BREEZY POINT - They huddled against the boat near the water's edge, much as they likely did nearly four decades earlier.
Yes, for Gary and Loni Hiles, it's apparent the honeymoon isn't over.
"We spent our honeymoon fishing," Gary said.
"And we've been fishing buddies ever since," Loni added, seemingly finishing her husband's thought.
After 37 years, they're of one mind, these two. At least when it comes to this.
Since marrying 37 years ago, they've fished their honeymoon spot on Lake Ada near Pine River, off the Florida coast and numerous places in between. No one fishing experience seems more special than the other. They're happy as long as they're fishing.
Gary and Loni Hiles leaned against their 20-foot Tracker boat Wednesday at the Breezy Point Resort boat landing on Pelican Lake. Early Saturday morning, the two, along with more than 100 other Governor's Fishing Opener guides/hosts, will hit the lake with a guest or two for the 60th annual event. Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson» Purchase reprints of this photo.
No, they're not professionals. At least not in the fishing world. Loni, 56, is a real estate agent for Edina Realty in Crosslake and Gary, 60, is an operations manager for Clow Stamping in Merrifield.
But Saturday, Gary and Loni will be among the 115 or so - including 20 alternates - fishing guides/hosts who will tote about 220 special guests, sponsors and media members around Pelican Lake in the 60th annual Governor's Fishing Opener at Breezy Point Resort. Media types from around the state, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Canada will be on hand, as will numerous luminaries, according to Geoff Gorvin, co-chairman of the public relations committee for the GFO.
Gary and Loni also guided/hosted in 2001, when the event last came to Breezy and Pelican, and in 1993 on Gull Lake near Brainerd, where they lived at the time. They moved to Breezy Point just before the '01 opener. They're not on the water now, but they own lake property just down the road, on Cross Lake, where they keep their boat.
According to Gorvin, anyone can be a host, as long as they have a boat that seats at least three people. Insurance is required and the boat must be in safe working condition, per Minnesota law. Guides/hosts also must provide Coast Guard-approved life jackets, rods, reels, tackle and bait. The GFO provides a guide/host with free bait, gas coupons, a tournament jacket and other goodies.
"You meet a lot of interesting people," Loni said of the GFO. "It's a good time. And the committee makes it easy on us. We get jackets and a lot of promotional stuff and meals. They treat us well."
Guides/hosts received instruction during Thursday's host dinner, which according to Gorvin, also served as a reminder to hosts that they're ambassadors for the event, the area and their guests, most of whom are from out of town.
"It's fun," Gary said. "There are a lot of good people. And we like to promote the area."
With the late ice-out on Pelican - it didn't break until about a week before the opener - the bite is expected to be slow Saturday morning. But that didn't seem to concern Gary and Loni.
"We'll go for walleyes first then probably try to hit the crappies," Gary said of his strategy for Saturday. "We'll start on the north (side of Pelican) and work from 16 feet down to about 8 feet."
While Gary and Loni enjoy fishing, they hope to have some company this year.
"In 2001, we had a couple from Germany - journalists," Loni recalled. "They were looking to do an article on a woman fishing guide. I don't fish professionally, but I've fished all my life. They didn't fish, but wanted to see how I fished.
"Talk about luck. On the first toss, I caught a 3-pound walleye. They said, 'Is it that easy?' And I said, 'Yes.'"
"Did you have someone under the boat put that fish on?" Gary joked as the two recalled that day.
A cold breeze swept off Pelican near the boat landing at Breezy Point as they reminisced. Gary and Loni had their 20-foot Tracker boat in tow, but would wait until Saturday morning to put it in the water.
"I've got it set up the way I like it," Gary said.
"That's hers and that's mine," he added, pointing toward the back of the boat and then the front.
Still fishing buddies after all these years.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864.
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