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Dock Talk: Park Rapids artist captures big muskie

Park Rapids artist Jeff Renner created a rendering of a muskie leaping out of the water in famous Home Bay on Big Mantrap Lake. 3M Corp., which owns a corporate retreat on Mantrap, commissioned Renner to create the painting. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

A muskie, the so-called fish of 10,000 casts, may be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding fish to land. Their toothy jaws, fierce runs and propensity for tail-walking on the surface to dispense an angler's lure make the muskie a common focus of fishing lore.

Local artist Jeff Renner recently captured a big muskie, without the aid of a landing net. In fact, he didn't need a rod, reel or hook, just the gentle sway of his paintbrush.

Though Renner began sketching wildlife at a young age, he never explored painting it until he was a junior in college. His first print went up for sale in 1984 and today with 35-40 paintings under his belt--or brush--Renner once again tried something new. "I had never painted a fish", says Renner, who spends a considerable amount of time angling.

His most recent acrylic production, titled "Mantrap Morning" depicts a legendary muskie breaking water while a boat of anglers in the background battles the beast.

Against the shoreline a building stands out, one that Mantrap Lake muskie aficionados are sure to recognize; the boathouse owned by 3M's executive retreat, Wonewok.

The word "wonewok" is Ojibway for "peaceful waters". And for guests, the grounds and waters of Wonewok are that and more.

Purchased by 3M in 1955, the predominantly undeveloped grounds cover approximately 620 acres, 7.5 miles of Mantrap shoreline and surrounds Petit Lake, which offers multiple trout species.

The property was originally divided into multiple tracts by a developer, but was purchased by the company whose products span much further than Scotch tape and Post-it Notes as a place where relationships between business partners strengthen and innovation prevails.

Today 3M employs nearly 80,000 workers worldwide, 7,000 of which are researchers, which explains their 561 U.S. patents. Fortunately for communities like ours, 3M also supports local schools and charitable institutions, providing nearly $49 million in contributions to such organizations in 2008.

And when 3M wanted a one-of-a-kind painting that illustrates the true serenity, mystique and excitement of the Wonewok experience, they called upon an expert; Jeff Renner.

His production process started by gathering fish photos from local muskie enthusiast, Dan Smith. A trip to Ted Pilgrim's taxidermy shop also aided in achieving the right colors and anatomic likeness of a Mantrap Lake muskie. Photos of the actual shore and tree line were gathered, the landscape painted true to form.

Yet Renner notes that there's no way of ever knowing if the angler portrayed in the painting actually lands the massive muskie or if it wiggles free to fight another day. Even the painting's creator can't be certain.

The commissioned creation, "Muskie Morning" will hang in Wonewok's main lodge. Yet don't expect to set eyes on the artist's original production; Wonewok is closed to the general public and 3M has exclusive rights to the painting until spring of 2010.

However, Renner will offer canvas prints of the piece beginning next May. "Mantrap Morning" and Renner's other work can be viewed at