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Student fishing league catching on in Minnesota lakes country

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Carter Jensen of Rothsay, Minn., holds up a freshly caught rock bass.
Carter Jensen of Rothsay, Minn., holds up a freshly caught rock bass during the Heart O'Lakes High School Fishing League event on June 13, 2019, on Big Cormorant Lake.
David L. Wallis for MPR News

The idea for a fishing league started with a casual conversation at a winter meeting of Minnesota school superintendents. And by its inaugural season last summer, the newly formed Heart O'Lakes fishing league had 14 schools and 280 students signed up to fish competitively.

It hasn't slowed down.

"This year, we've grown to 22 schools and over 450 kids," said Hawley School Superintendent Phil Jensen, one of the league's founders. "Way beyond our expectations."

The league kicked off its second season last week on five lakes across northern Minnesota. On Big Cormorant Lake in Becker County, a steady stream of 40 boats slipped from trailers and into the lake. Students clutching fishing poles hopped aboard. 

"Our goal here is to get the kids out fishing," Jensen said. "We've got a small competitive piece to it, but it's more about getting kids out fishing, introducing them to the sport and hopefully we get some of these kids away from screen time and get them out here doing something that they can do the rest of their lives."

A team from Hawley, Minn., fishes close to shore in the early evening.
A team from Hawley, Minn., fishes close to shore in the early evening during the Heart O'Lakes High School Fishing League event on June 13, 2019, on Big Cormorant Lake.
David L. Wallis for MPR News

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