Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener

The Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener has been a state tradition since 1948.  It was initially designed to help improve Minnesota’s economy through the development and promotion of the state’s recreational opportunities—particularly fishing. Traditionally, it is held Mother’s Day weekend, when the ice has gone out and the snow has melted.

The first fishing opener was a cooperative, promotional event between the state’s resort industry, media and public officials.  Today, the emphasis is even broader, and also celebrates the kickoff to Minnesota’s important summer tourism season.

A Minnesota Host Community is Selected

Each year, Explore Minnesota chooses a Minnesota community to host the weekend-long event. Communities from across the state submit bids to host, and a host community is chosen based on certain criteria.

Besides a lake large enough for hundreds of boats, the host community must have the space to host a free, community-wide picnic for about 5,000 people. The picnic is held Friday night, and fishing season officially kicks off Saturday morning. There also must be a lakeside area for a media tent, room to lodge out-of-town radio personalities and journalists, and enough volunteers to handle a large, weekend-long event.

Smaller communities have to get creative in order to market themselves for the event, whereas bigger communities might be able to host all of the weekend’s events at one large resort. Regardless of the size of the town or its resorts, Explore MN likes to move the Opener around and highlight tourism and fishing opportunities in different parts of the state. To date, only a handful of communities have hosted the event more than once.

In order for the Governor’s Fishing Opener to be successful, the entire host community has to be on board. A handful of people can’t pull off an event of this size alone.

2013: Park Rapids was the Host Community

The Opener isn’t always held on a popular fishing lake. For example, it was held on Fish Hook Lake in Park Rapids in 2013. That year, the lake was locked in with ice until May 15, so Governor Mark Dayton actually fished on Fish Hook River.

Another popular Park Rapids fishing destination is Two Inlets Lake, which is home to Two Inlets Resort, one of our member resorts. That year, the lake still had ice chunks on it in the morning, but by the afternoon, the ice had gone out. The biggest walleye of the day actually came out of Two Inlets Lake.

Two Inlets Resort was one of the highlighted spots on the media tour that year.  The resort showcased what a classic owner-operated resort is like for the members of the media that went on the tour. Other highlighted media stops included the grotto at the Catholic church, Two Inlets Mill (which is one of only two log-to-finished product mills in the state), Bear Paw Resort’s famous loon’s nest, and Brookside Resort (a large resort with 29 cabins, a swimming pool, mini golf, ice cream shop and a full staff for activities.)

Throughout the day, radio personalities made broadcasts from a designated media tent and chatted about what the Governor caught, the “catch of the day” and what the boats coming in caught. To mix it up a bit, volunteers provided talking points about the Park Rapids area so the radio hosts could fill the down time, and a resort owner was interviewed to help highlight area resorts. Park Rapids also hosted four volunteer fishing guides from Fargo-Moorhead who were able to help fishermen identify the best spots to cast their line.  

So you want to go?  This Year’s Governor Fishing Opener is in Albert Lea

This year’s Governor’s Fishing Opener is the 72nd iteration of the event, and will be held May 9- May 12, 2019 in Albert Lea. Public events include:

  ►Waterville Hatchery Open House, Thursday, 1 to 4 p.m
  ►Big Island Rendezvous, Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  ►Community picnic and dance, Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  ►Biggest Fish Story, Friday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  ►Opening ceremony and official launch, Saturday, 8 a.m.
  ►Blue Zone Walk/Run, Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon

View the weekend’s full schedule here.

No matter where you want to spend your Minnesota Fishing Opener, it’s time to book your stay at one of our owner-operated resorts for this year’s Opener weekend now!  Book your stay  

By: Caitlin Koenig
Photo credits:
Fishing opener: Two Inlets Resort

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