Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
As I reflect on things that have shaped who I am, I realize that it is many things and many people, but also that fishing played a major role.
I was fortunate my dad, an avid fisherman, exposed me to fishing at a very young age. I still remember dragging a plastic grasshopper along the canoe as he paddled the St. Croix some 50 years ago. I remember summers spent fishing White Bear Lake, near where my cousins lived, and using snails to catch cookie-sized sunfish. And I remember many weekends with extended family at Bayport or some metro lake where we'd wade in shallow water to entice other fish.
Dad died when I was very young, and mom did her best to raise six youngsters to become responsible adults. Even with her stern hand, there were plenty of avenues for a city kid to go astray. It was easier to be delinquent than not. I still wonder how I survived my more "irresponsible" years.
I know, however, that fishing connected me with nature and the web of life. Fishing allowed me - at least for short periods of time - to see and explore a world outside the urban core and connect with friends in wholesome endeavors. That was a good thing. I also enjoyed eating the fish I caught - and still do today -- and eventually became interested in hunting during my adolescence.
Ultimately, a passion for fishing and hunting led me to college degrees and a career in wildlife management. It is true to say those childhood experiences profoundly shaped my life.
So as I look to the Minnesota fishing opener, and as I take my own kids and the kids of others out to enjoy that day, I realize it is more than just fun on the water. Kids are easily hooked on fishing, especially when it is done at their pace. Fostering and nurturing a passion for fishing can give kids skills that shape their lives in remarkable and unpredictable ways.
A love of fishing gets kids outdoors, builds confidence through learning, and teaches them empathy for the natural world. It provides a lifelong activity and connections with many friends over the years. It lets young people see nature's beauty and envision their role in keeping it intact.
So, as you look forward to the fishing season, I encourage you to find a child and get a fishing rod in his or her hand.
You will never regret introducing a kid to this sport. You will be shaping a life in unknowable but positive directions. So do it for them and yourself.