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White Bear Lake hooks next year’s Fishing Opener, a metro first

For the first time, the Governor’s Fishing Opener will be in the metro area: on White Bear Lake next May 8 and 9.

Credit for the metro coup goes to Bill Foussard, owner of the White Bear Country Inn and Rudy’s Red Eye Grill in downtown White Bear Lake.

Foussard is having a good year: He was named King Boreas Rex of the St. Paul Winter Carnival in January and now, after four years of trying, he’s lured the opener to White Bear.

“This will be a great chance to highlight White Bear — to market White Bear,” he said.

The fishing opener, a state tradition since 1948, has always been outside the metro area, usually up north. It was in Red Wing about 10 years ago, which is about as close as it usually gets.

This year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty caught two northerrns, two walleye and a perch —  and lots of attention for his remarks about the first lady — on Big Pelican Lake in Breezy Point.

White Bear outbid several other communities for the 2009 opener. The cities must show that they can handle 300 guests, line up 100 guides or hosts for the fishing groups and feed up to several thousand people in a free, community picnic on the opening weekend, said Curt Johnson of Explore Minnesota.

Sponsors, too, must be secured; the state doesn’t pay for the event. Only the picnic is open to the public. The fishing expedition is limited to media and VIPs.

Foussard said it took some effort to get the opener in the Twin Cities area. “There’s a lot of tourism in the metro, too,” he said. “And we kept telling them about all the great things in White Bear, and how beneficial it would be to come here.”

Is there lots of pressure to make sure the governor actually catches something?

“They’ll catch lots of fish,” Foussard said. “This is White Bear Lake,”

And I’m betting he’ll reserve a very nice room at his hotel for the governor and Mrs. Pawlenty, if she’s not in the mood for fishing.

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