‘Walleye’ Dan sits down with the Daily with Sunday’s fishing opener quickly approaching

Brian Deutsch

The 2008 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener kicks off today, signifying the start of this year’s fishing season.

The three-day event on Pelican Lake near Breezy Point, Minn., will include a golfing outing, clay shooting event and a shore lunch, in addition to Saturday’s fishing.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s boat will be guided by “Walleye” Dan Eigen, who spoke to the Daily earlier this week amidst preparations for this weekend’s events.

How did you feel when you heard the governor and his wife were going to be in your boat this weekend?

I wasn’t 100 percent surprised. I was one of the five (guides) that were submitted to fish with the governor, so I had a one-in-five chance. I was fairly confident, but it was still a great feeling when I got the phone call. I had the chills go through my body, and it was a totally exciting moment.

What do you expect this weekend? Do you think the governor’s got anything in the way of fishing skills?

It will be a good weekend. Obviously, it’s a great thing for our guide service. It’s awesome exposure and it’s great for the area. To answer your question about the governor: I honestly don’t know, but I think he’s pretty clued in. He’s an outdoorsman, and I have a feeling he’ll know how to set the hook.

What do you know about Pelican Lake?

It’s about 8,200 acres, so it’s a pretty large lake. It’s very clear, which means the fish can be spooky on a clearer day. We’d hope for overcast, with a slight chop. There are a lot of walleyes in the lake, and there’s a lot of structure. This area is just blessed with a lot of awesome lakes, and Pelican is one of the top three in the Brainerd Lakes area.

You run “Walleye” Dan’s Guide Service (Nisswa, Minn.). How did you go from a guy that loves the outdoors to a business owner who guides fishermen all over the state?

When I first moved up to the Brainerd area, I knew it was loaded with lakes and the guiding business up here was a pretty big thing. I was working at one of the resorts up there and I thought one day, back in 1989, that I could do it. I knew the lake well enough that I felt confident taking people out fishing. I got into it and every year, the amount of trips just kept escalating. Now we have the “Walleye” Dan brand, and it’s pretty recognizable.

Do you consider it a job?

It’s definitely a job. Some days are better than others, just like any other job. There’s a lot of pressure to produce and you need to be ready to converse with all different types of people, and that’s not always the easiest thing.

You also do some writing and teaching about the outdoors. Tell us about that.

I write three different articles for newspapers up here – the Brainerd Dispatch, the Northern Press and another one called the Lakes Area Advertiser. I write weekly columns for those, and I’ve done different seminars. And Now I’m a spokesman for Mills Fleet Farm – that’s pretty huge. (Dan also asked to thank his two sponsors: Mills Fleet Farm and Nisswa Marine.)

Favorite fishing memory?

Oh boy, there are a lot of them. The one that always comes to mind is when I was over on Mille Lacs trolling for muskies with a friend. It was his second time ever muskie fishing and he boated a 40 pounder. It was just a classic. I kind of predicted it; I told him before the trip, “You’ll probably be the one to come over here and catch a 50-plus incher.” Sure enough, it was just about 52 inches and weighed 40 lbs. I missed it with the first stab of the net. It went under the boat and I thought we lost it, but we ended up getting it in the boat.