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Winskowski fishing tournament kicks off season on chilly Saturday

Dennis Winskowski struggles with a heavy bag of fish Saturday afternoon on Straight Lake. He was fishing in the tournament named after his late father, an avid Osage angler. He and partner Mike Gravdahl took fifth place in the multi-species event, the first big tournament of the season. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

On a frigid Saturday, 41 boats launched into Straight Lake on a mission - to catch as many bass, northern pike and walleye as possible.

The anglers were dressed as if they were going duck hunting.

"It was horrible out there!" said Matt Winskowski, fishing in the tournament named for his late grandfather, Walt Winskowski.

Thus kicked off the first of the big local fishing tournaments in the area, sponsored by the Osage Lions Club. Tournament sponsors had planned for 44 teams.

"We're down a bit," said weighmaster Dick Cox.

"We dress accordingly," Cox said as a feisty fish splashed the front of his rubber bibs. "We're Minnesotans."

By the noon weigh-in, tournament organizer Jerry Janz had brought in a 7+ pound whopper walleye.

"We're going to administer a lie detector test," joked Cox. "We think this is one he had in his freezer all winter."

Not a chance.

"The fish input has been really good," Cox said. "Some boats have brought in no fish or a few fish but others, it's as good as fishing goes."

Dennis Winskowski , son of Walt, struggled to bring his heavy bag of fish to the judge's table during the final weigh-in.

"Dad, you wanna fish with me next year?" Matt asked. "I hope Dad takes it this year. There hasn't been a Winskowski heir to take it since Grandpa died."

"It was fun," Dennis said. "There's some guys'll beat us but we'll be OK. We got some really nice fish," he said of his effort with partner Mike Gravdahl.

The tournament, in its 26th year, was Walt's favorite, Dennis said. "We started fishing it from '85 until he died in '96," he said. It was named for Walt after he passed away.

A chilly rain started falling on the spectators just as the last boats pulled in to shore.

Kayla Anderson huddled in a heavy blanket waiting for husband Jeremy to come in off the lake. Appropriately, it was decorated with polar bears.

For more on the tournament and a list of the winners, read Gravdahl's column Saturday in the Outdoors section of the Enterprise.