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Putting a twist on fishing the opener

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Evan Lawrence’s plan to hit the water at 6 a.m. Saturday for the Governor’s Fishing Opener wasn’t so surprising.

But he may have gotten a few looks at the landing at Zorbaz when he launched his paddleboard into the chilly water of Gull Lake looking to land a walleye. And not only land one, but bring it in before Gov. Mark Dayton made a catch.

Lawrence did just that, catching five fish. Dayton didn’t catch any walleye during the opener.

The transition to this opener is made more extreme as Lawrence just returned to Nisswa after a trip to Maui, where he reports he was pulling in papio off an inflatable paddleboard in big surf on the outer reefs. Maybe the cold waters of Gull Lake don’t seem so daunting after all. Lawrence had to get in the water to launch his board but had to stand the rest of the time. He fished the channels.

Lawrence said he often fishes from his paddleboard but this was his first time out in Minnesota open waters this year. Lawrence started his Minnesota Surf Co. business in Nisswa five years ago. The avid surfer, wind surfer and kite surfer wanted to promote paddleboarding, which has become increasingly popular in the lakes area. With his family’s cabin on Lougee Lake, the Minnesota native said he basically grew up in the lakes area and picked Nisswa for his business.

“It’s been a really good spot. It’s been very successful. We teach a lot of paddleboard lessons up here to a lot of tourists,” he said. And with the Governor’s Fishing Opener and attention on Nisswa, Lawrence said it seemed a good time to try something a little different. Hence, the fishing challenge.

“This is why I want to do it and make it kind of fun, I guess,” he said.

Lawrence planned to add updates via his Facebook page and blog on the opener.

“I think it’s been really good at promoting the area,” he said.

Fishing from the paddleboard has its own challenges for balance and navigation, let alone finding the elusive fish. And once the fish is hooked, it can take the paddleboard with it.

“Depending on the size you get pulled around,” Lawrence said. “I’ve had fish pull me.”

If the catch is good, the string of fish also means a little more drag on the paddleboard for the human trolling motor. But Lawrence said there are advantages, too, in stealth and quiet and shallower water, which would be particularly helpful this year. This is the first opener Lawrence has actually fished on the first day for a few years.

“It seemed like a good opportunity to go out and have some fun with it,” Lawrence said of challenging the governor to a morning fish-off. And heck, after winter surfing on Lake Superior, Gull Lake in May isn’t so bad.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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