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Governor’s Fishing Opener celebrates fishing tourism in Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz kicked off the 2019 summer fishing season on Saturday, May 11, at Fountain Lake in Albert Lea. Photo courtesy of Explore Minneosta1 / 3
Gov. Tim Walz didn't catch a walleye during Saturday's fishing opener, but he did manage to get on the board with a small perch. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota2 / 3
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan out-fished Gov. Tim Walz on Saturday, bringing three fish to hand. Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota3 / 3

ALBERT LEA, Minn. — Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Gov. Tim Walz kicked off the 2019 summer fishing season at Fountain Lake. The 72nd annual Governor’s Fishing Opener served as a celebration of the host community, Minnesota tourism and the state’s bountiful fisheries.

“We know that one out of every three Minnesotans has gone fishing in their lifetime,” Flanagan said on Saturday morning. “That makes it second for angling in the entire country (behind Alaska). We are doing our best to make sure that we are first.

“Two days ago I bought my daughter her first fishing pole. I think it’s really important that we continue to celebrate who we are as Minnesotans, and that tradition is that we are anglers.”

According to Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism agency, an estimated 500,000 anglers will hit the water this weekend, making it one of the largest fishing openers in the country.

“This is the kickoff for summer and a chance to showcase what makes Minnesota so unique, and what makes this such a great state,” Walz added. “The opportunity to get out with family and friends. The opportunity to get out and enjoy what we’ve been blessed with in this state.

“We’re in the top-three of people coming in (to our state). Fishing alone generates $2.5 billion in our economy, tourism is over $15 billion in the state of Minnesota. It’s who we are, it’s our culture. People come here and we embrace it.

“We’ve just come through a hard winter that most of us smiled about, but we always knew at the end of those long, dark, cold, snowy nights this was waiting for us,” Walz added pointing to Fountain Lake.

Bryan Skogheim, who serves as a board member for the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, hosted Gov. Walz. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it will be a great experience to get on the water with Gov. Walz," Skogheim said before the fishing started. "I've fished the area lakes for more than 30 years and there are plenty of quality fish to be caught."

Mike Petersen, a lifelong Albert Lea resident, hosted Lt. Gov. Flanagan. "This unique opportunity will not only showcase the good fishing in our area, but the local attractions," he said. "I'm an avid fisherman on Fountain Lake.”

Cool air and water temperatures coupled with brisk winds made the fishing tough. By the time the challenge between the Gov. and Lt. Gov. ended at 4 p.m., neither had landed a walleye. Lt. Gov. Flanagan did continue the winning streak for her office, though, by boating three fish vs. one for Gov. Walz.

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