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Molnau edges Pawlenty in opener fishing

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BREEZY POINT, Minn. - Gov. Tim Pawlenty caught a 17-inch walleye on Pelican Lake Saturday as part of the 60th annual Governor's Fishing Opener, but that's not what he'll eat.

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"I guess I'm eating humble pie," the Republican governor said early Saturday afternoon after returning to Breezy Point Resort and a morning of fishing. In the annual competition between Pawlenty and Lt. Gov. Molnau, it was Molnau who again bested the governor. While both caught only one fish, it was Molnau who got hers first and was larger.

Pawlenty caught his walleye aboutn 11:05 a.m. while Molnau got hers about 8:30 a.m. on a day with mid-40 temperatures and an afternoon soaked with rain. "We had a Lindy rig on with shiner ," Pawlenty said of his catch. "We have a situation where we weren't catching many fish but 'Walleye Dan's' a great guide, so he put us onto the fish."

Guiding was "Walleye Dan' Eigen, a professional fishing guide from Nisswa and owner/operator of Walleyedan's Guide Service.

Pawlenty'swife, First Lady Mary Pawlenty, didn't fare much better, suffering from a heavy cold. But both hailed the gray day as still a good day for the fishing opening,which is the traditional start of the tourism season in Minnesota. "Any day on the lake is a good day," Gov. Pawlenty said.

"We did manage to get a very nice walleye, the first walleye," Molnau said of her 19-inch walleye. She said her daughter, Megan, caught a northern and a walleye nearly the same length as her mother's, and her granddaughter "had a great time ... and named every minnow she fished with."

The total compares to 12 fish - three walleye and nine perch - for Molnau during the 2007opener on Leech Lake and five for the Pawlentys with two northern, two walleyes and a perch.

"It was a great day on the lake, memories forever," Molnau said Saturday at a news conference on the Breezy Point Resort docks."There are a lot of fish out there." Molnau was guided by Tom Whitehead of Brainerd, a tournament angler.

One boat that didn't have a problem was that with Minnesota Vikings players Steve Hutchinson and Jim Kleinsasser, along with the Vikings' Tom West, who as part of a youth for fishing program took several youngsters out fishing. They ended with seven fish. "We just want to thank the community, we had a great time," Hutchinson said. "Great lake, great area"

Pawlenty hailed their effort, saying that "we used to have many more young people in our state than we do (today) because people aren't having as many children as they used to. So we have to make a bigger effort to keep our fishing levels up, and that requires people to reach out to young people and encourage them to give it a try."

As the governor ushered the horde of media reporters and several hundred guest anglers to the walleye shore lunch, he quipped that "if it were up to the fish that we caught, it would be a few of us getting any fish to eat."

Pawlenty also lost his bet with U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who had a bet of who could catch the largest walleye before 11:30 a.m. Both men caught only one walleye - but Coleman's came at 11:26 a.m. and at 21 inches. He said he caught his with a Lindy rig, and using his own hook.

Another successful angler was state Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, who caught a 19-1/2-inch walleye right away Saturday morning. "I barely got my line in the water, and was the first of three of us to do that, and it hit," she said."Then it was the only fish I caught in 3 hours."

She returned to Pelican Lake Saturday afternoon with her husband, John, and Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, who said he thought a northern had broken his leader in the only bite he got.

"Getting one decent fish on opening day - you can't complain," Olson said.

The day started with an early breakfast and a media send-off at 6:45 a.m. Gov. Pawlenty, noting the cold, said, "What should I say about the kickoff of the Governor's Fishing Opener this year ... when I'm standing here in a snowmobile suit."

While north-central lakes became clear of ice on Tuesday, many northern lakes - Lake Bemidji, Lake Winnibigoshish and Leech Lake - still were covered with ice. In many cases, docks have yet to be placed and channel buoys put in place.

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