Lake Vemilion Resort Owner Builds Minnesota Lake Traditions
Like the bald eagles that soar just outside his Lake Vermilion dockside window, Ed Tausk loves to fish.
He could be on the lake at a moment’s notice. Necessity and, to a lesser degree, choice, combine to keep Tausk’s muskie rod out of his hands much until fall. There’s just too much to do for a resort owner and fishing advocate who spends his time helping others savor time and build traditions at the lake.
“When I get time, I take my kids out. Any chance I get I’ll fish,” Tausk said. “But the reality is, it’s not that often.”
Lake Vermilion will host the 2015 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, which coincides with the statewide walleye and northern pike fishing opener on Saturday, May 9. Long after the media attention from the event fades, the hustle will continue for Tausk as he enters the busy season at Vermilion Dam Lodge.
Located on Wolf Bay where the Vermilion River flows out of the lake of the same name, Tausk’s lodge and cabins are about 25 miles as the crow flies from the U.S.-Canada border near Crane Lake. It’s 20 miles by backroads to Cook, the nearest town.
Tausk left an established career at Northwest Airlines to buy the resort and move his family from the Twin Cities 18 years ago. Since then he’s helped hundreds if not thousands of anglers start and strengthen fishing traditions, while continuing to keep the resort fresh for those who want more than a bed and a boat ramp.
Fishing remains a major draw for Tausk’s resort. How could it not be on a 39,000-acre lake that offers everything from walleyes and muskie to bass and panfish?
But these aren’t the old days. On the site of an 1890s logging camp that became a resort in 1912, guests now find WiFi access and amenities for families.
Families are the bulk of Tausk’s clientele. Outdoor activities and cabins with the modern conveniences are as important, if not more so, than the ability to easily hop in a boat and wet a line.
Still, many of his guests grew up looking forward to fishing each year on their family vacation. Now they’re bringing back their own kids so they can experience what their parents once did. And fishing is a big part of that tradition.
Taking kids fishing
Tausk knows that not every kid comes from a family that provides opportunities to enjoy Minnesota lakes or try fishing. It was a realization that led him and others in 2010 to start the Let’s Take a Kid Fishing event on Lake Vermilion, which has grown to include 100 kids each year who fish for the day in boats with local guides and volunteers.
Tausk recalls hearing a presentation from Mark Holsten, a former commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, about the need to keep kids fishing.
“It was interesting. He put a slide up and showed a picture of a bunch of kids sitting around a laptop. And he said we have a crisis in front of us,” Tausk said.
Taking the words to heart, he asked about a similar event in Bemidji and enlisted the help of volunteers, the 2,400-member Sportsmen’s Club of Lake Vermilion, the Lake Vermilion Guides League, Fortune Bay Resort Casino, and other key sponsors to make the event possible for kids ages 10 to 15. This year, the event is Wednesday, July 15.
Most kids who participate live in the area, and for some it’s the only time they fish on a boat the entire year.
“It’s pretty cool, the whole thing has really taken off,” Tausk said. “But what’s really interesting about it, I think, is that kids coming every year look forward to that one time to come out fishing.”
While the number of Minnesota anglers has been steady in the past decade, the number represents a declining percentage of the overall state population who fish, because Minnesota’s population is growing.
Tausk said he and others want the kids fishing event to spark an interest.
“It gets the message out – not just to the kids, but to the parents and other people out there – that that we’ve got to get these kids outdoors and engage them in fishing,” he said. “And it’s a great experience for the kids.”
Advocating for resorts, anglers
Tausk remains an advocate for resort interests, and serves on the 11-member DNR’s Fisheries Oversight Committee, which he joined to provide a resort perspective. He said there is a need to promote fishing opportunities in Minnesota.
“We should really be expanding – trying to bring more people to our state,” Tausk said. “We’ve got phenomenal fisheries.”
Sometimes, he finds himself convincing anglers who usually book Canadian fishing trips to instead cast on this side of the border. He steers them to the fishing on Lake Vermilion, a big walleye lake, and also one that the DNR has stocked with muskie fingerlings in six of the last 10 years. Today, Lake Vermilion is one of the top trophy muskie lakes in the country.
Anglers continue to catch trophy-sized fish on the lake, including one of Tausk’s guests who caught and released a 59-inch muskie. Tausk had a quick response when asked whether there have been other muskie released on Lake Vermilion that could have beaten the state muskie record that stands at 54-pounds, 56-inches.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said.
It’s not all about the fishing, though, and Tausk is at the ready to make sure guests enjoy their stay. He even became a certified first responder to prepare for any accidents that might happen at a resort so far from town. And he’s removed plenty of errant fish hooks from people over the years.
Tausk occasionally gets out on the water while helping customers familiarize themselves with a boat or the lake. Wherever he is this time of year, there’s a good chance it will involve making someone else’s experience of northern Minnesota a little bit better.
Naturally, that means his muskie rod has to wait.
“Everybody thinks I’m nuts, because I’m always working,” Tausk said. “But for some reason I do enjoy it.”