A fledgling kids’ fishing league will kick off its fifth season July 12 on Lake Minnetonka and Lake Minnewaska with a traveling trophy up for grabs.
The winning team of 5- to 12-year-old anglers will get their names engraved on the Lake Minnetonka Cup, à la the NHL’s Stanley Cup. They’ll fish five consecutive Tuesdays, through Aug. 9, and hold a season-ending tournament Aug. 13.
John “Kolt” Ringer has dubbed his small but growing organization the American Angler League, a nonprofit envisioned to help communities across the country build and support youth fishing associations. So far, only Minnesota is in the fold, and Ringer wants to expand with more kids and waters. Participants may fish in any river or lake.
“He’s pulling it together from the ground up,’’ said Johnny Range of Mound, who coaches a league team called the Insta-Gators. “He used to call it the little league of fishing, but he got in [copyright] trouble with Little League Baseball.’’
Range’s 2016 team will consist of his sons James, 5, and Johnny Jr., 10. The pair once combined to catch a 46-inch muskie on Lake Minnetonka, still the biggest fish caught in league history. The competition is run on a point system. Each angler gets 10 points for showing up, a single point for a panfish, three points for a bass, five points for a northern, eight points for a walleye and 20 points for a muskie.
Ringer said the purpose of the American Angler League is to get youth more involved in fishing.
On Lake Minnetonka, Range said teams fish from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. each Tuesday, followed by a weigh-in at which the kids show off their fish and return them to the water. Secrecy is a hallmark of competitive fishing in adult ranks, but Range said young anglers are just the opposite. They’re proud to say what lure they used to catch their fish, he said.
Standings are updated and conveyed on the league’s website. If teams can’t make it to the weigh-in, coaches call in scores on the honor system. The league gives recognition to teams and to individuals.
“It’s a good reason to go fishing,’’ Range said. “I used to fish in an adult league on Wednesday nights, but it’s more fun to take the kids.’’
Ringer said last year’s league consisted of 75 anglers and he’d like to expand to 100 this year. The league fee is $30 per angler.
“We are excited to be implementing a model that replicates other youth sports and gives kids the opportunity to fish as part of a team,” Ringer said.
Tony Kennedy 612-673-4213