Volunteers play a key role in pulling off annual Wisconsin Governor’s Fishing Opener
Each year the Wisconsin Indian Head Country, Inc., sponsors the Wisconsin Governor’s Fishing Opener on the opening weekend of the game fishing season.
The opener was started in 1965 by then-Gov. Warren Knowles, a Republican from River Falls.
Knowles said that the reasons he started the annual opening weekend event were to draw more attention to the fishing opportunities available in northern Wisconsin, and he wanted to start an event that local communities could rally around.
Indeed that happens, as local business people and tourism promoters work all year to come up with fun events, local anglers who can serve as guides for out-of-town fishermen, and enough lodging and restaurants to accommodate a couple hundred people. They work together for this one big event.
Two examples of people who volunteer to help, for no pay, are two of the guides who participated the past two years.
Jim Pearson, of Minong, took my youngest brother, Mike Eisele, and me fishing for this year.
Pearson, though not a formal guide, is a local angler who enjoys seeing and helping others catch fish. His wide smile and wit were contagious and Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with him in the boat.
Pearson has retired twice: once from owning a local business in Minong and a second time as a heavy equipment operator for an electrical utility.
He has always lived in northern Wisconsin, and often fishes Lake Superior for salmon and lake trout, and Canada for walleyes.
His largest walleye is a 31-incher from a lake near Minong.
Ron Weberg, of Hayward, guided Mike and me last year on the Chippewa Flowage, and he volunteered again this year to guide others on the Minong Flowage.
Originally from Beloit, Weberg has fished the Hayward area since the 1970s. Upon retiring from the auto industry, he bought a house and 100 acres east of Hayward and moved here in 1990.
There he can hunt deer, watch wildlife and fish thousands of acres of lakes and rivers.
Weberg is an avid bass fisherman, but he specializes on panfish. He showed us how to zero in on active crappies in warming waters.
As with Pearson, and other anglers, Weberg is willing to help others. He has helped the local chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries (FHNB) take out anglers with disabilities for the past 28 years. He also volunteers to take residents of a senior center in Hayward and school children with disabilities on fishing outings.
People like Pearson and Weberg typify what Knowles was looking for when he started the Governor’s Opener Fishing tradition. They help draw attention to northern resort areas and they like to help people enjoy fishing opportunities.