MCGREGOR, Minn. — Perhaps it was the prayer of a local pastor or the blessing from a Mille Lacs band member at the boat launch Saturday morning–whatever the reason, Gov. Mark Dayton proved once again he knows how to catch fish.
Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith shared in the fun of the 69th annual Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener at Big Sandy Lake by both catching a number of fish from the tannin-stained waters.
Other anglers noted some success including catching walleye, northern pike, crappie and perch. That was not the case for many other anglers who ventured out in the frigid morning hours Saturday on the kickoff to the walleye and northern pike season. Some 100 fishing hosts were expected to take out another 300 guests invited to the annual event, which was headquartered at Big Sandy Lodge & Resort north of McGregor.
Conditions were difficult as a biting north wind blew down snow during the Saturday send-off party at 8 a.m. By noon, most anglers reported back to Big Sandy Camp on the adjacent shore of the 16,000-acre lake, hungry for lunch, eager for warmth and hoping to find out where the fish were biting.
Shannon Kruse of Grasston said he’s been fishing Big Sandy Lake for 20 years. He was hosting guests and their boat managed to catch a couple northern pike. He guessed the lack of success of other anglers was likely due to the cold front that blew in.
“The cold front really shut things down,” Kruse said. “Steady weather is going to produce better fishing.”
From the first launch around 8 a.m. to noon, the water temperature rose from 48 degrees to around 51 degrees, the rapid changes lock up the fish bite, Kruse said.
While the water warmed slightly, temperatures in boats remained fairly cool as wind remained steady.
The event’s send off included an address by fishing opener chairwoman Lisa Kruse, who is also the community education director for McGregor School District. She thanked all present and wished the anglers good luck.
Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Melanie Benjamin noted the importance of bringing the opener to Big Sandy Lake. The Big Sandy Lake Resort & Lodge were recently purchased by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures.
She shared some of the history of Big Sandy and how the indigenous people there were nearly wiped out. Now they are a large part of the tourism and recreation industry and seeing brighter days, Benjamin said. She noted Gov. Dayton was instrumental in that success.
“I know Gov. Dayton will go down in history as one of the greatest governors in all Minnesota history,” Benjamin said. “Today I am proud to call the governor my friend.
“Together we can partner to bring more tourism to outstate Minnesota,” Benjamin added. “The possibilities of our tourism partnership are endless.”
Not unlike the other blessings given to the fishing group, Benjamin also wished the group great success in their fishing.