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Minnesota fishing opener: Gov. Pawlenty promotes fishing at annual event

First lady Mary Pawlenty gets help from the state Department of Natural Resources Roland Sigurdson in how to fillet a walleye Friday evening during the Governor's Fishing Opener in White Bear Lake. She also worked with former Twins pitcher Jack Morris on the chore, and showed prowess in trimming out the walleye "cheeks." Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. - For the first time in the 61-year-history of the event, a Minnesota governor today will open the walleye fishing season on a metro lake.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty planned to hit White Bear Lake at 3:30 a.m. today for an early start, before attending the formal Governor's Fishing Opener ceremonies at 6:45 a.m. at Tally's Dockside.

About 100 guides will take 300 to 400 media and guests on the lake for fishing.

"We're trying to promote fishing opportunities overall in Minnesota and we want to remind people that it's great if you can take a trip and vacation in another part of the state, but sometimes you might just be able to sneak out for a half hour on a week night and be able to fish," Pawlenty said in an interview.

"Promoting fishing in Minnesota is good no matter where you live," he said.

A community picnic Friday night spread into downtown White Bear Lake, where 5,000 people were fed a free pulled beef sandwich with all the trimmings.

A high school swing band played in the courtyard while more than a dozen unicyclists performed on a side street.

First Lady Mary Pawlenty displayed how to fillet a walleye - a skill she learned at last year's opener at Breezy Point - and had former Twins ace pitcher Jack Morris on hand to show his filleting skills.

"We want everybody to understand there's great fishing all over the state," said Pawlenty, who strolled through the picnic area, talking to people and conducting media interviews with the Twin Cities' large number of television stations. Overhead, a helicopter paused.

Pawlenty said he wants the early start to get more time to catch fish.

'"When you're the governor of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you don't want to get skunked," he said. "We're going to put in the maximum effort."

Besides, he joked, Molnau doesn't rise before 10 a.m. "I think I've got an advantage right there. With Carol, we've got some other advantages with Brad Stanius, who is a former legislator, and you know they can't get anything done."

Molnau will be guided by Stanius, a White Bear Lake resident and walleye tournament participant for 25 years. The Pawlentys will be guided by Dennis Merry, a self-assuming local avid White Bear Lake angler who spends five days a week on the lake.

"I've been here since 1960 and it's been a good fishing lake," said Julie Jarvis, one of three women from ReMAX who volunteered to staff an information booth at the community picnic. "I used to spend my childhood walking up to the lake and fishing off the bridge."

Jarvis's sister is a Bemidji State University graduate in elementary education.

Deb Casper, another ReMAX worker, said her brother Pete was a 1982 BSU graduate in education.

"This is a big event for us," she said. "We are able to draw people here to see White Bear Lake and what it has to offer."

Rosemary Hilldebrand, the third ReMAX worker, said she used to fish Grace Lake near Bemidji, but finds White Bear Lake better.

"I can get my walleye right here," she said.

A banquet will cap today's events at which the 2010 site of the Governor's Fishing Opener will be announced.