speech that night at the dinner too. Prettner Solon showed a affable sense of humor while poking fun at the Governor and the visiting North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple.
Despite the majority of boaters experiencing a slow day on the various lakes in the area, two fish in the trophy class made appearances, before being released back into the water. A 28″ and the big winner, a 28.5″ caught by Kathi Nagorski Leary, the communications director for the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Either a extremely convenient coincidence or a perfectly crafted public relations maneuver to tie into the announcement of next years GFO event. Grand View Lodge will be hosting next year on Gull Lake. After an emotional dedication to her mother who passed away earlier this year, it was obvious that there was someone higher up than the PR person, at work here. Kathi wanted to make sure and thank Dave Keller from Brookside as well for hosting her and putting up “with me screaming like a girl while I caught the biggest fish of my life!”
We didn’t string up any walleyes this weekend, but we weren’t skunked either. My fishing host, Ken Grob, hooked into a northern pike while navigating our angry body of water with two trolling motors simultaneously.
Grob is the chairman of the Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA), the chairman of Hubbard County AIS Task Force, as well as serving on an advisory board assembled by the DNR. A passionate fisherman who’s taken up the cause of preventing aquatic invasive species. There is much more to prevention than just pulling weeds off your trailer at the boat launch. We’ll dig in to it more later this week and on next week’s radio show.
All in all, it was a great weekend in Park Rapids. I had the chance to stay at Riverside Point Resort. A hidden gem just north of Highway 34 on 71, with a comfortable point that the Fish Hook River wraps around. Mika was happy that it was dog friendly, I enjoyed the mallards and wood ducks who would waddle by, and Dan and Cheryl Howland were gracious owners who made me feel right at home. Smokey Hills Outdoor Store started selling our magazine and I was able to hang out with the great crew at the KK Radio Network of stations (who carry MNSJ Radio on 4 of their stations!).
The event was filled with fisherman, conservationists and others who care about the outdoors and the state of Minnesota. The Explore Minnesota Tourism staff puts in some long hours to install a giant spotlight over different destinations, putting them up on a pedestal. All part of a celebration of one of our favorite pastimes, fishing.