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Reprinted with permission from the Pioneer Press
CHRIS NISKANEN OUTDOORS EDITOR
Two giants in the sport fishing industry are parting company. Minnesota's most famous angler, Al Lindner, is leaving the Brainerd-based In-Fisherman media empire he founded with his brother, Ron, in 1975. Though not finalized, the amicable split means one of the nation's largest fishing information companies no longer will employ its famous, bearded spokesman. Armed with rugged outdoorsy looks and a type-A personality, Lindner, 57, is one of fishing's most recognizable celebrities. He's the longtime star and host of the In-Fisherman television show, which reaches about 600,000 households on the TNN cable network. Lindner confirmed last week he filmed his last In-Fisherman show this spring. His contract with In-Fisherman ends in December. ``It's a part of my life where a door is slowly closing,'' he said. ``My television responsibilities are done. I'm doing a whole lot of fishing right now and having fun.'' Lindner, who became a born-again Christian in 1982, revealed plans to start a new fishing TV show with a Christian message. ``It will be informative, entertaining and inspirational,'' he said of the unnamed show, still in the concept phase. With a couple of desks and a mailing list, the Lindners began In-Fisherman with the goal of teaching people to fish through advancements in equipment and knowledge. They never wavered from that philosophy. Though based in Minnesota, In-Fisherman's reach extends nationwide and into Canada through magazines, a radio network, books and videos and the Professional Walleye Trail tournament series. The cable fishing show ranked No. 2 in its category last year, company officials said. The company had revenues of $13 million in 1998. The Lindners sold their company to New York publishing giant Primedia in 1998, at which time Ron retired. Al said his responsibilities have grown fewer as his contract nears an end. Mostly he has been involved with the TV show and a handful of publicity projects. A contract clause bars him from any business dealings that compete with In-Fisherman through May 2002, but after that, Lindner plans to get his new television show off the ground. He said the show will be a partnership with brother Ron, who was considered the marketing mastermind behind In-Fisherman. Because of Al Lindner's far-reaching public appeal, his split from In-Fisherman has been the buzz in the fishing industry. ``Al brought the awareness of sport fishing to the whole country,'' said John Peterson, founder of Northland Fishing Tackle in Bemidji, Minn. ``He's the guru. I wish him well in his next endeavor. Whatever he does, he'll be a success.'' Steve Pennaz, executive director of rival North American Fishing Club, based in Minnetonka, praised Lindner's contributions to fishing. ``There's no replacing Al Lindner,'' he said. ``Almost single-handedly, he changed the way we fish. Losing Al will impact both In-Fisherman television and the magazine because he was the heart and soul of both. He was the reason people tuned in.'' So what does a TV fishing star do when he's semi-unemployed? If you're Al Lindner, you go fishing -- for fun. So far this spring, he has made several trips to South Dakota and one to Minnesota's Rainy Lake. It was a first in many years: None of the trips involved the ever-present cameramen and scripts. ``It has been a fun time for me,'' Lindner said. ``If I don't catch a fish for two days, it doesn't make a difference. I can play with a new technique and not worry about catching anything. ``I've been putting a lot of time into carp, trying to figure out how to catch them,'' he continued. '`And I've been doing extremely well. It's a fascinating fish, and most people don't realize you can catch them on purpose.'' He also has been exploring backwoods lakes with a modest 16-foot aluminum boat -- adventures that harken to his roots as a fishing guide. ``I've found some lakes that are 30 and 40 acres that are loaded with bass,'' he said excitedly. ``I look for those little lakes with bad accesses.'' Former In-Fisherman employee Dan Sura recalled a recent fishing trip with Lindner to Rainy Lake. Sura said he's still amazed at his friend's unending obsession with catching fish. ``We'd been catching smallmouth bass all day and we're on our way back across the lake and Al sees a bass swimming on a reef,'' Sura said. ``He had to stop and see if he could