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Governor's Fishing Opener marks the start of the season

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NISSWA — A lot of challenges were thrown out Friday as to who would get the biggest walleye at the Governor’s Fishing Opener.

The wagers started with Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who said she would get the bigger, better fish over Gov. Mark Dayton.

Next, Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, challenged Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County. Representative John Ward, DFL-Baxter, chimed in, saying that he would beat both Ruud and Gazelka.

The friendly wagers were all thrown out into the open Friday at the community picnic in Nisswa.

The event was held to celebrate the 67th Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, which is being held Saturday on Gull Lake.

During at interview with the Dispatch, Dayton expressed the importance of the opener for both Minnesota and the Brainerd lakes area.

“It’s a tremendous boost for the area,” he said. “It’s priceless what it creates here for tourism (exposure).”

It’s a vital state “tradition,” he added.

And though he’s never caught a walleye during a fishing opener, Dayton said he would use the advice handed down to him: spit on the bait and rub some WD-40 on it.

“I’ll toss it in, cross my fingers and toes and hope,” he said.

Local resident Ray Gildow, who will serve as the governor’s fishing guide during the event, says he’ll use his humor to help put the governor at ease while out on the boat.

His advice for Dayton: “Hang on to the pole and if you get a bite, reel it in.”

More than 400 volunteers helped pull the event together, organizers say. The event brings in an estimated $2 million in media coverage.

“Only in Minnesota can you have an event like this,” said John Edmon, the director of Explore Minnesota Tourism. “We’re celebrating Minnesota and the importance of travel and tourism. Events like this help carry the message of how great of a state this is.”

Rain dampered parts of Friday’s events, but mountain bikers pushed through in the morning to get a taste of the trails, which opened for the season just a couple of days ago.

A groundbreaking was held at the Pennington public water access in Ironton for some new additions to the area, which organizers say will help pull in more bike riders from across the country.

In June, the following will be added to the water access: 96 more parking spaces, bike changing stations, a picnic shelter, a new walkway and access to the waterfront, and a boat cleaning and drain area.

In the nearby Yawkey Mine unit, three yurts, structures for year-round camping, are being constructed.

All projects are expected to be completed in two months.

“It speaks to the quality of trails in Cuyuna and the excellence of what they stand for,” said Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.

The improvements will help make the area a destination for mountain bikers and will be family- and youth-friendly, he said.

At the groundbreaking, 2,000 rainbow trout were released into Pennington Mine lake.

The Governor’s Fishing Opener begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. That’s when Dayton and others will first set out on the cool waters of Gull Lake.

Every fisherman has their good lucky charm when it comes to catching the most or the biggest and best fish.

Prettner Solon is wearing her white fish earrings as good luck. Dayton has his WD-40.

They’ll all have to wait until the stroke of midnight to tell which charm is the luckiest.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at