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All 350 anglers, media at governor's fishing opener had success

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty along with First Lady Mary Pawlenty and official host Tim Watson head out fishing on Lake Kabetogama for last Saturday's 62nd annual Governor's Fishing Opener. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Last Saturday provided the perfect setting for the 62nd annual Minnesota Governor's Opener, held on Lake Kabetogama near the Ash River Trail.

If you've never been to 25,760 acre Lake Kabetogama, you probably have two questions; how do you pronounce that funky name and where is it located?

First, you may want to say Kabetogama a few times in private before attempting an oral recitation at dinner parties or the bait shop counter. Try this with me: Ka-buh-toe-guh-muh.

No, this is not the official phonetic transcription from a highly trained researcher working for a dictionary publishing company. It simply made sense in my head as I simultaneously typed and read aloud.

Kabetogama (good job, you've got it right!) is located 144 miles northwest of Duluth and 28 miles southeast of International Falls. Nestled in Voyageurs National Park, the lake has 200 islands dotting its 15-mile breadth.

Even though the scenery is breathtaking, the real wonderment comes from a realization of how the lake was formed. Four waves of glaciers exposed the rock of this historic trading route over 10,000 years ago.

By the end of last Saturday's Governor's Fishing Opener, Tim Pawlenty had caught a walleye. Actually, he caught a few. And so did most of the other nearly 350 participants that jigged, jiggled and juggled their bait in the flotilla of boats.

Personally, I loved the lake as much as the approximately 250,000 visitors who enter Voyageurs National Park each year. It truly looks and feels like a Canadian lake without ever crossing the border.

The only downside of the Governor's Fishing Opener weekend was the inability to use cell phones. Reception was almost non-existent, enough to send a text message but without the coverage to make a call. And because the reception was so poor, cell phone batteries were sapped within a few hours as they strained for a signal.

Yet for some visitors who make the trek to Lake Kabetogama, it should be that way; a step back from the connectivity and instant gratification of mainstream society. E-mails were left sleeping in inboxes and Facebook pages sat idle without an update. Life was at vacation-pace.

Even so, after a few days the guests of the Governor's Fishing Opener did find cell phone reception, in a small circumference around one of the area's most visited attractions; a walleye statue adorning a saddle with steps leading up to the seat, inviting photo opportunities just above a sign that reads "Lake Kabetogama."

So I too, just like the many who rode the bucking walleye before, saddled up and had my photo rendered for future exploitation, hand in the air as if I were on a one-ton bull.

And in the middle of this unfamiliar place, a few familiar faces emerged, Dennis Mackedanz, Blake Johnson, Butch DeLaHunt and Chamber director Katie Magozzi, who are hoping to land the Governor's Opener in Park Rapids for 2012. The organizing committee is working hard, though the greatest unknown is who will attend the 2012 opener as Governor.