by Jim Boyle
As adjutant of the Minnesota American Legion, Randy Tesdahl does a lot more than oversee the administrative operations of legion clubs across Minnesota.
At times the Elk River man will find himself at testifying on legislative matters at the state Capitol or in Washington, D.C., lobbying for veteran’s benefits.
Other times he’ll find himself in the trenches of legion halls, brainstorming ideas with fellow legion members on how to attract more members to keep a declining organization vibrant.
He also often offices on the Mississippi River and on Minnesota lakes like Lake Mille Lacs as he leads programs that put fishing poles and hunting rifles in the hands of veterans.
But when he stood in this past weekend for the first time as a host at the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, he got a strange look from Sen. Carrie Ruud. The Republican lawmaker from Breezy Point is accustomed seeing Tesdahl in a suit and tie, testifying on veterans’ legislative matters.
“She looked at me like ‘Who is this,’ and then it must have hit her,” Tesdahl said.
He was there to host St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis as well as former Minnesota Viking quarterback and St. Cloud State graduate Todd Bouman and his teenage son for a day of fishing on the Mississippi River.
He couldn’t have been happier with his draw.
“To get Todd (Bouman) and the mayor (of St. Cloud) was over the top,” Tesdahl said.
The only thing that made him happier, he said, was knowing that his buddy Andrew Rasmusson, an Elk River-native he knows from his involvement in the Upper Mississippi River Smallmouth Bass Fishing Club, drew Ruud.
“Andrew was a great guide,” Ruud told the Star News. “I have never fished the river before. It was amazing.”
Rasmusson led Ruud to her first “channel cat.” She said it was like “pulling in an anchor.”
She also caught a “huge, ugly carp” and two walleyes. The St. Cloud backdrop for the opener featured lots of eagles, turtles, ducks and goslings, she said.
“It was the best opener ever,” Ruud said.
Kleis, whose city hosted the four-day event that brought Gov. Mark Dayton, thousands of people and the Minnesota tourism industry out en masse, was just as complementary of Tesdahl as Ruud was of Rasmusson.
Tesdahl’s group caught 25-30 fish. One of Kleis’ catches was a 19-1/4-inch smallmouth bass, which Tesdahl reported was big enough to be mounted, but the mayor slipped it back into the chilly waters of the Mississippi to be caught again. Not that the river is short on fish.
Bouman’s son had the best day of the group, catching large walleye, catfish and dogfish. Their boat hung out in and around the Beaver Islands, south of the dam at St. Cloud State University.
One of Tesdahl’s messages on the opener was that fishing on the river does not have to be complicated.
“It can be as simple as a hook, line, sinker and a nightcrawler,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be sonar graphs. It can be a Zebco reel. It’s really that basic. Anybody and can do this.”
Although serving as a host for the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener was a new experience, he’s no stranger to the waterway that runs through his Elk River backyard. He and other members of the Upper Mississippi River Smallie Club were tapped by area fisheries manager Eric Altena of the Department of Natural Resources.
Tesdahl is quite accustomed to getting veterans on the water and in the woods to fish and hunt. In the coming weeks he’ll be in Ely and at Camp Ripley for such endeavors.
The St. Cloud VA started programs like Trolling for the Troops at Camp Ripley years ago, but organizations like the American Legion, the VFW and others have taken them over when they got busier dealing with veterans health care and mental health issues.
Trolling for the Troops is just one of the events that Tesdahl helps administer. There are also deer and turkey hunts. Event coordinators believe disabled veterans and deployed soldiers who have served the United States military through the years deserve a day on the water.
After a long day at the office, or on the water, Tesdahl enjoys returning home his riverfront property on the Mississippi River. It’s a great way for him to charge up his internal battery for those days he has to put on a suit and tie.