By SUE WEBBER
If it’s fishing season, the Mixed Nuts are out and about in Eden Prairie.
For the last 34 years, a group of 64 men ranging in ages 33 to 88 has gathered twice a year for fishing trips.
“We just got back from Canada,” said Terry Eggan. “Thirty guys spent five days on three houseboats fishing.”
Eggan’s dad, the late Willard Eggan, is credited with starting the group. Willard, a home builder and active member of the Eden Prairie Lions, died in 2014 at the age of 93.
“He started Mixed Nuts with four friends, and then asked me if I wanted to go,” said Terry Eggan, who is the founder and president of the Eden Prairie Area Let’s Go Fishing Chapter that provides free fishing and boat excursions for seniors, youth and veterans.
Now the Mixed Nuts group has expanded to include members’ offspring and grandchildren.
In the spring, the group goes to Ontario to fishing for walleyes. In the fall, they’ve been known to stay in cabins and fish on Leech Lake.
Curt Connaughty, a Korean War veteran, former president of the Eden Prairie Lions, and retired teacher and principal, has been a member of the Mixed Nuts group for a dozen years.
“It’s a great group,” he said. “We’re from all different backgrounds, but we all get along really well. We rent houseboats, and we’re together for four days.”
He credits Terry Eggan with doing “such a wonderful job of organizing the group,” along with Lyle Hookom.
The men shop for food the night before their trip and, Connaughty said, “We eat well. Three people are responsible for every meal. They do the setup, cooking and are responsible for cleanup. They follow a rigid menu.”
Connaughty said he first was exposed to fishing as an elementary school student, when he fished with his grandfather. “I grew up in St. Charles, Minnesota, and we went to Whitewater Creek at Whitewater State Park,” he said. “There were a lot of good trout there.”
Now, he fishes six times a year at a variety of places: Lake Minnetonka, on the St. Croix River, on the Mississippi River near the Whitman Dam north of Winona, and at Blackduck Lake in Beltrami County.
Connaughty began teaching in Eden Prairie in 1955. He started the district’s football program in 1957 and the track program in 1958, and later became a principal. Though he’s been formally retired since 1986, he said, “I’m still doing things for the school. I run the clock for football and I start track meets around the metro area.”
He’s also found time within the last 18 months to write a book, published in April, titled “The Right Place at the Right Time.” It’s a collection of reminiscences about his childhood, up through his years in education. He anticipates a book-signing event coming up this summer at a to be announced location.
His wife, Mary, taught second grade in Eden Prairie Schools and later started her own Eden Prairie Nursery for preschoolers.
A past president of the Eden Prairie Rotary, Connaughty is still active with that group. He’s an active golfer, and he and his wife are avid travelers.
The couple, 62-year residents of Eden Prairie, have five children, all graduates of Eden Prairie High School, plus 10 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild due in August. Some of the grandkids have taken to fishing, Connaughty said.
Bob Hallett has been a member of Mixed Nuts for 20 years. “It’s a really fun group of people,” Hallett said. “They’re really nice and helpful. It’s nice having younger people along to help, too.”
He recalls fishing for the very first time when he was 3 or 4 years old. He and his dad were at Lake Minnewashta in Glenwood, Minnesota, Hallett said.
Walleyes are still his favorite, and he pursues them “mostly in May and June,” he said. The biggest walleye he caught weighed 9 pounds, he said. He also does some ice fishing in the winter.
Last month, he and a group of retired teachers from Eden Prairie were at Rainy Lake. “We caught enough fish to eat and some to take home,” Hallett said.
Within days of that trip, he was getting ready to leave for another fishing trip in Canada. “I’ve taken a grandson and granddaughter to Canada to fish with me,” Hallett said, adding that his wife, Janet, also fishes occasionally.
Hallett was an elementary school principal in Eden Prairie for 31 years. He and his wife, also an educator in Eden Prairie, retired in 1998.
Ken Lantto, Edina
In Edina, Ken Lantto, 86, also is a fisherman. A native of South Haven, Minnesota, he first cast a line when he was in the third grade, Lantto said. He was the youngest of 17 children in his blended family, he said.
His favorite fishing spot is Lake Sylvia, he said. “It’s an absolutely fabulous lake,” he said. “I fish for crappies basically, and once in a while sunfish.”
In the past, he also enjoyed yearly trips to Canada to fish for walleyes and northerns, he said.
Lantto originally trained to be a teacher but wound up in the trades and eventually became a carpenter and then an industrial arts teacher for the last 19 years of his career in Edina. A 57-year resident of Edina, Lantto said, “I love it here.”
Lantto married his high school sweetheart, and the couple had five children and 15 grandchildren.
“I’ve been blessed with outstanding health, and I’m grateful for that,” said Lantto, now a widower. “My church and the Single Mingle group are very important to me.”
He also is a member of the golf league at the Edina Senior Center.