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Walker man in Hall of Fame

Al Maas of Walker was inducted to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center last weekend. Other Minnesota inductees included Dan Sura, Bill Lindner and Terry Tuma. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise - 

Last weekend Al Maas of Walker was officially inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

The honor, initiated by highly credible individuals within the fishing industry, is highly prestigious.

Maas was inducted under the category of “Legendary Guides” and only five guides from Minnesota have been chosen for that distinction since 1980. The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame additionally keeps records of the largest fish ever caught in numerous categories.

For Al Maas, the award was somewhat of a surprise. “I knew that people were going through the application process to get me into the Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t typically happen in the first year someone nominates a potential inductee.” The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame typically receives hundreds of nominations each year.

But the selection committee unanimously agreed that Al Maas belonged in the Hall of Fame.

Maas has been a fishing guide on Leech Lake for 50 years. Initially, he vacationed in the Walker area and was smitten with the body of water when he personally witnessed the “Muskie Rampage” in 1955. In a span of just a few days, over 100 muskies had been landed in one of the most memorable fishing experiences ever documented in the state of Minnesota.

After that adventure, Al Maas and his wife, Dianne, decided to find a life near Park Rapids or Nevis. When a teaching position opened in Walker, the Maas’s relocated to the community on the shores of Leech Lake.

His first guide trip on Leech Lake “went very well”, Maas remembers. “We caught a lot of fish and the calendar filled up from there.”

Al Maas taught science and biology in the Walker school district for 33 years. His classroom aquarium not only intrigued the minds of adolescents, but simultaneously assisted with research for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on freshwater fish behavior.

“I had students that arrived early every day to document how the fish behaved in various environments and conditions, not because they wanted a grade,but because they were truly interested in aquatics,” says Maas.

Unfortunately Al and Dianne experienced a great loss on Leech Lake too. In 1984, their sons, Douglas and Charles, age 19 and 21, got caught in a fall storm on the lake which turned fatal.

Several years ago I talked to Al about that incident. “Each day you come face to face with the lake that took your two boys. How often do you think about that?” Maas’ s reply, “Every day.”

Al Maas retired from teaching in 1996 and throughout his years as a teacher, guide, product innovator and promoter of the Walker area, has worked with 45 different manufacturers in developing the fishing equipment we use today, introduced multi-species fishing on Leech Lake, started Deep Portage Conservation Reserve and played an integral role in Camp Fish.

The original idea for the Hall of Fame came from Bob Kutz, of Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1960. Today over 50,000 people visit the museum annually.