The Last Windrow: It's here - the Minnesota fishing opener

Of all the topics to talk about, the opener is at the top of the list

Photo illustration /

I couldn't help myself.

At a time when I could have written a column about world affairs, climate change, political turmoil or the future of electric vehicles, I've chosen to do a column about something more important.

The Minnesota fishing opener.

There are special holidays we celebrate each year. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and New Year's Eve are among those. But there are others here in the North Star state that are equally enjoyed by some of us and one of them is "the fishing opener."

It happens this weekend in the land of the loon.


I cut my eyeteeth on catching the wily, yellow-bellied bullhead, the state fish of Iowa. The fish sought the bottoms of rivers and ponds that surrounded my farm home.

Living in a place devoid of lakes, you learn to take what you can get as a budding fisherman and the word "walleye" had not yet entered into my vocabulary. I was happy just pulling the whiskered fish from any pond or stream.

I could not have imagined at that time in my life what the opener might mean in my later life.

I've noticed boats being towed to lakes recently after our long delayed spring weather. Some are forecasting ice will still be found on some of our northern lakes on opening day.

That fact will not stem the tide of anglers heading for their cabins or resorts. They will be coming like a herd of wildebeests heading for a water hole across the Serengeti Plains.

I was privileged to have worked at the famous Nisswa Bait and Tackle Shop in the early 1970s. Marv and Judy Koep were the owners and I was hired to tote minnows, count leeches, stock shelves and sell fishing licenses.

A month before the opener, the shop was abuzz with activity. Being the original home of the Nisswa Guides League, I got to rub shoulders with now famous fishing guides. I'm not sure I believed all the banter that went on between them, but let it be said that not a dull moment took place.

Guides are not only are good at finding fish, they are also well endowed with a bevy of questionable stories to keep clients happy when the fish aren't in a biting mood. That does happen, no matter what the guide tells you.


Not all people who stopped by the bait shop ended up fishing. There was a young man who rented an outboard motor from the shop every year. I dutifully trucked his motor to his car's trunk every night before the opener. The gas tank was full.

Each of those years he returned the motor on Sunday afternoon. When I opened his trunk the motor had not been moved. No gas had been used. I asked him why he never used his rental.

He replied that he never fished on opener, but just in case his wife checked up on him, he could show her the rental slip proving that he had indeed gone fishing.

I left it at that.

One of Minnesota's unofficial holidays happens this weekend in the state where the walleye is the official fish. The opener is on tap.

Walleyes don't resemble the yellow-bellied bullheads that I used to pull out of Buck Hageman's creek. But to a farm kid with fishing on his mind and no lakes in site, those bullheads were no less trophies. Even if I had to chase Buck's Herefords away from my floating bobber.

I could have written about the topics I listed at the beginning of this column. But I chose not to. I feel better for that.

See you next time. And, good luck! Okay?


John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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