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Kids have fun fishing in memory of 'Rocky'

Clodari Seeman, who lives south of Ottertail, displays a nice sunfish she caught. She was fishing with guide Gary Harrington, her sister, and their father on Twin Lakes. Clodari was excellent at handling leeches used for bait. Submitted photo

Peter "Rocky" Rognlie, a Fargo native who enjoyed fishing as a youth at Otter Tail Lake, died Aug. 30, 2011, in a traffic accident at age 54. Rocky may be gone but is not forgotten, and area youth are learning to fish in his memory.

A special fishing event came about from a donation by his mother, Catherine Barner of Otter Tail Lake, and his sister, Arne Gudmestad (Neil) of Fargo. Their donation, along with funding from other sources, resulted in the June 23 "Rocky's Fishin' Friends" outing for kids, followed by a picnic at Phelps Mill.

Included in the event were the guides, 29 youngsters, and nine boats and pontoons. Fishing for sunfish was the choice of the kids but northern, walleye, bass, crappie, and even one bullhead were caught. Family members joined the picnic at the conclusion of the fishing outings.

"We learned from Rocky's family that he loved fishing and he believed everyone should love fishing," said Gary Harrington of the Battle Lake-based Lake Country Sportsmen's Club, which organized the event. "The hope is that young people introduced to fishing will continue to enjoy this hobby well into adulthood."

Rocky graduated from Moorhead State University in 1979 and from the University of Utah College of Law in 1983. Before joining the Utah Attorney General's Office, he was a prosecutor in both Iron and Washington Counties and spent several years in private practice in Utah.

He not only enjoyed fishing. Rocky also often hunted with his stepfather, the late Jack Barner. They hunted ducks, grouse and deer in Otter Tail County. He cherished his time on a good fishing lake or stream or in the mountains hunting.           

For almost three hours, 15 captains and club members took kids and their chaperones fishing in various lakes and "honey holes" in Otter Tail County.           

 "Three young people and a chaperone had a great time fishing with me at West Battle Lake," said captain and guide Mike Henkenius of Battle Lake. "It was really fun for me to watch the kids, who never had baited a hook and never had taken a fish off a hook. By the end of the afternoon they were doing both, and feeling good about themselves. They also pitched in and helped clean fish."      

 Henkenius, Harrington and other guides all agreed that the goal was to introduce fishing to kids, something they can enjoy for a lifetime.           

 "The kids loved to catch sunfish," said captain and guide Daryl Lund of Richville, who fished with children and a chaperone at a lake near Underwood. "It was a fantastic time for those of us who are members of the Sportsmen's Club. The kids learned how wonderful it is to take time to stop and enjoy the outdoors here in west central Minnesota."           

Other captains and guides included Jim Erpelding, Wayne Gschwend , Clarence Duerr, John Quaal, Dean Sharpe and Steve Berg of Underwood, Mike Holstrom of Battle Lake, Roger Hagen of Fargo, Jeff Sedivy and Vance Sherman of Richville, Robert Sloneker of Ottertail, and Jim Fligge of Minneapolis.

"Planning for this event took a lot of time lining up boats, fishing equipment, picnic planning, grills, and you name it," said Harrington, who co-chaired the event along with Club Secretary, Dean Sharpe. "After Catherine and her daughter, Arne, approached the Sportsmen's Club with the idea of the Rocky's Fishin' Friends event, we had no trouble getting volunteers. We asked for a show of hands on who would help, and we couldn't believe the number of hands that went up.  We knew then that this could be a very special event for both our club and Rocky's family."           

Businesses helped provide rods and reels, life jackets, caps, t-shirts, gift certificates and other items. Conservation Officer Troy Richards presented each youth with a Minnesota fish recognition poster.           

 "Many, many people were involved in making this day a big success," said Harrington. "It was quite a feast at Phelps Mill, with fish, hamburgers, hot dogs and all the trimmings. Over a hundred people attended the picnic."           

Catherine Barner's family was very active in the event, with relatives coming from as far away as New York, Virginia, and South Carolina. 

"We had a dream of a way to honor Rocky's life, and with the help of the Sportsmen's Club that dream became a reality. It was so much fun to watch the kids attempt to clean fish side-by-side with the experienced fishing captains and chaperones," said Barner. "What a wonderful event for the kids, our family and the Sportsmen's Club. It all came together on a beautiful day at Phelps Mill."