Anderson: Waconia folks again put out welcome mat

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2012 - 11:22 PM

The hospitable town with the rich history will play host to the governor on Saturday.


Gov. Mark Dayton might have trouble Saturday duplicating this catch by an angler, or anglers, unknown in Carver County sometime early last century.

Photo: Courtesy Carver County Historical Society, ALL

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When Gov. Mark Dayton pushes off from a Waconia dock at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, guided by Travis Frank in search of a walleye or two, a new chapter in the history of that town and lake will begin. Then, only 24 hours later, Dayton will be gone, and another Governor's Fishing Opener will wind down.

Interesting as it is to imagine those comings and goings not far southwest of downtown Minneapolis, doing so in the context of Waconia's colorful history -- the city's and the lake's -- is fascinating, because few Minnesota communities have seen as many characters and dreamers pass through their midst.

Many of these interlopers, transient and resident alike, wanted Lake Waconia to burst with big fish, and they planted millions of little ones to try to make that happen. Others wanted the 30-acre island in the lake -- Coney Island, named for the more famous tourist destination back east -- to transport them, if not to riches, then at least to a hotel of comfort and distinction.

Fish-management efforts began early. In 1872, a guy named H.R. Denny bought 4,000 salmon from the State Fish Commission and dumped them into the lake, soon adding another batch, and four years later 10,000 more.

None of which ended up in a frying pan.

In 1912, the "State Fish Car" -- a railroad car -- was wheeled down the tracks to Waconia, containing an estimated 2.25 million northern pike fry, all of which were dumped into the lake. Ten years and millions more fry later, the effort paid off: A man named A.J. Schutz boated an 11-pounder.

Today, Lake Waconia is bearing the fruits of the Department of Natural Resources' relatively recent plantings of muskies -- big fish that have really taken off in the lake. But in the context of history, this latest fishery manipulation effort is anything but novel.

In 1922, for instance, following the successful northern pike plantings, 20 cans of bass were added to Waconia with hopes they, too, would propagate.

Not to be outdone, the State Game and Fish Department in 1939 added 25 cans of walleye fingerlings. Kicking things into high gear, in 1950, 751 northern pike females attempting to spawn in Peterson Creek were netted, stripped of their eggs and released back into the lake (near Waconia, the town, conveniently), while an estimated 9 million eggs were scattered in rearing ponds, a fraction of which were later returned to the lake as fingerlings.

Lake Waconia's fishery-management efforts continue today, not only with muskie plantings, but also with regular DNR walleye stockings.

First platted in 1857, the village of Waconia and its movers and shakers wanted fish in their lake not only for themselves, but also for the promotion of tourism. Waconia's unique geographical positioning along rail lines, and also along the Yellowstone Trail (which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year), together with the development of Coney Island as a spa-like destination, boosted the town's fortunes.

From the excellent book "Waconia, Paradise of the Northwest, the Lake and its Island," published by the Waconia Heritage Association (source also of the fishery-management history above):

"By July 1882, the M&St. L Railroad operated an excursion train to Waconia every Sunday, leaving Minneapolis at 9 a.m. and reaching Minneapolis at 6:30 p.m. on its return trip. The round-trip fare was $1.25. The company promoted their service with extensive advertising in newspapers from towns located on and off the line."

Once tourists arrived, they were transported in the earliest years to Coney Island by rowboats, then, later, by a 60-foot steamer. (This included the Gophers football team, which held preseason practices on the island from 1903-1905.)

" 'Sundaying' on the island meant conversing, swimming, picnicking, fishing, sunning, dancing, listening to music and playing sports," the Heritage Association's book reports. Band "tournaments" in Waconia also were a big deal, one of which in 1914 attracted 10,000 people and 2,000 cars.

Occasionally, visitors had too much fun, as the local Patriot newspaper reported in 1902: "The most disgraceful scenes were enacted by drunken men, women and children. Kegs of beer were tapped on the public highways, fights were of common occurrence and pandemonium was at its highest pitch. The policemen were kept busy swinging their clubs and cracking heads but it was impossible for them to preserve order. It would be well to discourage excursions to Waconia if such are to be composed of the scum of the earth."

This weekend's events featuring Gov. Dayton and, probably, a couple thousand other visitors to Waconia will be, by comparison, downright civil. And, judging by the good people I met while in Waconia the other day, fun and well-organized.

Chances are, fishing also will be pretty good.

If not, it won't be for lack of trying by a good many Waconia residents over a very long period of time.

Dennis Anderson

  • related content

  • The Coney Island Hotel on Coney Island in Lake Waconia was a destination dreamed about a century ago by visitors from both coasts.


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
CS-Bakersfield 74
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question