Walleye Wars Reaches Big Numbers
For some time, Lake of the Woods Tourism in MN and the tourism folks from Devils Lake Tourism in North Dakota had been discussing working together on something. It’s interesting. In some ways, Devils Lake is a competitor to Lake of the Woods as it is a good walleye fishery and located only four hours apart. In other ways, though, they rub elbows at sportshows, outdoor media events, etc. and develop a relationship. The two markets wanted to rise above the competitiveness and collaborate on something.
It just so happened that Tanner Cherney of Devils Lake attended a tourism conference not so long ago in Arizona and saw a presentation by Adam Johnson of Visit St. Paul. Last year when the MN Wild were in the playoffs with the Winnipeg Jets, the two tourism organizations set up a friendly competition in which the winner of the series (in this case Winnipeg) got to take over Visit St. Paul’s Twitter page for a day.
Tanner called Joe Henry and said, “I think I found our idea,” and Walleye Wars was created. In a nutshell, Henry would be fishing from 9am – 4pm on Lake of the Woods while Cherney would be fishing on Devils Lake. There would be a possible three points, one point for largest walleye, one for largest overall fish and one for the most fish any species. Four holes could be used by each side.
The entire event on each lake would be broadcast live on Facebook. Lake of the Woods Tourism was on every hour on the hour while Devils Lake was on every hour on the half hour. That meant fishing spots had to have cell phone reception.
The event was kicked off at the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show on December 1st with some friendly ribbing back and forth. There were press releases, social media and fun videos to gain awareness leading up to the event.
As a one of a kind event, it gained traction and was picked up by numerous media outlets including USA Today, the Washington Times and numerous others. Final stats are not yet in as it is still getting press as an article appeared this morning in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. At last count, between 10 -15 million people were exposed to the event through media.
The event was a competition, but it was much more. It was educational and informative with set topics being discussed every hour. Some topics educated viewers about how to fish LOW, different areas to fish, how to get walleyes to bite, choosing lures and colors, variety of resort opportunities, full service and self-service ice fishing, the NW Angle, Rainy River, and snowmobiling the area.
Special guests popped in and out of the fish house throughout the day.
Mike Hirst with Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District not only caught some nice fish while discussing Keep It Clean, Aquatic Invasive Species and the International Joint Commission.
Mayor of Baudette, MN, Rick Rone actually caught the big walleye of the day, a 22.75” beauty that took largest walleye for the Walleye Wars competition. Rick spoke about the community and touched on the many good things happening in Baudette. He touched on Baudette and the Lake of the Woods area being a great place to live, jobs, new apartment, Willie Walleye and the new arena.
Mayor Rone is also the County Veteran Services Officer and participates with the VFW offering a shore lunch BBQ each year to guest veterans we have up each year fishing as part of the annual Pay It Forward Veteran’s event on Lake of the Woods. We had the chance to talk about veteran’s issues, how to get help and other topics to help veterans.
Our third guest was Mike Schulz who is heading up the new Lake of the Woods International Arena group. Mike caught some nice fish and shared a lot of details about the brand new arena in town. This multi-million dollar facility is literally four inches away from the school on its own land and will be used for hockey of course but a number of non-hockey events as well. The arena is already being scheduled for tournaments and other events and will open towards the end of March.
Finally, we wanted to get youth involved. Brady Olson, a 7th grader at Lake of the Woods School was accompanied by his father, Darren Olson. We discussed the importance of getting kids into the outdoors and spoke with Brady about fishing, hockey and school while he pulled in fish after fish. This boy can fish!
His dad watched Brady catch fish for Walleye Wars, occasionally assisting with the nicer walleyes his son would hook into. Darren discussed why his family decided to move back to the community and the many advantages of raising a family in Baudette.
Filming the event and keeping many details organized behind the scenes for Lake of the Woods Tourism was Alyse Berggren, Assistant Director of Tourism. As with most successful events, it takes a team, this event being no different.
If you missed Walleye Wars and want to watch some of the footage from the fish house, simply go to the Lake of the Woods Tourism Facebook page and scroll back a few posts. We suggest you watch the videos in order starting at 9am on January 3rd!
Yes, there was a competition. The fish were active for the Lake of the Woods team. A total of 71 fish were caught. 47 walleyes, 18 saugers, 3 tulibees, 2 perch, and 1 eelpout. Our friends at Devils Lake caught fish but not as many ending up with 14 total fish with 8 walleyes and some perch.
Walleye Wars was a competition, media event and celebration of ice fishing. It brought two areas known for their world class walleye fishing together and exposed many to why ice fishing in these areas is so popular. The trophy goes to Lake of the Woods for the inaugural year, stay tuned for year two!