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No Z's, no fish, no problem

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NISSWA — By moonlight or by sunshine, it didn’t seem to matter. Gov. Mark Dayton had nary a bite in two outings Saturday in the 2014 Governor’s Fishing Opener on Gull Lake.

But that there was sunshine for the second part of Dayton’s fishing marathon made up for a lack of fish.

Add guide Ray Gildow’s brand of sunshine to the mix and it was good day.

As the guide for the governor for this annual rite of spring in Minnesota, it would be easy to get down if the governor got skunked. But not Gildow. One of the most accomplished anglers in the Brainerd lakes area, he knows how to put anglers on fish. And when not? Well, he’s got that covered, too.

“If we weren’t catching fish, I was going to keep it entertaining,” Gildow said late Saturday morning after the governor wrapped up his fishing portion of the opener. “I told a lot of jokes.”

Whether it was the long day or Gildow’s casual, entertaining manner, the governor seemed relaxed and content.

“I don’t know what the world is coming to — I didn’t have a nibble,” a smiling Dayton said of his 12:01 a.m. outing Saturday.

“The fish were there but they wanted nothing to do with me,” he added before heading back out from Grand View Lodge at just after 8 a.m. Saturday. “Now if the fish will jump in the boat.”

They didn’t.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon bested the governor, catching a nice walleye on her second cast under the moonlight early Saturday. She caught another walleye minutes later.

Under sunshine and equally-as-ideal conditions later in the morning, the group got only a few bites, including a perch that Prettner Solon caught and released.

“(Dayton) didn’t have a bite, although he played with the weeds a few times to get a feel for some action,” Gildow said, exhibiting the sense of humor that helped make for a successful day for the boat, even sans fish.

“The governor told me he’s not a great fisherman. So I went with the idea out in the dark to keep it simple and throw crankbaits. Today we used a little more finesse — jigs and minnows, in about 18 feet of water. Just keep it simple. Last night we fished on the north end and through the narrows by Zorbaz. It was loaded there with people. A lot of people were out. And Booming Out Bay. Today we were on the big (part of the) lake. The water was 43 degrees on the surface. It was hard to find fish. I think they (fish) were probably in the weeds. We had bites in 17, 18 feet. Last night we caught it (Prettner Solon’s walleye) in 7 feet.

“All of us were pretty much shot. None of us got much sleep.”

Despite a lack of Z’s and fish, Gildow counts the experience as one of the best of his illustrious guiding career.

“It was a great experience. I’ve known the governor since the early 1980s. We had a real good time. Very relaxing. I’ll take it to the grave with me as one of the more memorable experiences as a fishing guide.”

Prettner Solon, too, won’t soon forget the day, or at least the moonlight outing, when she landed about a 23-inch walleye just minutes into the 2014 Minnesota open-water season.

“On the second cast I caught that fish,” she said before the 8 a.m. launch, still seemingly in awe of the fish. “My wish for everyone is that they catch their fish.”

The others in this group didn’t. But under moonlight and then sunshine on a tranquil Gull Lake, you wouldn’t have known it.