More than 140 women from across the Midwest took to the ice of Alexandria’s Lake Darling on a warm, sunny Saturday, March 7 in pursuit of big crappies, sunfish and perch.

They’re members of the Women Anglers of Minnesota and their mission is to bring women and children into the sport of angling. The total membership of the group is around 750.

Although the organization was founded back in 1977, this was the group’s third annual ice fishing tournament and the only women’s ice fishing tournament in the state.

“It was our first time in Alexandria and we loved it,” said Elizabeth Colsen, membership spokesperson for the Women Anglers of Minnesota. “We had a very good reaction from our ladies. They loved the town, they loved the community and they absolutely loved Christopherson’s Bait.”

The tournament received such rave reviews from members that the group is looking into returning to Alexandria next winter, Colsen said.

Competing in 70 two-person teams, the anglers chased after more than $2,100 in cash prizes. The first place finishers were Pamela and Melissa Grave and they received $750.

“A lot of ladies caught northerns and walleyes too but of course they couldn’t bring them in because the season isn’t open yet,” Colsen said.

The Viking Sportsmen played a key part in the event. “They helped us drill the holes – that was amazing,” Colsen said. “They also helped keep us safe on the ice.”

Women Anglers of Minnesota will return the favor this summer, she added, by helping the Viking Sportsmen with their Youth Outdoor Activity Day on Sunday, Aug. 30.

The women anglers had a good time in the sunshiny weather, even when the action slowed.

“I’ve had a couple of bites,” said Nikky Dunwoody of Howard, South Dakota, who has been with the group for a couple of years. “I’m losing minnows, but it’s a good day for it, I’ll tell you what.”

Dunwoody was fishing with her friend, Kaggen Zimmel of Miltona, a newbie to the group.

“This is my first year,” Zimmel said. “Nikky told me about it and I thought it’d be fun, something different.”

Sandi McDonald of Fridley has been a member for 15 years and has competed in at least a dozen of the group’s open water tournaments. About two hours into the tournament, she had a sunfish to show for it.

“I just like the opportunity to work with other women and learn things together,” McDonald said. “With this group, no one is afraid to ask questions.”

Maggie Lindau, a Washington, D.C. native now living in Elk River, just learned how to ice fish last winter when she joined the group.

“I caught a nice crappie a while ago,” she said but added it didn’t come close to matching what a team in a fish house just 10 yards away did – they limited out. She was convinced they were using some sort of voodoo to lure the fish in.

The tournament on Lake Darling was sponsored by Explore Alexandria, Clam Outdoors, Alumacraft Boats and Omnia Fishing.

All proceeds will be used to purchase rods and reels for children’s clinics and to further fishing opportunities for women in the sport of angling.

For more information, go to the website, or check the Facebook page, Women Anglers of Minnesota.