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Brad Dokken: Angle trip offers mix of work and fishing

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. (background right) was among the dignitaries who went fishing Aug. 21 after the ceremony marking the new border crossing system at the Northwest Angle. Pictured in the front with Peterson is Brian Sage of Sage's Angle West Resort. In the back are retired Minnesota state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (left) and Chris White of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
Lance Sage, a Northwest Angle fishing guide and social studies teacher in Warroad, Minn., shows off a jumbo perch he caught Aug. 21 on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

The past two weeks have been a blur as a combination of work and vacation took me everywhere from the Northwest Angle to the Twin Cities.

On the work front, I was up at the Northwest Angle on Monday, Aug. 21, to report on an event celebrating the launch of a new border crossing system in this remote part of Minnesota that marks the northernmost point of the continental U.S.

Long story short, the new system—a pilot project—allows people entering the Angle from Canada to report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection via iPads set up at several resorts, both on the Northwest Angle mainland and on Oak and Flag islands. The new system is a safer, more convenient alternative to the Outlying Area Reporting Station phones set up at three sites on the mainland.

While the OARS phones are still available, the new system means visitors don't have to make a special trip to the sites to report back into the U.S. if they touch land—or ice—in Canada. That's especially significant for people staying on the islands who fish or venture into Canada for the day. During bad weather events, making a special trip to the OARS phones can be a safety hazard.

A smartphone app also is being developed, meaning visitors can report to CBP from their phones as long as they have a strong enough cellphone signal or wi-fi access. The app is available both on iTunes and in Playstore but hasn't officially been released, and a note on the installation page indicates the app is in development and may be unstable.

It's just a matter of time, though, before the bugs are worked out.

I had a chance to try out the iPad reporting system in Jerry's Restaurant at Young's Bay before the kickoff event, and it worked great. I started by launching the iPad app and typing in some personal information before being connected with a CBP officer in Warroad, Minn., for a face to face interview.

The whole process took less than 5 minutes. I'll definitely be installing the smartphone app, as well. It's a big change from the days—not that many years ago—when communication at the Angle was limited to two-way radio phones.

Testing the waters

The event also served up the opportunity to wet a line, as several of us ventured out in three boats with Brian and Lance Sage of Sage's Angle West Resort and Chuck Haggenmiller of Flag Island Resort.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who played a key role in working with CBP officials to bring the border crossing test project to the Angle and spoke at the dedication event, was among the crew that sampled the fishing on Lake of the Woods.

I was in a boat with Lance Sage, a veteran Angle guide and Warroad High School social studies teacher, along with Lake of the Woods Tourism director Joe Henry and Lake of the Woods County Commissioner Ed Arnesen of Rocky Point Resort. Pulling spinners and dead minnows off the edge of a reef a few miles into Ontario waters, the four of us had no trouble boxing a limit of walleyes, along with a couple of bonus perch, in slightly more than an hour of fishing.

We also missed or released several fish.

Fishing on Lake of the Woods has been excellent this summer, and the action we experienced certainly lived up to the reports. Peterson, fishing with Sage's dad, Brian, had the hot rod and must have released 20 walleyes during the excursion. Every time we looked over, it seemed, the congressman had a fish on the line.

We capped off the afternoon with a fish fry back at Flag Island Resort featuring the walleyes we'd just caught.

The only downside to the afternoon was that it went by too fast.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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