From love of the game to Hall of Fame

David Perry
In 1979, LRAA established one of the first fishing tournaments that evolved into the Chamber of Commerce Walleye Tournament. Pro fisherman, Spencer Duetz, speaks to youth about the importance of water safety, fish ID and ANS after the 41st CC Walleye Tournament held on June 25.

In 1975, five Lake Region fishermen, due to their love of sport fishing, saw a need to conserve, preserve and enhance the fish population and angling opportunities for the community and surrounding areas of Devils Lake. What started as a love became a need that formed into the Lake Region Anglers Association. Because of its significant and lasting contributions to sport fishing, on July 20 at the city auditorium in Garrison, the LRAA will be inducted into the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame.

What started out as five original members grew to over 100 in just one year. The membership of the Lake Region Anglers Association has grown over the years to include members from many different states throughout the US, along with one Canadian province.

“It really did start out as a small group of people that needed to get together and do something,” lifelong LRAA member since 1976, Dave Magnuson said. “Because of the sportsmanship and comradery of the community, many people saw an opportunity.

“Back in those days there was almost no bait shops. I think we had two, if we had that many.  We had really no ramps to speak in Creel Bay.

“There really wasn't any infrastructure because the lake had been really dry. There really wasn't a need for any.”

The LRAA created an environment where the members were able to interact with each other in social, business, recreational and competitive activities which enabled a strong bond of fellowship and a spirit of sportsmanship to be built up amongst its membership.

The members knew that Lake Access would be an area of primary importance in order to make its vision of LRAA a reality, so they worked hard to make available Lake Access sites for their members and the fishing public.

“People at the grassroots (level) really have to take charge.” Magnuson said. “A lot of people from both outside and inside the area don't know of all the things that need to get done over a period of time.”

The first Lake Access project that was undertaken by the LRAA was in the summer of 1981 at the Lakewood Beach Landing site comprising of the development of a launch site. Over the years, the LRAA has been part of the planning and development of nine Lake Access sites and the installation of four fish cleaning stations including the first ever 4-Season Fishing Cleaning Station with-in the state of North Dakota.

Most recently in July of 2015 the Lake Region Anglers Association lent their financial and physical support to three handicap access projects Channel A, Henegar and the East Ditch locations.

“Because of the rocks and things around the lake, people couldn’t walk down to get to some of the docks and it didn’t necessarily have to be somebody with a physical disability.

“It may just be an older person that can't maneuver very well just to get down to the lake and fish. People can break legs or even fall in the lake. They  are going to fish, so they might as well have access.”

In 1979 the LRAA established one of the first fishing tournaments held in the state of North Dakota.

“I participated in sports in high school and college back in the 70s and we were really looking for something else to do that we could compete at.”

This tournament later evolved into the current Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce Walleye Tournament, which is the longest continuous running fishing tournament in the state of North Dakota.

Educational opportunities for young people, such as fishing seminars, classes to improve technical skills and safety, is another reason the LRAA will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“We did a tremendous job at educating young people, sponsored young people's tournaments and taught classes educating young people.

“We are trying to pass along the fishery and knowledge to young kids.”

The current vision of the LRAA remains basically the same as the one that the original founders had when first established back in 1975.

In 2000, the LRAA added an organizational objective emphasizing the promotion of projects related to youth education and activities.