June 15, 2022 at 5:50 p.m.
In early January, the Sauk Centre Conservation Club opened its registration for its annual fishing tournament, held every June on Sauk Lake in Sauk Centre.
By the time February was complete, the club had already reached its 50-boat limit, a testament to the excitement that annually envelops one of the town’s growing traditions.
And on June 11, these 50 teams took to the water for a competitive Sauk Centre Conservation Club Fishing Tournament, with Hoffman Plumbing and Heating taking the crown for the second consecutive year.
“The day went really well,” said Josh Rieland, Sauk Centre Conservation Club member. “A lot of fish caught, a lot of happy fishermen. We had a good crowd in the park watching the sendoff and the return.”
In its sixth year, the tournament has become a widely anticipated fishing festival, with many eager anglers scoping out Sauk Lake in advance to get a read on the fishing conditions. With many participants coming from out of town, this allows positive competition-fueled relationships to grow, much like the tournament itself.
“It’s a lot of leadup,” Rieland said. “You start to see people that fish in the tournament every year come to town. They’re here weekends before, pre-fishing for the tournament. People who you see just the weekend of the tournament you’ve gotten to know over the last 5-to-6 years, it’s a fun get-together for that.”
One representative from each fishing team convened at Sinclair Lewis Park for a rules meeting the night before the big day, with the sendoff ceremony taking place at 7 a.m. While fisherman intently sought out prized walleyes, family members and intrigued community members visited the lake to watch the competition.
“The first year, we started with 19 boats and with the community behind us, it’s grown every year,” Rieland said. “We have more businesses getting involved, more people from the community telling us they enjoy watching it and the weekend of it. It’s growing, and we appreciate the community’s backing behind it and look forward to continuing to grow that.”
The tournament featured a four-fish limit, and Hoffman Plumbing and Heating were far from the frontrunners after one catch. However, the group’s second successful catch weighed 4.95 pounds, fourth-highest amongst any team’s second fish, and its third haul measured at 5.2 pounds. Rounding out the reigning champion’s scoring was a 4.95-pound fourth catch, putting Hoffman’s total fish weight at 17.4 pounds.
“What it takes to win the Sauk Centre Conservation Club Fishing Tournament is, no disrespect to anybody, some skill but a lot of luck that day,” Rieland said. “There’s a certain amount of skill that comes with it, but there’s a lot of luck you need on that day.”
Boyer Motor Company and Moritz Septic Service took second and third with combined weight totals of 16.22 and 14.9, respectively.
All boats came back to the docks at 3 p.m. and were welcomed with food and drinks, part of an extensive planning process put forth by the club’s tournament committee.
“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work so it flows smooth,” Rieland said. “The committee we have in place does a fantastic job year-in and year-out. They ran with it and made it their own, took ownership of it and made it what it is today.”
And not to be lost in the celebration and thrill of fishing excellence is the overarching reason for the tournament’s existence: to get people outdoors in a productive, healthy way. Whether it is the fishing tournament, its youth shooting day in August or its sixth-grade ice fishing day in the winters, the Sauk Centre Conservation Club always has this aim.
“The Conservation Club decided to do this tournament as a fundraiser so we could continue to support people getting outdoors,” Rieland said. “We’re looking to continue to be able to offer those things in the future.”