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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s fishing opener is going on as planned this May, but Gov. Tim Walz won’t be there to celebrate it.

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The 73rd-annual Governor’s Fishing Opener has been postponed. It was scheduled to happen in Otter Tail County, and that’s where it will be held in May of 2021.

The Governor’s Fishing Opener isn’t just a chance for Minnesota’s top politician to drop a line in the water. It’s a celebration of a statewide tradition, one that organizers in Otter Tail County were eager to host, according to local planning committee chair Erik Osberg.

“We want to make this a county-wide celebration, border to border,” Osberg said. “We’ll still get that chance, it’s just gonna be 12 months down the road.”

Osberg said the committee made the tough decision to postpone the event in mid-March, with the governor ultimately agreeing. He said it was their only logical choice due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The 2019 Governor’s Fishing Opener (credit: CBS)

“These big events take a lot of people and a lot of rooms, and just from a planning standpoint, we really didn’t see any other way that we could pull it off,” Osberg said.

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With anglers and media coming from all over the state, Osberg said the governor’s opener was projected to generate a million-dollars’ worth of free publicity. Then there’s the tourism money that businesses from cabin rentals to bait shops businesses will miss out on. Scott Perala is the owner of Scott’s Bait and Tackle in New York Mills.

“Opener weekend is busy in the shop,” Perala said. “This winter was horrible, you know, with all snow and the flooding on the lakes. People are having a hard time getting around.”

The drop in business over winter had him excited for the boost expected during the governor’s opener.

“And then now with this, yeah, I’m assuming I’m gonna feel the impact a little bit,” Perala said.

Lucky for him, and all of Otter Tail county, it’s not a full cancellation.

“It’s disappointing that we don’t get to throw this big party in 2020, but now we have an extra 12 months to plan for 2021, so it better be pretty good,” Osberg said.

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The fishing season will go on as planned starting May 9. State officials suggest people fish close to home, and in ways that protect public health.

Jeff Wagner