Over the past decade my fishing career has been a roller coaster ride. For the most part, it's been a ride that continues to climb with very little falling. I have said this before and I'll say it again, God has spoiled me beyond my wildest dreams.
This past week was another new high. I had the opportunity to guide our Governor, Mark Dayton, for the official 2012 Governor's Fishing Opener on Lake Waconia. Receiving this honor was humbling, exciting, challenging, scary and rewarding all at the same time.
While it was cool to guide the Governor, I will always remember the efforts that went into the event. That, and the support from my friends, family and the community of Waconia. It was over the top. It seemed that every human being in Waconia had a permanent smile on their face. Being a part of that smile brings me incredible joy.
We lined up over 100 fishing hosts to personally escort over 300 guests on the water. It was chaos, and it was good. For a few days Waconia was the hottest city in the Midwest. Our efforts and the Governor's presence were the lead story for every major news station in Minnesota at 5, 6 and 10 pm - both Friday and Saturday.
Because of our location near to the Twin Cities, we drew a record amount of media attention. Explore Minnesota tourism claims that we raised the bar to a level they haven't seen in 65 years.
It seemed that everybody wanted the scoop on what the Governor was getting himself into. Because of my role as his guide, I had the chance to appear on every news station in our market. I learned that live TV is an art and those news reporters have serious talent. I didn't see any of my footage, but I'm sure I looked like a goof. Either way, it was an adrenaline rush.
Along with the TV crews, we also drew in many radio stations, newspapers and magazine publications. Again, I had the chance to share my story and my love of Waconia with them all.
Most of the event was a blur, but I'll try to sum it up.
Thursday night we piled over 100 fishing hosts into Island View for a steak dinner. I was able to share my knowleadge of our fishing opener plans and prepare the hosts for the chaos that was about to hit.
Friday morning Lola's was a buzz with live tv crews and radio shows. After 4 hours of interviews I finally lost my voice.
We threw a community picnic in the park and served over 4,300 free meals. The entertainment was wild andit seemed everyone enjoyed the fun. Governor Dayton arrived at 4 pm. At that time he gave a press conference and really put the pressure on his guide - me.
Fast forward through more chaos and we find ourselves at the In Towne Marina at 11:00 pm. With my donated sponsor boat already in the water, the suspense built. Governor Dayton arrived and he purchased his fishing license. A friendly crowd greeted him and sent me great words of encouragement. At a quarter to midnight, we set sail into the darkness - hoping and praying to land a fish.
I was hopeful, yet cautiously optimistic about our chances. In all my years of fishing Waconia at midnight, I had yet to get skunked. Still, I knew the curse and the elements that we were up against. I took him to a spot that I had pre-scouted Wednesday night. At that time there were plenty of walleyes waiting. I could see them with my own two eyes.
At the stroke of midnight he threw out his Rapala. Cast after cast he came up empty. With his headlight shining we watched walleye after walleye swim below our boat. In two feet of water the eyes were glowing all around us. He and his guests thought it was cool to see them below. With all the attention on us, I found it frustrating. At 2 AM we had enough. We were skunked.
A few moments of shut eye and we were back at it. 8 AM we joined the crowd at Lola's for breakfast, prayer, national anthem and a sweet send-off. We jigged minnows, trolled Rapala's, even threw out a slip bobber and leech. He had about a dozen bites but when the dust finally settled all we had to show for our efforts was a bluegill. Not the way that either one of us wanted to finish, but we both were ok with it.
We reported back to shore about our catch and received many chuckles. A few more interviews and a walleye shore lunch and the Governor was gone. What took us 4 years of planning passed in a blink of an eye. That night we celebrated our efforts with a big celebration dinner. We gave away a boat, talked fishing, shook hands and gave hugs.
I've done many neat things in my short life, but this one just might be the coolest. Our community came together and bonded in ways I've never seen. In total we had over 300 volunteers working together to make it possible. Over 100 fisherman/women stepped up to take out over 300 guests. Thousands took part in the festivities and Waconia's colors shown on nearly every tv, radio and newspaper feature in our state. It surpassed all my expectations.
Sunday night the dust settled and I was ready to catch a walleye. I took my lovely girlfriend with me and for the sake of curiousity, we repeated the exact same steps that I took with Mark Dayton. I threw anchor in the exact same location. I handed Sarah a pole and I picked up the same one Mr. Dayton used. Darkness fell on us and it was instant action. Sarah set the hook and landed the first walleye of the year. A dandy of a walleye at that. I took 3 casts with Mark's Rapala and I too hooked up. To make sure it wasn't a fluke I casted again. Within 5 minutes I had another. We laughed at each other, pulled anchor and went home.
The next morning was more of the same. 10 walleyes came in the boat with ease. Fishing can be funny sometimes. I guess the man just wasn't meant to catch one. Truth be told, I'm ok with that. The 2012 Opener was a thrill ride that I will never forget. Thank you to all that made it so memorable.
I will post more pictures when they become available.
Until the next walleye strikes, keep on livin' your dream!