The History of Willie Walleye
*Credit to the Lake of the Woods County History Archives
Willie Walleye, the 40-foot, 2 ½ ton fish which has come to symbolize the Lake of the Woods, originated
as Arnold F. Lund’s idea, an idea which he recommended to the Baudette Civic and Commerce
Association. With Mr. Lund doing much of the organizing for the project, the Civic and Commerce group
took the job of building the fish statue.
By April of 1958, Al Anderson had translated Lund’s idea into a blueprint, using as a model a 32-inch
long, mounted walleye which was on display at Joe Farrell’s Hardware Store. Within a month the
concrete footings had been poured and work started on the frame. Walter C. Olson, assisted by his son,
David Olson, and Luverne Larson, had the difficult task of forming a frame of steel and wire mesh to the
shape of a walleye.
While Mr. Olson and his assistants were busy welding, cutting and welding some more, the Civic and
Commerce Association was trying to decide on a name for the fish. The first suggestions were Mr.
Walleye and King Walleye. It was decided to choose the name democratically and a ballot with five
names on it was printed in the Baudette Region. Wally, Walter and Willie were the additional names on
the ballot. After several weeks of voting, the name Willie won.
At about the same time, George Ayotte and his helper, Russell Halvorson, finished plastering the skin.
Dick Wilson had contracted to paint the statue, and the paint was applied the next spring. The statue
was dedicated during Walleye Days, June 19 and 20, 1959.