By Chris Shaffer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This weekend’s fishing opener also marks the start of resort season.

Although the number of resorts in our state has dropped by 50% since 1985, they still serve a valuable role.

READ MORE: COVID In Minnesota: 2,424 Cases, 3 Deaths Reported Friday

So which one of Minnesota’s 700-plus resorts does the best job at keeping anglers happy? Chris Shaffer guides us to Troje’s Resort in Ottertail County on Dead Lake, where the fishing is anything but.

Craig and Debi Troje spent a rainy morning making sure things are ready for this weekend’s fishing opener.

But it seems they’re never too busy to discuss future projects to improve their little eight-cabin resort.

“Anytime we’re out there, we’re going, ‘OK, we can do this and we can do that,’” Debi said.

In this business, there’s no shortage of work.

“You can’t afford to pay outside help anymore, and if you don’t know how to do it, you’re gonna learn,” Craig said. “Debi’s been my right arm on every project. We’ve done everything together.”

(credit: CBS)

Everything is neat as a pin. Take a look around Troje’s Resort and it’s quite apparent that the couple make a pretty good team. But when they purchased the place, things weren’t quite this tranquil.

“It was a mess,” Debi said.

READ MORE: Man Fatally Shot On Downtown St. Paul LRT Platform; 2 Others Killed In Separate Shootings

“The toilets were broke, the cabins were shabby. We honestly thought about tearing it down and building a summer home,” Craig said.

With a lot of help from their three kids, now grown, they slowly but surely rebuilt each cabin.

“And my wife Debi and I now have spent 30 years rebuilding this resort into what it is, and very proud of it,” Craig said.

As the proprietors of the best fishing resort in the state, they should be. But with respect, it seems the lake’s name could use a bit of renovating, too.

“A lot of people ask us, ‘OK, the name is it Dead Lake? Is it dead?’” Debi said. “No, that’s not true, there’s a lot of fish in this lake.”

With nearly 8,000 acres with all the major species, the photos on the wall don’t lie. And with each of these comes a story.

“To see a young boy or girl on a dock catch their first sunfish and hold it up on their hook, and just yell and scream and smile. It’s just amazing. And they’re hooked,” Craig said.

And it’s for the future of little guys like these that the Troje’s look to protect the resource upon which they’ve built their lives.

“The DNR does stock fry in every other year, and Debi and I have spent quite a bit of money, with our neighbors, they’ve contributed, helping stock the lake,” Craig said. “We know our people take a lot of fish out of the lake … and it’s a way to pay back.”

Although if you deposit all the memories, and cash in the thousands of smiles created here, perhaps we can call their account even.

MORE NEWS: Jackie Young Scores 25 For Aces In 93-87 Win Over Lynx

And perhaps the day will come when Craig and Debi can look out over this place without thinking about what needs to be done — or perhaps not.

Chris Shaffer