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WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 11, 2012, 06:40 PM

Battle Lake family continuing nearly century old fishing tradition

Otter Tail Lake, MN (WDAY TV) - As thousands prepare to head out on Minnesota lakes for the big fishing opener tomorrow, one Battle Lake man is not only getting ready to bring in the whopper walleyes, but he is continuing an incredible run of fishing openers.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

As thousands prepare to head out on Minnesota lakes for the big fishing opener tomorrow, one Battle Lake man is not only getting ready to bring in the whopper walleyes, but he is continuing an incredible run of fishing openers.

Eighty-five year-old Virgil Jensen grew up on Otter Tail Lake, and began going out on openers with his father shortly after the depression. He has quite the record going, not missing an opener in decades. In fact, three generations of the family are about to go out on their 95th consecutive opener.

Virgil Jensen can show you how fishing times have changed. He learned about fishing from his dad, when the family left the hardships of the Depression in the Dakotas and moved to Otter Tail Lake. Times were hard, but the fish were plentiful. That was the 1930's and the Jensen family has not missed an opener since.

Virgil Jensen – Family Has Fished Opener Since 1917: “We lived in Missouri for a few years and we even came back for the opener then.”

Now son Virgil’s son Phil has got a little bit bigger boat and motor to haul his dad around Otter Tail - carrying on a tradition that is pretty easy to keep.

Phil Jensen – Family Hasn’t Missed Opener Since 1917: “Been a family tradition going back to my grandpa back in1917. I have a lot of buddies that come with and two boys are with us now. For some families deer hunting opener is the big thing, for our family it is the walleye opener.”

With the temperatures so unpredictable, Virgil has over the years has seen his share of wacky weather fishing openers.

Virgil Jensen: “A couple of years we fished on the river the ice was still on the lake and you couldn’t get out. The second day of the season we fished in a snow storm up by the river where you couldn’t hardly see one end of the boat it was snowing so hard.”

A brisk wind made for a choppy day on Otter Tail Lake today, but Virgil and his family of anglers will be out bright and early tomorrow. Reminding his grandkids that long before 200 horse motors, fish finders and GPS the walleye bit just as often with a one horse mounted on a little cedar strip boat.

Minnesota last year sold 1.3 million fishing licenses.

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