Governor's Fishing Opener in Ottertail County postponed until 2021

A group of Wadena-Deer Creek anglers take to the water during a Heart O'Lakes Conference fishing contest. A kids mentorship fishing program was one of the many featured programs for the 2020 Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener. The event was postponed until May 6-9, 2021. (Submitted photo)

A Minnesota tradition has been put on hold for one year. Governor Tim Walz announced on April 1 that the 2020 Governor’s Fishing Opener in Otter Tail County has been postponed.

This is the first time in the event’s history that it won’t take place. The Governor’s Fishing Opener started in 1948 as a way to celebrate Minnesota’s rich fishing traditions.

However, the actual opener is still scheduled to take place on May 9, which Walz emphasized in his announcement.

Governor Walz announced the postponement during his daily address and said the event will take place on May 6-9, 2021. In his announcement, Walz said he was disappointed and gave a thank you to officials in Otter Tail County.

Erik Osberg, chair of the Governor’s Fishing Opening Committee, said the good news is that Otter Tail County still gets to host the event.


“The not-so-good news is that it will be 2021 and not 2020,” Osberg said. “We are disappointed that it turned out this way but it’s not surprising. We think it’s the right thing to do. We have a 30-plus person committee and we had a conference call in March and it was unanimous that if we had a choice, we would prefer to postpone. We wanted to host it, but we were expecting this announcement. It was a matter of when, not necessarily if.”

Osberg said this will give the committee more time to polish and put the finishing touches on the event. He said the biggest concern right now is for the businesses that rely on tourism.

“The summer is their busy time and that’s a concern of ours moving forward,” Osberg said. “Hopefully, by the time Memorial Day rolls around, things will be back to a new normal. I don’t know what normal will be anymore. The biggest reason to host this event is it brings the media spotlight to the area. We will still get that spotlight, but it will be next summer. It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected. We will roll with the punches and see how things turn out.”

Osberg said planning has been hurt as it’s not been possible to get 30 people into a room together. Osberg said recently he was on a traveling tour talking to outdoors groups throughout the state, but the past two to three weeks, he said the planning efforts had changed. With the current situation, Osberg said he didn’t know how they would have pulled the event off, if it wasn’t postponed.

“It’s not surprising at all that this announcement came. Explore Minnesota asked us what we wanted to do, as a committee, we unanimously said if there is an opportunity to postpone we think it’s in everyone’s best interest and that’s how it ended up,” Osberg said.

Osberg said it was a relief to find out that Otter Tail County would still be hosting in 2021.

“With the official announcement today, we can start (planning)," Osberg said. "We were in a holding pattern for two to three weeks. Now, we know what we can do. There is a bit of a relief.”

Osberg said they have a good group of people that have been working really hard to promote and put the event on. He doesn’t anticipate the enthusiasm will change for this event with it being in 2021 instead of 2020.


One of the disappointing things about the postponement, according to Osberg, is that they had a lot of fun events planned for the event.

“There is a lot of tradition that goes with the Governor’s Opener and we didn’t want to mess up what worked,” Osberg said. “We had some new twists that we were going to add to the opener. Now, we have to keep those under our hat for a little while longer. When you have a good surprise and something you want to see develop, there is a disappointment that you don’t get to share that. We will get there eventually, we just have to be patient.”

Osberg emphasized that the announcement on April 1 doesn’t shut down Minnesota fishing and encourages people to get outside and fish, while following safety protocols.

“This announcement doesn’t mean fishing is canceled and it doesn’t mean the Governor’s Fishing Opener in Otter Tail County is canceled, it is postponed,” Osberg said. “The fishing seasons for 2020, as of right now, are still on schedule. We can all go wet a line at midnight on May 9. I encourage people to find ways to still go out and enjoy the outdoors. It’s good for your mental health. Just be careful when you do it. It’s a new normal now, so be mindful and take the precautions you need. Fishing isn’t closed, we just have to wait another year to throw our big party.”

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