ST. PAUL — In a most-Minnesotan sign that the coronavirus pandemic is striking at the core of society, the 2020 Governor’s Fishing Opener has been canceled, Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday, April 1.
Technically, officials said it’s been postponed until next year.
To be clear: The official events have been postponed — not the actual fishing seasons. As it stood Wednesday, come May 9, Minnesotans may fish for the state’s most popular game fish — walleye, northern pike, lake trout and bass for catch and release.
The cancellation of the quirky and celebratory event, the Governor’s Fishing Opener, nonetheless carries symbolic weight, heralding a spring unlike any since the end of World War II.
This appears to be the first time the event will be postponed since its inception in 1948, when Luther Youngdahl was governor and photographers and reporters from the Minneapolis Tribune fanned out across Mille Lacs Lake to cover anglers in search of walleye, the state fish.
This year’s event was to be held in the heart of Minnesota’s lakes region, Otter Tail County, where a host of ancillary activities, ranging from banquets to a boat raffle, were planned. Ambitions of high school fishing teams introducing the sport to youngsters, and online youth fishing derbies, were being planned by state and local tourism officials.
In addition to being a local tourism boost to the host locale and a general expression of what it means to be a Minnesotan, the Governor’s Fishing Opener, as an event, has traditionally carried import among politicians.
The annual event comes as the Legislature heads into its final weeks of work — often a laborious and contentious stretch — and the event serves as a respite for the Capitol’s most important players.
Traditionally, the governor is joined — and often fishes with — the speaker of the House and majority leader of the Senate. Politicians over the years have noted the bonding power that can be brought by staring down a thread of fishing line on the confines of a boat bobbing in water recently unlocked from the clutches of winter.
Now it’s all on hold.