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Lake Vermilion guides get 100 kids out for a day of fishing

Libbie Shaffer, 11, and Jon Ross, 13, both of Aurora, fish in the bow of Lonnie Johnson's boat during Wednesday's Take a Kid Fishing Day on Lake Vermilion. John Myers / jmyers@duluthnews.com1 / 5
Libbie Shaffer holds a nice largemouth bass she reeled in during Wednesday's Take a Kid Fishing Day organized by the Lake Vermilion Guides League. John Myers / 2 / 5
Lake Vermilion Guide Denny VandeLinde and his guests for Take a Kid Fishing Day — Addy Hartway of Cook, Addison Burckhardt of Orr and Karah Scofield of Cook — were all smiles after catching several fish, including this nice walleye. John Myers / jmyers@duluthnews.com3 / 5
Lake Vermilion guide Mike Estrin lands a walleye during Wednesday's Take a Kid Fishing Day. Fishing with Estrin were Jeffery, David and Breea Johnson of Gilbert. Some 100 kids spent an afternoon on Lake Vermilion with 45 local fisherman. John Myers / jmyers@duluthnews.com4 / 5
Guide Lonny Johnson helps Libbie Shaffer take a small walleye off the hook on Wednesday. Lake Vermilion guides and anglers donated the use of their boats so more than 100 kids could have an afternoon of fishing. John Myers / jmyers@duluthnews.com5 / 5

ON LAKE VERMILION — Libbie Shaffer asked the question many anglers think but few are willing to blurt out.

"Why is it taking so long?'' Libbie, 11, asked of her guide, Lonnie Johnson.

Libbie, of Aurora, had been fishing with a nightcrawler under a slip bobber for a full five minutes and the bobber had yet to dip below the surface.

Sometimes, Libbie, the fish just aren't hungry, Johnson explained.

And so started the ninth annual Take a Kid Fishing Day on Wednesday, sponsored by the Lake Vermilion Guides League. Shaffer and her friend, Jon Ross,13, also of Aurora, were in Johnson's boat, among 100 kids who got to fish with 45 local guides and anglers.

For many of the kids it will be the only time they get on the water all summer. They each received hats, t-shirts and even a rod-and-reel combo along with a goodie bag and a fish dinner to cap off the day. All of it is free, organized by the Guides League. Fortune Bay Casino hosts the event at its marina with other sponsors, including University of Minnesota Sea Grant, the Vermilion Lake Association, Lions Club and the Lake Vermilion Resort Association.

It was a picture perfect day for fishing, with temperatures near 80 degrees, a few puffy white clouds overhead and a steady breeze to keep the bugs away. And, for many of the kids, the fish were biting. Quickly printed digital photos at the boat landing showed multiple kids holding walleyes over 20 inches long.

In Johnson's boat Shaffer and Ross landed a couple bass, walleye and bluegills. But there was also a stop for ice cream at a lakeside resort and plenty of motoring across the big lake to cool off.

And questions. Lots of questions.

"Is that a real worm?'' Libbie asked when Johnson reached into a box for a nightcrawler. "I don't do real worms."

But it was only a few minutes later when Libbie was reaching into the nightcrawler box by herself and impaling the worm onto her hook.

"Ewww, cool," she said.

Every five minutes or so the focus would shift from fishing to something else.

"Can we go fast?" Libbie asked.

"If you sit down,'' Johnson replied.

"Look at the baby ducks!'' Libby exclaimed.

"They're loons," Ross corrected.

"Cuuute baby loons!'' Libbie said with glee. "Can we touch them?"

"When I get older I'm not taking her fishing,'' Ross said of Libbie, his next door neighbor.

And so it went with kids soaking up the sun, usually smiling, interacting with nature and eating ice cream in the bow of a boat. Summer in the Northland, personified.

"I'm done," Ross exclaimed as the afternoon moved toward evening and he had lost yet another nightcrawler to an unseen fish.

"Let's go eat,'' Johnson declared.

"Good idea,'' Libbie said. "But can I keep fishing?"

For more information on the Take a Kid Fishing Day or fishing on Lake Vermilion go to