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Dayton successful in walleye pursuit at governor's fishing opener

With his guide Bob Staska driving the boat, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton leaves the Big Sandy Lake Resort and Lodge dock along with Minnesota Senate Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben on Saturday. With the temperatures in the 40's with an occasional snow shower, Dayton was able to catch a walleye, crappie and two perch. (Steve Kohls / Forum News Service)1 / 3
Fishing guide Bob Staska (from left), Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben and House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt fish the windswept waters of Big Sandy Lake near McGregor during the 2016 Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith fished from another boat. (Steve Kohls/Forum News Service) 2 / 3
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (from left), guide Bob Staska, House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben fish on windswept waters of Big Sandy Lake near McGregor on Saturday. The 69th annual Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener was based at Big Sandy Resort and Lodge. (Steve Kohls/Forum News Service)3 / 3

McGREGOR -- 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 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 sendoff 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 that 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.

The fishing tally for the politicians, according to the governor's office, included:

  • Dayton -- one walleye, one crappie, two perch
  • House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt -- two walleyes
  • Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben -- one walleye, two crappies, one perch
  • Smith -- one walleye
Michael Johnson

Johnson is a graduate of Verndale Public School. He earned his associate's degree from Central Lakes College with an emphasis in English and natural resources. He earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he graduated cum laude in 2008. While there, he double-majored in English and Print Journalism. He's reported for The Advocate, student newspaper of MSUM; The Barnesville Record Review in Barnesville, Minn.; Clay County Historical Society in Moorhead, Minn.; Gillette News Record in Gillette Wyo.; Underwood News in Underwood, N.D.; and The Leader-News in Washburn, N.D. Johnson has worked as the night editor at the Brainerd Dispatch since 2014 and enjoys covering outdoor-related stories for the paper.

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