Fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota. The annual opening day of fishing season is a huge event and the governor is involved in a big way. This year, even the walleyes cooperated.

For more than half a decade, opening day of the Minnesota fishing season for walleye and pike has been an event in which the governor of the state actively participates in order to draw attention to the state’s amazing angling opportunities. The opener is held the second weekend in May, and the weather can be all over the chart. So can the fishing. In the past, governors have dealt with snow, rain, high winds and really tough fishing conditions. Sometimes they caught fish, sometimes they went home emptyhanded.

On May 9, 2015, the governor only fished three hours. This is unusual because it normally takes quite some time for the governor to get the “photo fish” needed for the masses of media that follow the event. This year’s event was held at Lake Vermilion and the walleyes were plentiful, and fortunately, cooperative. Governor Mark Dayton caught nine walleyes in his three-hour trip before being whisked off to more of whatever the governor does for so many hours of the day. With his nine walleyes, he claimed he was in last place in his boat of three dignitaries and guide.

The festivities move around the state to highlight the variety and beauty of the fishing and outdoor opportunities found in the land of 10,000 lakes. Vermilion has it all: natural beauty, history, plenty for families to do on vacation, and, of course, amazing fishing. The lake is in the northeast corner of the state, bordered by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Voyageur’s National Park.

Of the lake’s 1,200 miles of shoreline and 365 islands, about two thirds of it is developed and the rest is left pristine by the national park and BWCAW. It’s a great blend of wilderness mixed with 240 resorts and lakeshore homes and cabins.

I was one of those masses of media that took in the festivities. More than 200 media members are paired with local guides and volunteers. I was placed in the boat with longtime Vermilion resident Allan Williams. Al is retired from owning a lumberyard in Virginia, Minnesota, and has been coming to a cabin on the lake since he was young. His experience on the lake showed and it became clear early on that I had been lucky in the drawing for boat partners. Also in the boat was Tom Kacheroski, online media expert for Sportsman’s Guide.

In six hours of fishing, which was broken up by a trip back to shore for a huge shore lunch of fried walleyes, potatoes, and beans, we caught about 30 walleyes. They ran pretty small, mostly 13 to 15 inches, but Tom did get the big fish of the day with a 21-incher. In all we had a fun time on the water even though a severe cold front kept us bundled up all day long.

Governor Mark Dayton addresses the media about the importance of fishing in the state of Minnesota.
Governor Mark Dayton addresses the media about the importance of fishing in the state of Minnesota.

Media members are placed in resorts and motels throughout the area in order to experience the overall feel of the communities and their relation to Lake Vermilion. It was my pleasure to be placed in a cabin at Glenmore Resort, on the south end of the lake near the small town of Tower. I was in a charming cabin overlooking Pike Bay. All the time I was there, I kept thinking “I really need to bring my family to this place.”

Most of the festivities were held at the Bois Forte Casino, including press meetings, dinners with dignitaries and other media members, and socializing. Overall, the Vermilion area proved to be a perfect location for an event of this type, and the great fishing combined with fantastic Canadian Shield scenery made for an event that will have a long lasting positive effect on the communities that rely on the lake’s resources.

At the event it was announced that next year’s Governor’s Fishing Opener will be held at Big Sandy Lake near McGregor, Minnesota. This should be an interesting time; the lake is known for great fishing and a wealth of history dating back hundreds of years through Native American villages, a large fur trade post, and later a hub of the early logging industry in the state. I look forward to participating once again in 2016!

Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.

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