Our view: It’s time for a NW Minnesota Fishing Opener

A bit of Minnesota fishing trivia: Who can remember the last time the ceremonial Governor’s Fishing Opener was held in northwest Minnesota?

Herald pull quote, 5/6/23
Herald graphic

A bit of Minnesota fishing trivia: Who can remember the last time the ceremonial Governor’s Fishing Opener was held in northwest Minnesota?

Of course, it depends a bit on the definition of “northwest Minnesota,” but here’s the answer: 2013, in Park Rapids. Other communities in the region to host the event include Pequot Lakes in 2008 and 2001, Detroit Lakes in 2003, Baudette/Lake of the Woods in 2004 and Bemidji in 1996.

All of those communities are more than 100 miles from East Grand Forks, which has been working for years to host this important event.

According to the website for the opener – yes, there is a site dedicated to it – “the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener has been a tradition in Minnesota since 1948. It was designed to improve Minnesota’s economy through the development and promotion of the state’s recreational opportunities, especially fishing. … It celebrates the kickoff of the summer tourism season. The special partnership continues today with a promotional focus on a host community as well as recreational opportunities statewide.”

That promotional focus is why we believe the event should come to East Grand Forks, a community that not only offers exceptional catfishing on the Red River, but one that so notably emerged from the Flood of 1997.


The flood reinforced a fear of the Red, but in the years since, residents of East Grand Forks and Grand Forks are overcoming that wariness. Fishing guides ply the waters throughout the spring and summer months, catering to a growing tourism industry. The Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament in June fills to capacity months in advance, and the Cats Incredible fishing tournament is held in July. Developments along the river’s edge have improved its accessibility and its beauty. Kayaks – piloted by novices – float lazily on the Red.

Thanks to flood control systems and this new community attitude, today’s Red River is inviting, not foreboding.

That’s the message that needs to be spread throughout Minnesota, and hosting the Governor’s Fishing Opener would do much for getting the word out.

Mayor Steve Gander has discussed it many times, including at his State of the City event last month.

“We have met multiple times for this and we felt we were getting close, and that’s when COVID hit and things kind of went into a bit of a tailspin,” Gander said. “(Explore Minnesota) did reach out to us and wondered if we are still interested and, of course, we are. But we just had to pull back just a wee bit and now reconstitute that and see if we can get that going. So keep your ear to the rail.”

He finished with a prediction: “I think probably we will have the Governor’s Fishing Opener up here one of these springs.”

We hope so, especially since this conversation has been happening for years. Gander mentioned it in past speeches, and in 2019, a representative from Explore Minnesota visited East Grand Forks to consider it as a future site for the opener.

One potential glitch: The opener traditionally happens in May, and the Red – inviting and thriving as it is – is temperamental in the spring. A late thaw or excessive runoff could create less-than-ideal fishing conditions.


Could the Governor’s Fishing Opener commit to East Grand Forks and then have an alternate, nearby, site at the ready just in case flooding is predicted? That seems like a logistical challenge, but certainly something that can be overcome. After all, spring can be difficult throughout Minnesota, so we assume a number of hurdles have been cleared throughout the 75-year history of the event.

In 2019, we wrote: “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.”

East Grand Forks, and northwest Minnesota, deserves this.

So let’s go for it, and bring a Governor’s Fishing Opener – and one not too far in the future – to East Grand Forks for the first time ever.

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