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Youth aged 5 to 17 can participate in the Minnesota youth ice fishing season, earning points throughout the winter for the fish they catch. (Contributed)

New ice fishing tourney hopes to reel in youth

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One of Minnesota’s most popular winter activities, ice fishing, will have a new twist this winter.

For the first time, young anglers will be able to participate in a statewide youth ice fishing season.

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Yes, add “ice fishing” to the list of structured, competitive wintertime activities for children, complete with coaches, teams and stats.

The American Angler Leagues’ model introduces fishing to children in a structured environment similar to youth sports.

“We believe that in order for children to become lifelong anglers, they need continuous opportunities to fish while they are young. They also need someone to teach them how to fish and then take them fishing,” said founder Kolt Ringer.

The model relies on encouraging experienced anglers to recruit and fish with nonexperienced angling families.

The ice fishing season will be open to boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 17. Anglers will be allowed to fish anytime on any Minnesota lake from January 1 to February 23, 2014.

Using the American Angler Leagues’ standardized scoring system, anglers will earn points for their catch, which will be tracked throughout the season on the American Angler Leagues’ website.

On February 23, all registered anglers will be invited to fish in the first ever Minnesota State Youth Ice Fishing Tournament on Lake Minnetonka. Anglers will be allowed to fish anywhere on the lake with an opportunity for recognition and prizes.

“For countless Minnesota families, winter is a time when their attention turns to the ice rink or basketball court,” said Michelle Ringer, American Angler Leagues’ director of marketing. “We’re excited to be able to introduce ice fishing as a fun, structured, competitive activity for families to participate in this winter.”

Registration for the season is now under way. Families can register anytime online at www.americananglerleagues.com.

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