Clubs, sportsmen’s groups, agencies and even cities around Minnesota sponsor fishing events for kids — all aimed at hooking youths on angling and the outdoors.

Don Petermeier and his small group, Freeport Family Fishing at Freeport, Minn. — just north of St. Cloud — are among the unsung heroes who put smiles on faces of youngsters. They’re also just making Minnesota a better place to live, too.

The nonprofit group only has about 20 members, but each year for the past 16 years they’ve put on a youth fishing contest, complete with hot dogs, free fishing gear and oodles of door prizes.

“It’s just a great group of volunteers who give their time and effort,’’ said Petermeier, a 69-year-old bait dealer and longtime member of the group.

Saturday was windy and cold on King’s Lake, where the contest is held. That didn’t deter anyone. “We had 156 kids show up — the best we’ve ever had, even with the lousy weather,’’ Petermeier said proudly. The boat landing on the 200-acre lake was jammed.

“They caught a lot of crappies and sunfish and lots and lots of largemouth bass,’’ Petermeier said. “It was fun to see the young kids come in with grins on their faces. They are so proud.’’

Each 15-and-under kid got a tackle box loaded with fishing gear. “And we had 150 door prizes,’’ Petermeier said.

Local groups like the Lion’s and Jaycees, as well as businesses, contribute to the cause. “It’s a community effort,’’ Petermeier said.

The group also takes school kids to the Minnesota Fishing Museum at Little Falls, stocks local lakes with walleyes and sponsors lake and roadside cleanups. “We stock lakes the DNR doesn’t,’’ Petermeier said.

But the annual kids’ fishing contest is the highlight.

“The look on the kids’ faces all make it worth it,’’ said Petermeier.

Take a kid fishing

This Friday through Sunday is Take-A-Kid Fishing Weekend: Minnesotans 16 or older who take a child 15 or younger fishing don’t need a license. Also, the DNR’s “I Can Fish’’ program at state parks offers free hands-on instruction on fish identification, casting and knot-tying. Equipment and bait are provided. For more details, see

Fishing license sales

Minnesota’s sluggish fishing license sales have improved a bit, but still are down 21 percent from last year, which DNR officials attribute to the poor spring weather. Sales had been off more than 25 percent. The agency has sold about 470,000 licenses, 126,000 fewer than at this time last year. Nonresident fishing license sales are down a comparable amount; the DNR has sold about 41,000 nonresident fishing license this spring, a decline of 11,000, or 21 percent, from last year.

Meanwhile, walleye stamp sales are down even more. The DNR has sold around 12,000 of the voluntary $5 stamps, compared to 19,000 at this time last year, a drop of 37 percent. Money from the stamps is used for walleye stocking.