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Gone fishing
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Gov. Pawlenty visits with a resident of Detroit Lakes during the fishing opener Saturday. (MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)
The cold, rainy weekend didn't dampen Gov. Tim Pawlenty's enthusiasm for fishing. The governor was in Detroit Lakes for the traditional Minnesota fishing opener. Pawlenty says it was a fun, relaxing weekend. Now it's back to work.

Detroit Lakes, Minn. — Gov. Tim Pawlenty was up early Saturday to get on the water with his wife Mary and a local fishing guide. The governor said it was a relatively successful opener.

"We got out on the lake about 5:00 a.m.," said Pawlenty. "Shortly thereafter I caught a decent size northern. A couple other people caught a walleye, somebody caught a northern. Then the fish got dormant on us so the back half of the outing was slow, but still fun."

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Image The catch of the day

The governor appeared to be a hit with Detroit Lakes residents. He spent a lot of time chatting with locals at every fishing opener event. One man proclaimed the governor "just a regular guy."

For the most part, it was a weekend to set aside politics. Detroit Lakes Mayor Larry Buboltz is an outspoken critic of the Republican plan to cut local government aid. He declared a truce for the weekend, declining to talk about politics.

A small group of protesters with signs stood near the dock where the governor came ashore after a morning of fishing. Willis Mattison complained the governor is balancing the state budget on the backs of the poor.

"We need to have more compassion in government and we think we've lost that," said Mattison. "These soundbite pledges of no new taxes don't meet Minnesota's needs right now."

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Image Pawlenty thanks his guide

The needs of rural Minnesota were very much on the minds of local legislators attending the fishing opener. Rep. Paul Marquardt,DFL-Dilworth, represents the Detroit Lakes area. Marquardt said he's very concerned about the effect of budget cuts on cities like Detroit Lakes.

But Marquardt said it's an honor to have the governor visit Detroit Lakes. It seems catching fish and boosting tourism are issues all politicians can agree on.

"We put politics aside and take out our fishing rods and poles and see if we can catch fish on this traditional opening day," said Marquardt. "It's going to be the last little break we have because the last nine or ten days are going to be very intense at the legislature. And it's very important for rural legislators that we try to get as much as we can and try to recoup our losses as much as we can before we adjourn."

Rep. Marquardt laughed as he wondered aloud if a relaxed, rejuvenated governor might bend a bit in budget negotiations.

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Image Protesters

The walleye opener did provide the governor with one idea for solving the impasse at the Fapitol.

"I think if we could get all the Legislature on a pontoon, give 'em some fishing equipment and some beef jerky, they'd get this thing resolved," said Pawlenty. "Unfortunately, we can't do that, so we have to go back and hammer it out. It's going to be an uphill battle. We'll give it our best effort. I don't think Minnesotans want to see the legislature hanging around until midsummer trying to iron out our differences."

Pawlenty said he's hopeful lawmakers can finish their work this week, but he thinks there's a 50-50 chance the Legislature will need a special session to complete its work.

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