By Chad Koenen


Every good fisherman has a tale that is larger than life. Jan Smith is hoping to collect those once-in-a-lifetime tales, of fishermen on Otter Tail County lakes, as part of a new Rethos project.

Smith, who is a local educator and historian, is in the process of documenting these stories as part of the Otter Tail County Story Mapping Project, a collaborative project between Rethos, the Otter Tail County Historical Society and Springboard for the Arts. The project is entitled “Otter Tail County’s 1,000 Lakes (and more ponds) Have Stories to Tell.” The hope is that these stories will encourage reflection of fishing stories and family memories, as well as personal anecdotes about memorable events centering on lakes. 

“I really, really need stories about the locals who have played on the lake in whatever way, and fished the lake and discovered all of the fun in it,” said Smith. “I’ve done the history, but I need the locals to tell me what is going on.”

Last year Smith had eight boxes set up throughout the county to collect stories from local residents about their fishing experiences. A few stories were collected, but Smith said she needs more to put the finishing touches on her project.

The top three stories she collects will receive a gift certificate to a local business, as well as be featured in her Rethos project.

The goal of the project is to put together a Power Point presentation about fishing in Otter Tail County and create interest in people who may want to visit the area.

“These are Power Point presentations that can be used by the local communities for programs for their meetings. That’s the availability of it once it gets done,” said Smith. “People don’t know how much there is to do in this big county.”

Stories can be submitted either by email ( where photos are also accepted, but not required. The Otter Tail County Story Mapping Project is a pilot project by Rethos: Places Reimagined in partnership with the Otter Tail County Historical Society and Springboard for the Arts.