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Fishing opener: a cold, wet success

News From Greater Minnesota

I confess, I don’t like to fish. I don’t even much like eating fish. But the zest that accompanies the fishing opener is fascinating in the way that, say, watching a cricket match is fascinating: I don’t understand the attraction but it’s fun to see other people get excited about the event. According to Anne Williams of the Bemidji Pioneer, Aaron Schmitz at Taber’s Bait in Bemidji said that despite the cold, wet weather Saturday, fish were biting on area lakes including Bemidji, Cass, Andrusia, Blackduck, Big Wolf and Plantagenet. He said jigging spot-tail shiners and rainbow chubs at depths of six to 10 feet were popular Saturday, adding that he heard one person caught a 27-inch walleye.

Meanwhile, Eric Peterson of the Fargo Forum caught up with three longtime friends on Otter Tail Lake who fish the opener every year. Clarence Kuhn, Kevin Quinn and Jed Hagemeister have been friends since they were in high school in St. Cloud. The fishing was poor and the weather less than perfect, but that wasn’t the point. “Other than the occasional barb from his friends, Jed soaked in the tranquility of being away from the day-to-day world. ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody,’ Jed said with a laugh. ‘My phone is dead; perfection.’ ” Peterson wrote.

Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune found Rocky Vine of Duluth, who landed an 18-inch walleye from the St. Louis River after only five minutes of jigging in the same spot his friend Wayne Orrey had been working for hours with only a couple catfish to show. On the Lavaque Road bridge over Fish Lake, Lucas Wiersma caught a 3-pound northern pike and his dad, Gene Wiersma, brought in a bucket of crappies. “I think these (crappies) are going to make a stink in the frying pan this evening,” Gene Wiersma told Cook. “And that’s a stink I can live with.”

Gov. Mark Dayton continued the tradition of starting the fishing opener just after midnight Saturday, according to the Associated PressDayton shoved off at Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids and caught a northern pike, which he released. He was joined by Scott Glorvigen of Grand Rapids and Afghan vet Army National Guard Spc. Dennis Coan. It was also announced that Lake Waconia will host next year’s opener.

Winger man sings to celebrate Syttende Mai
Jared Lennon has always been intrigued by his Norwegian heritage. Trips to the family farm near Winger often featured visits from relatives from the old country who couldn’t speak English. In 2005, his family traveled to Norway and he learned to appreciate Syttende Mai, which means the 17th of May, the day Norway adopted its constitution in 1814.

“Being able to witness the 17th in person gave me something to grasp, something to understand,” Lennon told Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald“Seeing the relatives in their Norwegian bunads … instilled a sense of pride in being a Norwegian American. By celebrating with the relatives on their day, it became our day as well.” Lennon will join a Norwegian student choir to perform three times during the Norwegian national broadcast coverage of the holiday. Performances will be carried on the company’s website.

Farmers face critical week for planting
Cool weather and frequent rain last week pushed back planting again, and experts say farmers who don’t get their corn planted soon may switch to shorter-season varieties, which don’t yield as much, or plant more acres with soybeans, which aren’t quite as profitable. Steve Karnowski of the Associated Press said the National Weather Service is forecasting sunny conditions statewide into Wednesday with a chance of showers and thunderstorms Thursday night in southwestern Minnesota and moving across the state Friday. 

“We’re at a really pivotal point,” said Seth Naeve, a soybean specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. “I think we’re going to see these guys go 24/7 this week and we’re going to see record planting progress this week.” Richard Syverson, who raises corn, soybeans and cattle on just over 1,000 acres near Clontarf, said his fields still weren’t ready to support heavy machinery. “I have a friend who calls it ‘sinning’ when you go out too early,” Syverson said. “It feels good when you get the work done, but you pay for it for a long, long time.”

City manager found guilty of misusing money
A jury found former Albert Lea City Manager Jim Norman guilty on Friday of seven counts of misusing a city-issued credit card. Norman said he planned to appeal the decision, according to a story by Sarah Stultz in the Albert Lea Tribune. Norman was found guilty of using the city credit card to buy feminine hygiene products from Shopko, an aquarium, trail mix and cat litter from Walmart, a refrigerator from Home Depot, women’s shoes from Herberger’s, and home garbage service from Thompson Sanitation. He was also found guilty of one count of theft with the intent to exercise temporary control and one count of misconduct by a public officer. All are felonies except for the misconduct charge. Norman has said the purchases could have been considered relocation expenses. Sentencing will be within 45 days; Norman was released on his promise to appear.

Northern Minnesota ranchers worry about wolves
Although the Obama administration has announced plans to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act protection list, ranchers in northern Minnesota remain wary of both the wolves and their ability to keep the predators away from their herds. Ryan Bakken of the Grand Forks Herald found that Lancaster-area ranchers Bruce Weleski and Arnold Frame would be happy to do away with the wolves.

“I hate them. They’re just trouble. I think there should be an open season on them,” Weleski said. But Dan Stark of the state Department of Natural Resources says delisting probably won’t occur until 2012 and could be stalled further if it gets tied up in the courts. When the wolves go off the protection list, the DNR’s management plan will take effect. The plan puts the state’s wolf range into two zones: one in the northeast corner of the state and the other in the rest of the state. Both have strict rules on the circumstances under which a wolf can be killed. Frame, who has lost at least four animals to wolves in the last two years with another six calves unaccounted for, is unmoved: “Let everyone trap them. Just get rid of them,” he said.

