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A great job of showcasing our community

Another Governor’s Fishing Opener has come and gone. This is how I have started out with many of my past columns after an opener. This opener however, was totally different. Albert Lea Area Lakes was hosting this year’s event, and we hit it out of the park.

It started a year ago when CVB Executive Director Susie Petersen accepted the challenge of putting all of this together. I was a part of it from the beginning, and I cannot even begin to say enough good about all of the volunteers, the many committee members who gave their time, the awesome sponsors and the fishing hosts who stepped up to show people of the media and other visitors what great lakes we have to enjoy in our part of the state. More importantly, we showed folks what a fine community we live in. The members of our community welcomed those visitors with open arms, and that alone left a lasting impression on our visitors. I have been attending the Governor’s Opener for 24 years, including this one, and I can say that we did it right! I am just grateful to have been a small part of this magnificent event.

Fishing is an important part of the event, but there is much more to it. All of the wonderful folks from Explore Minnesota were just awesome, and without their guidance and leadership, this could not have become a reality. The many folks from the DNR were great to work with. They also did a lot to educate not only the youth at the kids fishing event, but a few of the “old guys” like myself as well.

The reason it is called the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener is because the governor and lieutenant governor are in attendance to promote the area hosting the event and to officially kick off the beginning of the tourism season in Minnesota. The emphasis is not on politics; it is actually on the person sitting in that office showing his or her support for tourism and the multi-billion dollars that it brings to our state each year. Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan were great ambassadors for our event, and what I personally took away from meeting them both is that they were genuine when they spoke about our beautiful community and the people who live here. Almost everyone who came in contact with the governor or lieutenant governor got the same impression; they were sincere. I believe this is the first time ever that the governor and lieutenant governor have shown up at the Fishing Host Appreciation Banquet. They walked through the group, shook hands, had pictures taken with some of them and talked to a lot of these hosts who dedicated a part of three days to make this event a success.

I was one of the co-chairs on the fishing host committee, and when I spoke with many of the fishing hosts, I heard a lot of positive comments about how their guests had no idea that Albert Lea had such a beautiful city like ours hidden from view while driving by on I-35. Some of them even told their hosts that this was their best fishing opener ever. One gentleman who has been attending the event for over 30 years said he had never been to an opener where he has been treated this well, not only the volunteers and angler hosts, but members of the whole community who just made him feel welcome. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you take into consideration where the opener has been in past years. One of the media guests who hailed from Indiana and writes for an outdoors magazine said he had driven past Albert Lea many times on his way to the opener but never realized that a city this beautiful even existed here. There were others who are outdoors writers or had outdoors shows who stated that this was their best opener ever. This may or may not have had something to do with the number of fish that they boated. Not everyone caught a walleye, but many did catch fish. I have attended openers where just a very few folks were lucky enough to boat a walleye, so I do believe we were successful in letting the rest of the state know that we do, indeed, have walleye in our lakes.

One boat host reported his party catching five walleye, three northern and some crappie. Another party reported catching 13 walleye, seven keeper size, two over 22 inches and 10 nice crappie. Those were just the folks that I heard from personally (one being my grandson), but overall I believe that the fishing was actually pretty good.

I spent what I will call my “wind down Sunday” doing some evening fishing on Fountain Lake with my son Brad. I got to sit back, relax and absorb some of that beauty that our out-of-town visitors got to enjoy for the very first time. We even caught a few crappie and three walleye not bad for a couple hours of relaxation. I also managed to boat a huge yellow-bellied bullhead just to keep the adrenaline pumping; my late mother-in-law would have yelled at me if she’d have found out that I threw back an early season bullhead.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the Freeborn County volunteer fire fighters for doing the cooking for the shore lunch and helping with the community picnic. John Edman, the director of Explore Minnesota, stated it perfectly when he said his favorite part of this event is watching members of the community working side by side with people they had never known before. Thanks again to our great community and all of the fantastic volunteers. You rock!

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers. We must never forget those who are still putting themselves in harm’s way so that we can enjoy all of the wonderful freedoms that we have today.