St. Cloud, Minn. A familiar face at the annual fishing
roundtable will be absent during the 2002 event this weekend.
Larry Bollig, a Twin Cities outdoors radio talk show host and
pro fisherman, has no problem sharing his feelings on why he won’t
“I was invited, but I’m choosing not to go,” he said. “On the
invitation, I wrote that I’ll come back when (the DNR) gets a new
For nearly 10 years, Bollig has co-hosted St. Paul-based KSTP
Radio’s “Bear Facts and Fish Tales” on Sunday evenings with Mark
Fisher. He’s been a longtime fishing roundtable member and spent
many hours attending meetings of the bag limits subcommittee that
convened in 2000. At the 2001 fishing roundtable, Bollig presented
that subcommittee’s final recommendations.
Bollig says he was never comfortable with a DNR commissioner
with no professional background in natural resources, but he says
he gave DNR Commissioner Allen Garber the benefit of the doubt when
he came on board in early 1999, because “he was a cop, and I
thought he might try to beef up the conservation officers, and that
would probably be a good thing.”
He became more critical of Garber following the 2000 flap over
how the agency would grant access to Star Tribune reporter Dennis
Anderson. Then a comment from the commissioner at the 2001
roundtable upset Bollig.
“What really set me off was on the second day, I was asked to
say a few words, giving a synopsis of the roundtable and being on
the subcommittee. I jokingly said, Now I know what it feels like
being in the DNR when people don’t like you.’ Everyone in the room
knew where I was coming from and thought it was funny.”
The commissioner, at least from Bollig’s perspective, however,
did not. During his comments later, he noted Bollig’s quip.
“He said he didn’t want to hear that kind of talk,” Bollig said.
“I thought What?'”
Bollig said he contemplated responding, or walking out of the
room, but he held his tongue.
“But the more I thought about it, the madder I got,” he
Bollig also believes recent fishing roundtables have failed to
advance the cause of better fishing, and he’s angry that the
agency’s recent bag limits proposal didn’t follow the
subcommittee’s more aggressive recommendations.
“This whole bag limits system is a joke. It should never have
been brought up if we were not going to change them,” he said.
Between a roundtable atmosphere that he feels has become too
cozy between the DNR and many conservation groups, and a state
political system that allows politicians to wield too much
influence over resource management, the roundtable has become “a
waste of time,” Bollig says.
“There’s no point to me going to this. All they do is talk
around issues,” he said. “I can read about it in Outdoor News, so
why do I need to go?”
Bollig said he thinks the DNR contains many good people, but
employees spend too much time worrying about the political
ramifications of their decisions. And he still thinks the state’s
conservation officers are overworked and spread too thin.
“The poor guys are so brow-beat that they’re constantly watching
out for their job,” he said. “And the COs are overworked and
Tom Neustrom, a roundtable participant from Grand Rapids, said
he was disappointed that Bollig wouldn’t be attending this year. He
described Bollig as a longtime voice for the average fisherman who
speaks his mind an important attribute at past roundtables.
“Larry Bollig is probably one of the most well-thought-of people
on fishing in Minnesota, and for him not to attend, well, it’s just
a blow to the communication system we’re trying to establish with
the agency,” he said.
DNR Fisheries Director Ron Payer called it “unfortunate” that
Bollig would not be attending. During Bollig’s comments at the 2001
roundtable, Payer said he understood that he was providing some
appreciation for the pressures resource managers face, but he also
understood that the commissioner felt he was defending his
employees from criticism, even if Bollig was making his comments
“The commissioner was just saying, my staff and I do a good job,
and we understand where you’re coming from, but don’t even joke
about that,'” Payer said. “I think Larry is frank about things and
so is the commissioner.”
As for the roundtable being unproductive, Payer said the
frustration that Bollig and other participants sometimes feel about
the roundtable applies to any other forum in a democracy.
“That frustration is no different than at the Legislature,”
Payer said. “Nobody usually gets everything they want all the
“Larry’s one of the originals (at the roundtable), and he’s been
a good participant, but it’s at the times when we most disagree
that we need people like him to be present.”
DNR Communications Director Dennis Stauffer wasn’t present
during the second day of the roundtable last year but said the
commissioner did not mean to offend Bollig with his comments.
“I can say with some confidence neither the commissioner nor
anyone else is trying to discourage him from participating,”
“It’s regrettable anytime something like this happens when
someone feels uncomfortable not being a part of the process,”
Stauffer said. “But the commissioner is a big proponent of these
kinds of processes, and would never want to discourage anyone from