KABETOGAMA LAKE -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn't have long to savor his last Governor's Fishing Opener Saturday, as legislative leaders called him back to St. Paul.
The Republican governor caught four fish -- two saugers and two walleyes, including a 22.5-inch walleye before the noon shore lunch on the lake in the Voyageur's National Park near the Canadian border.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller "have made a demand that I come back so I will miss the banquet (Saturday night) and leave mid-afternoon," Pawlenty said.
He left his wife, first lady Mary Pawlenty, and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau to remain at Kabetogama.
The Legislature is trying to solve a $3 billion budget gap by midnight today. The session adjourns Monday. Pawlenty said he had a long conference call with legislative leaders late Friday night.
"Negotiations are stuck," Pawlenty said. "There are some pretty significant differences, not so much on the budget part of it, but on the new health care bill that the Democrats are trying to pass. There's a lot of controversy in that, so we're stuck."
Both Pawentys said Saturday was one of the best openers he experienced in eight years. The first lady caught three walleyes, including the first in the Pawlenty boat.
"This was, without question, the most beautiful fishing day that we've had in all eight years," Mary Pawlenty said. "It is a gorgeous lake that had to look like this thousands of years ago. It feels completely untouched."
Molnau caught five fish, including a 19-inch walleye. Her 4-year-old granddaughter Bella also caught five fish, including a 24-inch walleye.
Mostly jigs and Lindy rigs were used by all, they said.
"You guys gave us all good memories. We couldn't have found a better spot," Molnau said.
"In fishing as in life, it's important to have a good guide," the Governor said, citing his guide, Tim Watson, and Molnau's guide, Frank House, both locals.
"You couldn't have a better opener," Pawlenty said. "This is a dream opener for those of us who have done this for seven or eight years. We've had some tough weather in six of the eight years, so this is by far the best weather we've had on an opener. It was really was enjoyable. The lake was absolutely spectacular, breathtakingly beautiful.
"And we caught a lot of fish," he said.
Pawlenty is not seeking another term, and he noted Saturday was his last opener as governor. He is believed to be positioning for a 2012 presidential run, and was asked if there should be President's Fishing Opener.
"If there were a Presidential Fishing Opener, whoever the president might be, he or she would be very well advised to have one in northern Minnesota," he said. "I would concur with that wholeheartedly."