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Image of anglers.

What's Your Fishing Story?

From walleye stocking to underwater acoustics to wild anglers, a line of fishing stories runs through this issue. May and the Governor's Fishing Opener mark the beginning of fishing season for countless Minnesotans. Whether or not you head to the lake to pursue walleyes, you probably have a fishing story to tell. Many of us Minnesotans could cast our life story in terms of fish pursued, caught, eaten, and watched.

In a conversation with the new DNR commissioner, Tom Landwehr, fishing surfaces again and again. He told me he recalls fishing a pond in a field near his childhood home in North St. Paul. "The neighborhood kids would go out there with baling twine and bent nails and a stick, and we would fish for hours and hours," he said. "I think fishing is just a great entry point [to outdoor life]. Giving exposure to any one element of outdoor activities just really opens up the whole world for different activities. It's a way to get people hooked—no pun intended."

The commissioner's recollections echo sentiments of many MCV readers. Several years ago, we asked you readers to write and tell us how you got hooked on fishing. What struck me about every one of your stories was the simple pleasure of fishing. No one mentioned boats or motors, depth finders or other technology. "Mama's rod, reel, and Daredevle were luxury items; but her recreation put a meal on our table," wrote Jeanne Everhart. "Something about the fresh-air smell of water and fish on my hands warms my soul."

Arguably, the state's most dedicated anglers are the wild ones—such as herons, ospreys, and otters—who fish for a living. Writing for Young Naturalists in this issue, fisherman Michael Kallok finds they have the traits any angler might emulate—patience, persistence, and sometimes daring.

Science and technology, of course, can aid the pursuit of fish. New scientific studies have enabled greater precision in DNR walleye stocking, as Chris Niskanen reports in "Walleye Stocking Today." Noting that artificial rearing of walleye dates back to 1887, he concentrates on changes during the past 15 years.

DNR fisheries supervisor Don Schreiner illustrates the use of technology handily in his story, "How Many Fish in Lake Superior?" When his young daughter poses this question, Schreiner is stumped—until he can apply sonar technology to find an answer.

The sonar census of cisco, also known as lake herring, enables fisheries managers to set total sustainable catch for Minnesota's portion of the Lake Superior commercial fishery.

Some of the Lake Superior herring harvest goes to Iowa, where a fish company makes it into fish cakes called gefilte fish. This fact reminds me of my husband's maternal grandmother. When Lou brought me to her Bronx apartment for the first time, she served us cold gefilte fish with beet horseradish. Though new to me, this traditional Jewish dish suited my fish-loving Norwegian-American palate perfectly. I still believe that Grandma Jean liked me at once because I liked gefilte fish.

From that reminiscence, I can easily travel to my own maternal grandmother's back porch. There, on a newspaper-covered table, we women and children happily scaled sunnies by the tubful, then fried them in cast-iron skillets, and gathered around the big mahogany dining-room table to eat them. I aspired to be like my mother, a connoisseur who passed up every other food item in favor of fish.

Finally, in this issue, the photo essay "Fish Kitsch" tours towns with artful monuments to regional favorite fish. The big fish also stand for fishing's boost to the local economy.

Any fish can serve as symbol or metaphor. At his fishing buddy's memorial service, my brother offered this tribute: "Danny didn't catch too many big fish, but he was always sure that a big one was there in the water, waiting for him. You see, he was a fisherman; he was an optimist."

Best of luck to every angler! —Kathleen Weflen, editor


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