catch this one fish. That's what makes Al Al -- he wants to catch the last fish that swims.'' It was that enthusiasm and a keen understanding of fish behavior that vaulted Lindner to the top of his profession. He's a member of the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame and, in 1999, was elected to enshrinement in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis. It's the hall's highest honor. He's also in the hall as a ``legendary'' angler. Lindner's appeal to average anglers prompted Jeff Arnold, organizer of the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame, asked Lindner if the hall could display for one of his plaid shirts, a pair of moccasins and jeans. ``He gave me the shirt off his back,'' Arnold said. ``Al's never been too busy to give someone a fishing tip. He shares everything he's ever learned. He's the man.'' Stu Legaard, the In-Fisherman's CEO and publisher, acknowledged that Lindner's departure from the company is the end of era. ``There's some sadness in that,'' he said, ``but I don't think the relationship between In-Fisherman and Al Lindner will ever end. I don't think they can be separated.'' Lindner said he might make future guest appearances on the In-Fisherman TV show. The editor of In-Fisherman magazine and TV show, Doug Stange, said he hopes he can call upon Lindner from time to time as a source and friend. Asked if Lindner will be missed at the company, Stange said, ``Of course. He's a television legend. That won't ever change. I'm leaving it open for him to shoot stuff with us.'' Stange said Lindner appears in five In-Fisherman segments scheduled to air in 2002. After that, editors of the magazine will take over hosting duties on the show. Lindner's departure marks the first time a family member won't be involved in In-Fisherman. Jimmy Lindner, the television show's respected producer and Ron's son, also has left the company and will join his father and uncle in their new venture, Al Lindner said. Lindner doesn't plan to bolt the state where he made his mark. ``I don't plan to leave Minnesota,'' Al Lindner said. ``I love Brainerd.'' While retirement isn't in his future, Lindner plans to keep his next venture small, with fewer employees. He reflected fondly on his career but he's excited about his future. ``That was 25 years of my life,'' he said of In-Fisherman. ``It was a labor of love, and I'm pretty proud of what we accomplished.''
Since its founding in 1975 by Al and Ron Lindner, the Brainerd-based
In-Fisherman company has grown into one of the nation's largest fishing
multi-media communication companies. Annual revenue is about $13 million.
Here's a look at its products:
In-Fisherman magazine: Published eight times a year, the magazine has 310,000 subcribers and is known for its cutting-edge, scientific-based approaches to fishing techniques.
In-Fisherman Radio: Started in 1979, In-Fisherman Radio has more than 800 affiliate stations in 48 states. Airs six programs a week.
In-Fisherman species-specific guides: Annual magazine guides cover specific subjects such as walleyes, bass, catfish and ice fishing. Other specialty publications include Walleye In-side, published six times annually with 67,000 subscribers.
Books, videos: Company sells sells numerous instructional books and videos on fishing.
Professional Walleye Trail: A series of six walleye tournaments and a championship. First-place prize money up to $50,000. Total 2001 prize payout is about $1.6 million.
Key dates in In-Fisherman history
1975: Company founded by Chicago natives and brothers Ron and Al Lindner. In-Fisherman magazine first published.
1979: In-Fisherman Television and Radio air.
1981: The first In-Fisherman educational book published.
1983: Walleye Guide annual publication published.
1987: In-Fisherman enters the video field with instructional fishing videos.
1990: In-Fisherman enters the professional walleye tournament circuit with the introduction of the Professional Walleye Trail.
1990: Walleye In-Sider magazine published.
1996: Company breaks new ground with Catfish Guide.
1997: http://www.in-fisherman.com/ is launched.
1997: Bass Guide published.
1998: Ice Fishing Guide published.
May, 1998: Company sold to New York-based Primedia, which owns 110 magazine titles, including Seventeen, New York and Teen Beat.
2001: Al Lindner films last In-Fisherman television show as company's
spokesman. Contract with In-Fisherman to end in December
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