RAINY LAKE -- The big lake offered up five walleyes to Gov. Jesse Ventura on Saturday as he fished the 2002 Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener.
Ventura stood inside his boat Saturday and held up several walleyes to a hoard of media crowded on a dock at Sha~Sha Resort and released the fish into Rainy Lake.
The five walleyes represented a record number for the Governor's Opener for Ventura, who had caught just four walleyes at previous openers in other parts of the state.
It was also noted later that Ventura's catch represented the first time in recent history that a governor had caught a limit of walleyes for the opener.
Ventura's fishing party, with local guide Billy Dougherty as host, caught a total of 17 walleyes and two northerns.
As State Patrol officers and the governor's staff shooed reporters from the dock, Ventura made his way up the stairs and into a booth on a platform set up for KFAN Radio, the Twin Cities station that plays host to the governor's weekly lunch show.
Ventura discussed his day fishing with the radio personalities, noting that one of his fishing buddies had caught a walleye on his first cast and that he had caught his first walleye -- a 19-incher -- on his third cast.
He complimented the Department of Natural Resources for helping to create a healthy walleye fishery on Rainy Lake.
He joked with KFAN announcers that since state Sen. Bob Lessard had changed to the Independent Party, people have been catching fish on Rainy. His comments drew Lessard into the interview. "I taught him everything he knows about fishing," Lessard said of the governor.
As the governor continued his interview, his fishing buddy, Jerry, who referred to himself as "the renegade from South High," explained to this reporter that he's known Ventura since high school. Ventura's other fishing buddies had attended Roseville High, he said.
"He loves the sport," Jerry, who declined to give his last name, said of Ventura.
Ventura commented that Rainy Lake is "so big, you don't have to ditch the media, they'll get lost."
After the interview, Ventura made his way to another platform at Sha~Sha where reporters gathered for a press conference.
As Ventura talked about his day fishing, he called his fishing host, local guide Billy Dougherty, "the best guide in the world."
Ventura fished the Kettle River at the east end of Rainy in the morning and noted that the walleye bite had finished by about 7:30 a.m.
He left for the day at 4:30 a.m. for several reasons he said.
"I don't know if this will be my last (Governor's Opener), but we all talked and said we would fish real seriously," he told the reporters.
In addition, he said, he left early to try to duck the media.
"The fish don't like armadas much," he said.
Later in the morning, Ventura fished for crappies with bobber and minnows in Black Bay, but it did not produce.
"Billy said it was probably a little too early for them," he said. "Maybe a week from now the crappies should be hitting real well."
Ventura said each fishing opener is unique. While he said a lot of fish were caught two years ago at Crane Lake, they didn't have the size that Rainy produced. "Here, we probably caught only six slot and the other dozen were bigger than slot," he said. "The northerns sneak in there every now and then."
Ventura concluded by asking a question of the media in a jab at the Legislature.
"How many did the Legislature get?" he asked. "Or maybe I should ask if they've done anything? Oh, that's right, I can light a sparkler."