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Kids crappie event is a good start for youth anglers, adults

Next Sunday, May 3, is the 18th Annual Marine Max Kids Crappie Contest held at the MarineMax Marina on Leech Lake in Walker. The event officially begins at 1 p.m. when kids from ages 1-13 dip their lines into the cool water of Minnesota's third largest inland lake. Yet don't let the size of Leech Lake dissuade you; the children fish from the many docks segregating the boat slips in the secluded bay.

Parents are required to directly supervise anglers ages 1-10 and all participants must wear a personal floatation device (PFD) while on the docks. All contestants must bring their own fishing rod and PFD.

Due to an outstanding commitment from community businesses and organizations, the Marine Max Kids Crappie Contest boasts much more than simply fishing. The entire event is free of charge, including hot dogs and pop for all participants, a casting game, minnow races, a special visit from Smokey the Bear and a bunch of wonderful door prizes for the kids, whether they catch a fish or not.

Though spring weather can be hard to predict, the event will take place rain or shine. And don't let the ice on Walker Bay keep you home, the marina will surely be open.

The contest is a tradition for families around the region since it's a "good-bye to winter, hello to spring" activity and is enjoyable for kids from novice to expert. For more information, contact Gina at Walker Community Education, 218-547-4360.

If you know a child who has never even held a rod and reel before, the contest is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the wonderful pastime of fishing. And looking at some recent data, Minnesota kids could use some encouragement to get started.

According to a study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the number of anglers between the ages of 16 and 44 is declining.

Once an angler turns 16, he or she is required to purchase an angling license, which aids in tracking fishing participation.

Yet a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study on kids' participation in the outdoors shows that Minnesota ranks first in the nation with 74 percent of its youth taking part in some type of recreation related to wildlife and 58 percent of youth participating in hunting or fishing.

So if it appears that kids are taking an active role in the outdoors, why is there such a push to get more children involved?

Simply put, once fishing inspires and intrigues children, they typically stick with it and continue to fish throughout life. Studies and corresponding percentages show there's only a small likelihood that individuals will form an interest in fishing after age 25 if not previously introduced.

So continuing to pass down the time-honored tradition of fishing is a responsibility for outdoors enthusiasts in Minnesota and across the nation. And fortunately we've got professional assistance.

The DNR relies upon license sales for revenue, which helps fund management of our lakes and streams. Its MinnAqua program gives kids an opportunity to learn about fishing and actively try it out.

And to encourage slightly older anglers who have let their fishing licenses lapse, the DNR is sending out 90,000 postcards this spring as a reminder for them to regain interest in one of Minnesota's greatest traditions -fishing!