Judging from the list of Governor’s Fishing Opener sites, it almost seems Minnesota’s chief executives have forgotten about the fishing and recreation opportunities in northwest Minnesota.
The ceremonial opener has been a tradition in Minnesota since 1948 and, according to the event’s website, “it was designed to improve Minnesota’s economy through the development and promotion of the state’s recreational opportunities, especially fishing.”
The site notes that “today, the emphasis is even broader. It celebrates the kickoff of the summer tourism season … with a promotional focus on a host community as well as recreational opportunities statewide.”
But without a northwest Minnesota stop every now and again, the Governor’s Fishing Opener isn’t truly a statewide event. That’s why we join the chorus calling for the state to bring the Governor’s Fishing Opener to East Grand Forks in 2021.
The city has not yet applied, but if it does and if it is successful, East Grand Forks would be the first Red River city to host the governor’s opener. It’s been discussed at city meetings, and representatives from Minnesota Tourism were expected to discuss the possibilities.
The East Grand Forks region isn’t known for its walleyes – usually the opener’s focus – but the region is among the best channel catfish fisheries in the Upper Midwest. Perhaps the governor could come to the city and use the influence of his office and the pomp of this annual event to better promote the region as a fishing destination.
It’s been a while since the opener was held anywhere near East Grand Forks. Park Rapids, the site of the 2013 opener, was the closest to East Grand Forks in recent years, but even that is 135 miles away. Pequot Lakes hosted in 2008 and 2001, Detroit Lakes hosted in 2003 and Baudette/Lake of the Woods was the host site in 2004. Even Bemidji hasn’t hosted the opener since 1996.
Of all of the fishing opener events, none of the locations has been closer to East Grand Forks than Bemidji, 112 miles down U.S. Highway 2. Apparently, the event also has not been held on Upper Red Lake in nearly six decades.
If the event is to be a spotlight on “opportunities statewide,” then this is an oversight.
Catfishing on the Red River is a growing industry and an economic boon to the region. Cabela’s in East Grand Forks is, by itself, a tourism destination, and fishing tournaments based in East Grand Forks have become regionally famous. Professional guides make a living helping anglers land trophy cats throughout the summer.
We know the picturesque and tasty walleye holds the attention of so many anglers, and therefore gains favor from tourism promoters. But the catfishing in East Grand Forks is worthy of a visit from the governor, and his appearance on a boat on the Red River – accompanied by various state staff and media representatives – would put a deserved focus on East Grand Forks for a day.
The Governor’s Fishing Opener is supposed to be a statewide event, yet northwest Minnesota has been ignored. There is an easy, and overdue, solution: Bring the Governor’s Fishing Opener to East Grand Forks in 2021.