Phony cash surfaces in southern Minnesota
Counterfeit bills have popped up at banks and businesses in Faribault, Owatonna, Waseca and Northfield. Jaci Smith and Rebecca Rodenberg tag-teamed the story for the Owatonna People’s Press. Faribault Police Chief Dan Collins said the counterfeit $20, $50 and $100 bills are sophisticated enough to pass the “pen test,” in which a pen is used to tell if the paper is fake. The counterfeits have been sent to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting. Tess Rice, general counsel for the Minnesota Bankers Association, said that while fake bills are a “minute issue” for banks – compared to counterfeit checks, which can cost $100,000 in a single transaction – it’s a big problem for small businesses. State Bank of Faribault President John Carlander agreed. “When you get $500 to $600 in counterfeit bills, it’s pretty tough for a small Ma and Pa shop to absorb that loss.”

Wind turbine project bites the dust
Jaci Smith again reports on a pressing issue, this time for the Northfield News. The Rice County Board of Commissioners last week ended a conditional use permit that would have allowed the construction of two wind turbines in Northfield Township. Spring Creek Wind LLC proposed building two turbines just south of Northfield. Neighboring land owners filed suit last fall, arguing the 400-foot turbines would cause harm to the environment and would devalue the surrounding property. The request to revoke the CUP came from Spring Creek. “It was not practical for a relatively small developer to sustain the litigation while still trying to actually do business,” wrote Spring Creek attorney Jeffrey Paulson.

Final Captain Dan Days takes place in Lucan
For 10 years, family and friends of Dan Ourada, a Southwest Minnesota State University wrestler who was killed in a car crash on Dec. 28, 2001, have celebrated Captain Dan Days, a weekend festival with music, food, a petting zoo and several tournaments that raises money for the Captain Dan Spirit Endowment Scholarship. According to Laurie Ourada, Dan’s mother, nearly $80,000 has been raised so far for a yearly $500 scholarship for an SMSU wrestler and a yearly $250 scholarship for a graduating Wabasso High School wrestler. Steve Browne of the Marshall Independent writes that the end of Captain Dan Days was Laurie Ourada’s idea. “It’s the 10th year, life goes on, and that’s good. I gave myself 10 years and now I want time with my grandbabies.”

Rochester School Board picks superintendent
Michael Munoz, 54, the current chief academic officer for Des Moines Public Schools, was chosen last week by the school board to lead the Rochester school district. Matthew Stolle of the Rochester Post Bulletin reports that community members were swayed by his ability to communicate.

“He’s engaged, has a lot of energy (and a) background in curriculum,” said Patrick Gannon, executive director of Child Care Resource and Referral. Parent Jean Locke said he was the only candidate she’d heard talk about outreach to the community. When asked how to tackle the achievement gap between white and minority students, Munoz said Des Moines was able to raise graduate rates by partnering with the United Way of Central Iowa to send teams of volunteers to the homes of dropouts and urge them to return.

“One of the things I’ve learned in 32 years of education is that the job is too difficult for us to do by ourselves, and we need all of you to help us be successful,” Munoz said.

Take it easy, no one is moving
Easy Energy Systems, the Welcome business landmark, isn’t moving to Arizona despite rumors to the contrary. Jenn Brookens of the Fairmont Sentinel writes that while Easy Energy Systems has hired a new CEO and is opening a branch in Phoenix, the company’s headquarters in Welcome and sister plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will remain as-is. Owner Mark Gaalswyk will remain CEO of Easy Automation Inc., and will operate the plants, which make automated farm equipment. Bill Hinz, a former president of Honeywell, will oversee Easy Energy Systems in Arizona, which concentrates on ethanol equipment.

Austin launches what may become annual film festival
Austin’s Human Rights Commission, the Paramount Theatre and the Welcome Center will present the first HRC Film Festival this weekend, writes Trey Mewes of the Austin Daily Herald.

“(We were) wanting to find another avenue to encourage people to talk about and engage on things related to human rights,” said Kirsten Lindbloom, HRC chairwoman. Using a $40,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield, the HRC will show several mainstream films as well as short movies and documentaries. The movies include “The Visitor,” a film about a college professor in New York who finds a foreign couple living in his apartment; “Shrek,” which will be shown in Spanish with English subtitles; “Bullied,” a documentary about gay rights; “Freeheld,” about a New Jersey police lieutenant’s fight to pass on her pension to her domestic partner; “Persepolis,” an animated film about a young Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution; and “For Once in My Life,” a film about a group of disabled musicians coming together as a band. The movies are all free.

“We’d like to see this become an annual thing for us,” Lindbloom said. “That form of media is such a great way to get people to think about issues, to stir discussion.”

Check out these woodcarvings
Apropos of nothing, here are some photos of woodcarvings by Fred Cogelow of  Willmar that are on display at the Rock County Veterans Memorial Building in Luverne. A story by Julie Buntjer of the Worthington Daily Globe goes into great detail on Cogelow’s life and career, but I just think the carvings are cool. Take a look.

John Fitzgerald is a longtime Minnesotan and journalist who lives in Buffalo.

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