Veteran fishing guide Tony Roach ready to safely go back to work

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Outdoors

ON LAKE MILLE LACS, Minn. -- Unable to book paying clients when Minnesota's summer fishing began May 9, Tony Roach was on this big lake that day nonetheless, casting a jig and retrieving it while boating one walleye after another.

Like other Minnesota fishing guides from Winona to Warroad, Roach's business ( had been sidelined by a COVID-19 directive issued by Gov. Tim Walz.

The governor's order has since been changed, and starting Monday, Minnesota guides can again be on the water with clients under certain conditions.

Still, for the first time in recent memory, Roach was faced on the season opener with fishing without a client. In response, he picked a first-day partner who, though short on cash, was long on enthusiasm: his 12-year-old son, Robbie.

"The Mille Lacs opener started out nice, with a calm wind," Tony said. "Then it began to sleet and snow. When we had an inch or two of snow in the boat, I was thinking we should head to shore. I wanted to make sure Robbie had a good experience. But he never complained."

That the younger Roach hung in there during what he will discover, over time, is typical Minnesota opening-day fishing weather speaks as much to his lineage as his fortitude.


His grandpa, Mark -- Tony's dad -- was a tournament walleye fisherman, and a good one, and his great, great uncle, the octogenarian fishing legend Gary Roach, is known in Minnesota and beyond as Mr. Walleye.

But these days it's Tony who is Minnesota's hardest-working walleye angler named Roach. A popular guide, fishing-industry promoter and angling instructor, Tony is on the water -- and ice -- with clients more than 200 days a year.

And when he's not fishing for pay, he's fishing for fun.

"I just love fishing and I always have," he said.


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