Walleye, Garrison, MN.

Walleyed War of the Walleye Capitals

Baudette, MN; Garrison, MN; Isle, MN; Ray, MN; Rush City, MN; Garrison, ND; Port Clinton, OH; Umatilla, OR; Mobridge, SD; Shell Lake, WI

The Walleye is a favorite catch for sportsmen angling in America's north-central lake regions. But the glassy-eyed, needle-toothed fish's popularity only partially explains the pile-up of redundant "Walleye Capital of the World" claims made by tourism bureaus of little lake towns. Maybe a brain-damaging chemical accumulated in the fish makes walleye eaters blind to the obvious -- there can be only one Walleye Capital of the World.

Garrison, ND.
Garrison, ND

Garrison, Minnesota: Walleye worship became official in Minnesota after it was designated as the state fish in 1965 by the MN legislature. Moving quickly, the town of Garrison declared itself "Walleye Capital of the World," in part because the adjacent lake, Mille Lacs, is the most popular walleye spot in Minnesota. A scant 15 years later, they commissioned a 15-ft. long fiberglass Walleye Pike (from F.A.S.T., natch) for display in an annual parade. Today it is permanently installed along the shores of Mille Lacs.

Garrison, North Dakota: Okay, there's something a little creepy about two towns in different states both named GARRISON and both claiming to be "Walleye Capitals." Wally, "World's Largest Walleye," is the 26-ft. long symbol of this Garrison's claim to the title "Walleye Capital of the World." Turn onto Main Street off of ND 37 and you'll see him -- his tail curled in mid-thrash, his fins erect and menacing, his toothy mouth agape -- floating above the park at the far end of town like an angry, blind fish god.

Ride a Walleye.

Large walleye statues can be found in other Minnesota towns, perhaps hesitant to join the "capital" fracas:

  • Isle, Minnesota: Not sure if they're claiming WCotW status, but they own a big walleye statue.
  • Ray (Kabetogama), Minnesota: It may not be the largest Walleye, but the photo op along Highway 53 near Lake Kabetogama is the only one we've seen that provides stairs and a ladder so you can climb on and ride, mutant bucking bronco style.The original was built in 1949. A brightly painted sign below adds that important postcard touch.
  • Rush City, Minnesota: A big walleye seems to gasp for air outside a convenience store off I-35. Appears to be more of a commercial eye-catcher than a civic claim to fame....
  • Clark's Grove, Minnesota: Walleye statue

Port Clinton, Ohio: Since 1996, the Lake Erie fishing village of Port Clinton, Ohio has augured in the new year with "Walleye Madness at Midnight," when they lower Captain Wylie, an 18-foot long, 500 lb. fiberglass walleye, by crane from a roof in downtown Clinton. A local volunteer in a bowtied Captain Wylie costume wanders the sidewalks during events and parades... The town holds an annual Walleye Festival on Memorial Day weekend, when they crown the new Junior Miss Walleye. Port Clinton gets points for its over-the-top commitment to the Walleye theme....

The back of Shell Lake's 2-tailed Walleye.
Shell Lake's 2-tailed Walleye.

Umatilla, Oregon: Umatilla has no statues to cement their claim, but it does have an annual tournament --and the fish caught in Umatilla are 12 lbs. vs. a scrawny 8 or so for Baudette.

Mobridge, South Dakota: No statue here, either, or much of a current Chamber of Commerce push. But they claim to be known nationally for outstanding walleye fishing. Also home to Sitting Bull's bones.

Shell Lake, Wisconsin: The town doesn't appear to be claiming anything beyond a notion that they are "Walleye Country" ("Year Round Recreation"). But their Walleye statue/sign has an unusual feature: the fish has two tails, making photos attractive from either side, and really strange from the back.

Baudette, Minnesota: The largest tribute to the fish is Willie Walleye, over 40-ft. long and weighing about two tons. Wille was constructed in 1959. The town's festival, Willie the Walleye Day, cranks up the first week in June. Baudette lays claim to the title "Walleye Capital of the World," though signs on approaches to town state, simply, "Home of Willie Walleye."

If bigness of statue is the defining quality of the "Walleye Capital of the World," then Baudette holds the title.

Also see: Walleye Capitals Worry as Baudette Angles for Trademark Rights

RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Willie the Walleye - Walleye Capital of the World

Address:
International Drive NE, Baudette, MN
Directions:
Downtown, on the west shore of the river, on the corner of International Drive NE and Main St./Hwy 11.
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RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Giant Walleye in Walleye Capital of the World

Garrison Concourse Wayside Park

Address:
Central St., Garrison, MN
Directions:
Garrison Concourse Wayside Park. Southeast edge of town, on the lake, on the east side of US Hwy 169 at its intersection with Central St.
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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Big Fish Statue - Walleye

Address:
Main St., Isle, MN
Directions:
US Hwy 169 to US Hwy 27/Main St. around Lake Mille Lacs. At Main St. and 3rd Ave. next to bank.
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RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Wally Walleye

Kenneth S. Fitzsimmons Memorial Mini-Park

Address:
Second Ave., Garrison, ND
Directions:
Corner of 2nd Ave. and Main, across the street from the Dairy Queen. Kenneth S. Fitzsimmons Memorial Mini-Park.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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RoadsideAmerica.com Team Field Report

Leapin' Walleye Fish Photo Op

Address:
9344 Hwy 53, Kabetogama, MN
Directions:
Around eight miles east of Ray, at the junction of US Hwy 53 and County Road 122, which leads to Lake Kabetogama.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
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Wylie Walleye at Walleye Capital of the World

Address:
121 E. Perry St., Port Clinton, OH
Directions:
Downtown, usually (but not always) in the parking lot of Arlington Inn/America's Best Value Inn on the north side of Hwy 163/E. Perry St. between Madison and Jefferson Sts.
Admission:
Free
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Big Walleye

Address:
1st St., Clarks Grove, MN
Directions:
Next to the I-35 exit onto 251 heading towards town, north corner gas station.
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World's Largest Walleye

Address:
Rush Lake Rd, Rush City, MN
Directions:
West on town, at I-35 exit 159, southeast side.
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