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Fishing's tug has made Olivia angler a lifelong keeper

Marlin Hanson of Olivia pulled this 37-inch northern pike from the waters of Grindstone Lake near Sandstone. He owns property on the lake and enjoys fishing its deep, clear waters in pursuit of an elusive 40-inch pike. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

OLIVIA -- Maybe his tendency to put big fish back into the water can be tracked back to the time he upset his dad.

Marlin Hanson of Olivia remembers that he was very young, and that his father was very particular about anchoring the boat in exactly the right spot.

His dad barked the command to drop anchor.

Marlin did so, but had neglected to tie it to the boat.

"My anchor went right on down," said Hanson, laughing. "He was none too happy."

Hanson has had lots of fun ever since, not dropping anchors, but big fish back into the waters. He's introduced his share of their smaller brethren to the frying pan, too.

"He's an unbelievable, lucky and good fisherman," said his friend and frequent fishing partner, Jon Wogen of Olivia.

Credit some of it to Hanson's dad, Arthur. He started taking Marlin fishing at a very young age, and it instilled a lifelong passion for the sport in him.

Marlin Hanson will be celebrating his 78th birthday this July. He plans to continue fishing for at least as long as his father did.

His father only quit when they took his driver's license from him, somewhere around his 90th birthday, said Hanson.

He grew up on a farm near Pine City, learned all about the local waters early, and by the late 1940s and early 1950s was regularly targeting the walleyes of Mille Lacs Lake.

Hanson graduated from the University of Minnesota, and spent the early part of his working years with what became Unysis while raising a family in Bloomington. Trips to local waters were interspersed with longer trips to the more rural locations he preferred.

His opportunity to return to the rural life came in 1980, when he purchased the Olivia hardware store. He sold the business in 1996 but with the death of his first wife, continued working there until "retiring" last October. Now he's a farmer's hired hand when he's not fishing.

His years as a business owner tended to tie him down some, so Hanson said he spent the greater share of his fishing time on waters close to home. The lakes of Kandiyohi County, in particular Big Kandiyohi, became his most frequent destinations.

Big Kandi remains a favorite for him, especially when the colors of autumn tinge its shores. He loves to pick a spot amidst the colorful panorama and cast Rapalas and Shad Raps to hungry walleye and northern pike.

But his greatest love these days is escaping to the far deeper waters of Grindstone Lake near Sandstone, where he owns some property and keeps a trailer.

There, he trolls the depths of its clear waters for trout and continues a decades-long search for an elusive 40-inch northern pike. He's come close: A fatally hooked, toothy 37-inch behemoth is on the wall of his Olivia home.

He gives the other big fish a chance to return to their underwater haunts, as his wife of four years, Maureen, can attest. "I got a snag," she told him before pulling in a 22½ -inch "hawg" largemouth bass into the boat.

He snapped her picture with the fish, and promptly slipped it back to the water. "You didn't want to keep that, did you," he said.

"Not any more," she answered.

Wogen said his friend's success at fishing comes largely due to basic fishing techniques and persistence. Hanson loves to get on the water early and stay late, and never mind if it rains. When a shower caught husband and wife on the opposite side of the lake, Hanson turned to her and explained that they were going to get wet no matter.

"We may as well fish," he said. They made their way homeward at a nearly imperceptible rate, like the hour hand on a clock, casting at the shoreline as the gray skies continued to dribble.

Wogen said Hanson always stays focused on fishing when he's on the water, but it doesn't stop him from bantering or taking fun jabs at his fishing partner. There's a standard expression when either of the two catches a fish: "Even a blind sow can find an occasional ear of corn."

Hanson said it's just being out fishing that he loves most of all. He ended last year's open-water season by fighting a hefty northern. As he held out the net to receive the fish it suddenly catapulted into the air like a trained porpoise in a show. It leaped over the net and left the lure ensnared in the mesh.

"You don't have to catch every fish that bites," said Hanson. "Have fun with it. If he gets off, (it's) no big deal."

Catch 'em or lose 'em, Hanson said his enthusiasm for fishing is every bit as great today as when he started as a young boy, and for the same reason.

"It's fun to watch that bobber go down and to feel that tug on the line," said Hanson. "And it's really fun when that tug stays there."

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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