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Resort owners hope Minnesota’s fishing opener brings back business

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high banks sign
higbanks cabin
kim rick
lake winnie
lynne powell

DEER RIVER, MN -- After a harsh winter with little business, tourist-based businesses on Lake Winnibigoshish hoped there would be a light a the end of the tunnel.

"It picked up just for a short time once the resorts around [Lake] Winnie were able to get some roads plowed. Then the coronavirus hit," said Lynne Powell, owner of Fred's Live Bait and Tackle.

Small businesses like Fred's have taken a hard hit.

"Obviously we've haven't had any customers, we've had no business at all," Powell said.

High Banks Resort owners Kim and Rick Leonhardt took jobs down in Tennessee for the month of March and April to make up for an estimated $65,000 loss they incurred this winter.

After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, they came back to Deer River early in fear they might be stuck out of state longer than expected.

Minnesota is offering funding for COVID-19 relief, but the Leonhardt's say learning if they qualify has been a waiting game.

"If we get something great, it's a bonus. But to rely on that, no, we can't," Kim said. "We're trying to avoid getting further into debt."

While keeping social distancing efforts in mind, owners are hopeful Minnesota's fishing opener next week will help bring business back, even with the state's "Stay at Home" order extended to May 18.

"Going through fogging our cabins with virucide and everything that we feel is necessary," Rick said. "There's better days ahead."

Fred's Live Bait and Tackle will open doors on May 4, and High Banks will be open on May 8.
Highbanks says they're already booked for the fishing opener, which is May 9.

After the disastrous winter, businesses on Lake Winnie were working with the state on a relief bill.
Rick says the bill was tabled and once the pandemic hit, it took a backseat to other legislation.

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Emma Quinn

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