ST. PAUL, Minn. – Governor Dayton will ceremoniously open the walleye fishing season this weekend by dropping his line…into a river?
On Saturday, the St. Cloud area will host the annual opener festivities, and the governor will attempt to pull out his first fish of the year from the mighty Mississippi River.
This is the third time in 70 years that a river was selected for the fishing opener; fourth if you count Lake Pepin (which is actually part of the Mississippi).
“I don't think any other state does a fishing opener like we do,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism promotion office. “And year after year after year it's gotten bigger and bigger.”
Explore Minnesota takes bids from various cities to choose where to host the governor’s fishing opener each year with final approval from the governor's office.
Most sources credit governor Luther Youngdahl for starting the opener tradition in 1948—though he didn't attend the first, second or third annual events held on Lake Mille Lacs.
That said, it grew every year.
Governor Anderson's opener in 1973 even made the cover of Time Magazine.
It's so important that the Minnesota Historical Society’s website breaks down “events and traditions” of the governor into three categories: state of the state address, bill signing, and fishing opener.
We asked Edman if there was any controversy selecting a river for the opener this year.
“No, I don't think there's controversy. From my perspective, I love it, because it shows the diversity of the state. St. Cloud came forward and said, ‘We have a river, we have a community, we have a great tourism destination and we want to host this year's opener.’ And that's how it happened.”
Perhaps the better question is, why not a river?
While there are about 12,000 lakes in the state, there are roughly 69,000 miles of rivers and streams to fish with more than 260 species of fish including smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye.
You don't need a boat.
And according to the Minnesota Department of Health, the fish in the Mississippi north of the Twin Cities are about as safe to eat as most Minnesota lakes.