PERHAM FOCUS – By Jason Groth
Anglers in the area will have a new trophy to set their hooks on after the new Perham fishing team was announced at a school board meeting on April 11. The new team is in its early stages of formation, but will begin competition in June.
Perham superintendent Mitch Anderson said the team will run much like the Perham Hot Shots, which is the school’s club trap shooting team. Trap shooting was the fastest growing sport in the state of Minnesota, but that has now been surpassed by high school fishing, according to Anderson.
“It’s only been on the radar for a couple of weeks. Myself and a couple of superintendents in the area started chatting at a meeting about the potential for something like this. One of our board members saw notes from the state high school league and the Student Angler Federation has been at the league meetings talking about the fastest growing sport in the country,” Anderson said. “Right now, there are 140 clubs or teams in Minnesota and that number is growing and growing.”
Currently, there are no teams in the lakes country area and the schools have decided to start small in the first year but are planning for growth. Anderson said the purpose of the league is to provide another opportunity for kids who might not excel on the football field or on the wrestling mat or the volleyball court. Perham has seen a great turnout of kids with extra curricular activities such as robotics, trap shooting, science research and other non-athletic teams that have a competitive side to it, according to Anderson.
“It’s an opportunity for kids who might not be involved in an activity to jump on something,” Anderson said. “We live in the Heart O’Lakes country and we are in a good spot. I think there is a lot of interest, not just with our kids, but parents, community members and volunteers that want to see fishing be a big part of our area. This is a way to increase numbers and get kids hooked on it and become lifelong anglers.”
Anderson said the interest has been good from people in the community as well as from the students. After the first day of sending out a survey to students, 39 kids expressed interest stating they were interested and all-in. Anderson thinks the number will continue to grow after more word gets out about the fishing league.
Anderson said they have been trying to find out what other schools have been doing and learning more about high school fishing. He said more than 15 school districts attended an informational meeting about high school fishing.
“We are probably a week or two away from knowing how many teams are there. Once we find that out, we will decide if we will do one league and two divisions in the league,” Anderson said. “We have schools as far south as Alexandria and schools as north as Hawley and Barnesville. That’s the first thing is to see how many are interested and what this league is going to look like.”
Anderson said they have received a lot of information from Brainerd, which is in its fourth season of high school fishing. Anderson said they have 130 kids involved and said their head coach, Jason Bahr, shared information with other schools about developing the program.
“We have an idea of where we want to get, but there is a layer to this that’s different than trap shooting and other sports. We are relying on volunteers who want to take two kids fishing for two and a half hours on a late June or early July evening,” Anderson said. “That’s the administrative side that’s going to take a little bit of time to get worked out, but the interest is high. Kids want to be a part of it and we have to put the platform together and roll with it.”
The Perham fishing team has many different goals. One of the main goals is to teach boater safety and fishing techniques that they can use on the water. They also hope to improve angling skills to all anglers on the team, while enjoying the sport of fishing and they hope to create lifelong anglers.
Anderson said they have worked with the Minnesota DNR and hope to work with area lake associations. He understands it can be a shock having so many boats show up one night for a league night, but said the league is catch-and-release and they spend time cleaning up the access and teaching the kids about things to look for on the boat, involving invasive species, water clarity and other concerns that is facing today’s fishing industry.
“Everyone is on the same page of seeing the potential for this as being a real positive thing,” Anderson said. “Frankly, the demographics for fishing, you look at the age groups of the 12-to-21-year old range, are very small numbers. I think fishing is still prevalent in our area, but the age gap is the big thing. We don’t have a lot of kids getting into it and I think that goes back to not having the opportunity.”
Currently, the league is slated for seventh through 12th grade, but the option to expand to the younger grades is a possibility down the road. The team has yet to name a head coach, but that could be coming soon. The team is planning on having an informational meeting in the future, but a date has not been set yet. Anderson said they are looking for a number of volunteers for coaching positions and director positions. For more information or to inquire on becoming a coach, contact Anderson at 218-346-1613 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.