GRAND FORKS — They’re calling it “Walleye Wars,” and it’s a fish-off, of sorts, between tourism groups on Devils Lake and Lake of the Woods.
Reps from Lake of the Woods Tourism and the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau announced the event Friday during a Facebook Live presentation from the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show.
The premise: Put one angler in a fish house on Devils Lake and one angler in a fish house on Lake of the Woods for a day and see who can catch the most fish.
In one corner is Tanner Cherney, visitor service and outdoor media coordinator for the Devils Lake CVB. In the other corner is Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism.
The ice fishing showdown is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3.
Let the trash talking begin — all in good fun, of course.
“We’re just going to see what happens with those whole thing,” Henry said. “It’s Devils Lake vs. Lake of the Woods. It’s North Dakota vs. Minnesota.
“It’s on — Walleye Wars.”
According to Henry, the idea for the dual promotion came from getting to know Cherney and Suzie Kenner, executive director of the Devils Lake CVB, at sports shows and through their membership in AGLOW, the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
AGLOW held its 62nd annual conference in September in Bismarck, and Lake of the Woods has hosted the event in the past.
“We’re competitors in some regards, just because we’re two major walleye waters that people go to,” Henry said. “But at the same time, we try to rise above that, and we try to look at ourselves as colleagues and friends, and we try to share good ideas that benefit both of us.
“We try to get people excited about our great walleye lakes and great walleye fishing, just get people more excited about the sport,” he added. “We think that will mutually benefit us both.”
As part of the event, Henry says he will do Facebook Live updates on the hour, and Cherney will weigh in live from Devils Lake on the half-hour.
“For anybody who likes ice fishing, we’re going to try to make Jan. 3 about as unproductive of a day at work as possible,” Henry said with a laugh. “You can keep checking into Facebook Live all day and see the updates.”
Cherney gets credit for coming up with the idea, Henry says.
“I said ‘Great, let’s do it,’” Henry said. “‘Let’s have fun with it.’”
In their tourism roles, Cherney and Henry have become the faces of their respective lakes in recent years. Both know their way around an ice fishing rod, so the event should garner plenty of attention. After all, the question of which lake is “better” has been bandied about as long as I’ve been covering the outdoors.
In my experience, at least, Lake of the Woods and Devils Lake fish very differently, especially in the winter, so I’ll be curious to see how the day plays out.
I caught a replay of the Facebook Live video Friday, and the barbs between Cherney and Henry were flying fast and furious.
“I’ve been lifting a little weights, so I’m ready to hoist that trophy up high when Devils Lake takes the championship,” Cherney said in the video. “Perch, walleyes, it’s going to be on.”
Never at a loss for words, Henry was quick with a reply.
“You can talk about that trophy, but the only thing you’re going to be hoisting is an auger,” Henry said. “We’re going to sit in probably one fish house, and we’re going to sit back and whack ‘em all day long.”
So there you have it. Walleye Wars — #walleyewars. Lake of the Woods. Devils Lake. One day for all the marbles.
This is going to be fun.