I had a great time fishing with Dennis Highby and Jim Regas at the Governor’s Fishing Opener on Lake Vermilion on Saturday. Those gentlemen know how to find fish and catch fish.
It was a good day on Vermilion, and everyone seemed to be catching fish — including Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith.
For a video by News Tribune photographer Clint Austin and several of his photos and our story, look here.
I don’t cover many governor’s openers, but this one was in our back yard, and I know a bunch of the fishing guides and others on the lake. It just seemed like the place to be. I didn’t know Highby and had met Regas only briefly last summer, but they were a joy to be in the boat with. Lots of laughs and good stories, and Highby knew where we were likely to find walleyes. We trolled Lindy rigs with minnows, and that presentation caught some fish. But our most productive presentation was trolling a spinner rig with two minnows behind a bottom-bouncer. We fished mostly in water from 21 to 31 feet deep along shorelines. We caught nine walleyes and a few perch in about three hours, the largest walleye about 16 inches. Most anglers seemed to be catching walleyes of similar size on Saturday. A few decent northerns and some plump perch were boated, too.
The governor’s boat was full of smiling faces back at the midday landing at Fortune Bay Resort. With Lake Vermilion guide Tim “Buck” Lescarbeau, the governor, along with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt had caught a bunch of walleyes.
A couple other things of note happened during the weekend’s festivities. Ground was broken for a new campground at Lake Vermilion State Park, which is still under construction. Dayton invited former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tim Holsten to be part of that ceremony. The park had its germination during Pawlenty’s term as governor, when Holsten was DNR commissioner. I thought it was classy of Dayton to extend that invitation to them, and nice that they both came. Of course, current DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr was present for all the Governor’s Fishing Opener festivities.
One other nice moment occurred just after midnight on opening day. The governor had been scheduled to fish from a dock at the home of Brian Anderson, public relations manager at Fortune Bay, on Pike Bay. The governor couldn’t make it, but Lt. Gov. Tina Smith showed up. It was a very cool evening, with a northeast wind blowing right at the dock and the temperature in the 40s. Young Drew Anderson, 10, fished with the lieutenant governor. She kept a lively conversation going with him, and I’m sure he felt like he was a pretty important young guy. Brian and his wife, Terri — I hope I have that spelled correctly — kept a campfire burning to keep other guests warm. No fish were caught, and the fishing was over in about 40 minutes, but Smith was a gracious participant.