WALKER -- If you fish in Minnesota you'll feel at home in the new Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame.
Many of the state's most prominent fishing personalities have been inducted into the inaugural class and if you read about fishing, study fish behavior, buy new lures when the spring thaw arrives or simply enjoy watching the Saturday morning fishing shows on TV you'll probably recognize the smiling faces on the wall. There's Gary Roach, Ron Schara, the Lindner brothers and Marv Koep, to name a few.
The Hall of Fame is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and admission is free. Follow Highway 371 north through Walker and you can't miss it.
The first 20 inductees, who will be honored at a banquet on Aug. 17, were admitted under five categories: Public servant (Joe Alexander, Bob Lessard); Manufacturer (Jim Fladebo, Joe Fladebo, Dan Gapen, Ray Ostrum, John Peterson and Ron Weber); Guide, promoter and/or tournament fisherman (Randy Amenrud, Ted Capra, Gill Hamm, Marv Koep, Al Lindner, Ron Lindner, Al Maas and Gary Roach); Educator (Dick Sternberg, In-Fisherman publications); Writer (Jim Peterson, Ron Schara).
Some careers overlap several categories but all have impacted fishing in Minnesota, said Jeff Arnold, owner of Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker. Arnold and Jeff Zernov, founder of Zercom Marine Electronics, started planning the Hall of Fame five years ago.
"We wanted to identify the role models of our fishing community," Arnold said, "and build a center where Minnesota's rich fishing heritage will be preserved forever."
Everything about the Hall says "fishing." Blue carpet and green wallpaper simulate water and trees. A wooden dock guides visitors past each display. Graphite reproductions of 18 state record fish hang on a wall. Display cases have graphite fish depicted in natural settings. There's an old wooden boat, an outboard motor dating back to 1910 and hundreds of black-and-white fishing photos.
The careers of the 20 inductees, who were chosen from a field of 300 by a nine-member Minnesota Fishing Board, are highlighted in venues measuring 10 feet wide by 8 feet high. Each has a large photo and memorabilia from their careers. With headphones visitors listen to recordings that tell why the inductee was chosen, what his major achievements are and how he's affected Minnesota fishing.
A library has been designed to teach kids about fishing. Tree stumps serve as chairs. A large-screen TV shows instructional videos. A class will be presented at 10 a.m. each Saturday until Labor Day in which kids can learn to tie fishing knots, cast with a rod and reel and other fishing basics. After class they can fish for bluegills in an on-site pond.
The complex, which measures 120-feet-long by 50-feet-wide, was built on seven acres and cost just under $1 million. Sharing the building with the Hall of Fame is a closeout fishing tackle store and across the parking lot is an outdoors store with camping gear and other non-fishing/hunting paraphernalia. Landscaping work remains and not all the displays in the hall are complete.
Four members will be inducted into the hall each year. Presently there's room for 20 more. When that space is filled the closeout store will be removed and used for the hall. Eventually the entire building will be expanded.
There's room to grow and space enough for all of Minnesota's fishing legends. The only segment of the state fishing community without representation is the northeast, including Duluth and Lake Superior. Arnold said that will be remedied with future inductions.
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