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Adventure awaits in Duluth, Minnesota

The first thing I do when the location for a future OWAA conference is announced is ponder the possibilities for adventure. Sometimes figuring out what pre- or post-conference trip to plan is a challenge, but more often the options, at least for this angler who loves to hit new waters, are obvious. Such is the case with the 2017 conference being held June 24-26 in Duluth, Minnesota. And it turns out it doesn’t only work for anglers.

The OWAA board of directors gathered in Duluth in late January for the winter board meeting. Those who made it got a little taste, albeit a wintry one, of the plethora of options awaiting those who head for Minnesota this summer.

Four board members got a chance to fish through the ice for walleyes, pike and eelpout — all within view of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center where our conference will be centered.

Fishing with guide Jared Houston and his staff was not off the charts, but we did manage to catch fish and the company was excellent. We were thankful temperatures were closer to freezing than zero.

Another group, joined by Michael Furtman, the local chair for the 2017 conference, cross-country skied to view petroglyphs in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Steve Piragis with Piragis Northwoods Company helped lead the skiers, and OWAA member and Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters staffer Lukas Leaf made a spectacular lunch.

Yet another crew attending the OWAA winter board meeting got away for ice climbing and fat tire biking. The climbing was under the direction of the University of Minnesota Recreational Sports Outdoor Program. Hansi Johnson with the Minnesota Land Trust and Dave Grandmaison of The Duluth Experience led the biking outing.

If the winter field trips the board experienced while in Duluth are any indication, those making the trip this summer are in for a wonderful treat.

This, however, is not the first OWAA conference in Minnesota or even Duluth. Back in 2010 the conference was held in Rochester, Minnesota. I took the opportunity while attending the conference to fulfill my lifelong dream of exploring the Boundary Waters.

Past president Mark Taylor and I took off with some locals for an epic four-day fishing, camping and portaging excursion. My shoulders still ache just thinking about all the paddling, but memories of catching toothy northern pike, chunky walleyes and monster smallmouth bass are embedded deep in my psyche.

If you are having a hard time deciding whether to attend the 2017 conference, consider the opportunities to not only learn how to be a better communicator through the great sessions Paul Queneau, our second vice president, is planning, but also the chance to see new places and make lifelong memories.

Special thanks to Stacy Oltmanns and Gene Shaw, as well as other staff from Visit Duluth, for the warm reception for our OWAA board meeting.

I hope to see you all in Duluth in June and hear about your Minnesota adventures. If you are looking for ideas, check out pages 12-14 or visit http://owaa.org/2017conference/. ♦

— OWAA President Brett Prettyman, brettoutdoors@yahoo.com

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