Spartan Angling is proud to announce receiving a $3,000 grant to purchase muskie angling gear and also to facilitate fishing trips. Thank you!
In the News
In the classroom and on the water, these high school students learn fishing skills and conservation
Justice Rebrovich has been working his 16-foot fishing boat along the shoreline for almost two hours when he finally gets a hit. Rebrovich, a junior at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, leans back and sets the hook. The fish swirls aggressively in the lily pads as it tries to shake the hollow-bodied frog lure.
“About time, baby!” he says, reeling hard. Soon, a largemouth bass is boatside and in the landing net.
“Yeah, honestly,” says his fellow student and angling partner, Daniel Clusiau, laughing, as he hands the net to Rebrovich.
It’s sunny and breezy—a nice May morning for the final 2021 outing of Spartan Angling, Nashwauk-Keewatin’s elective fishing class. Today, Spartan Angling is out on Bray Lake, just north of Nashwauk, a small lake rimmed by forest, with cabins tucked into the trees. The whole class is fishing—a few in another student’s boat, a couple in a paddleboat, and the rest on math teacher Luke Adam’s pontoon.
Adam created the for-credit class, first offered in the spring of 2019, to give students in grades 9 through 12 the chance to learn or expand on their fishing skills and to introduce them to fish biology and conservation concepts. Lessons include basics like tackle and rigging and deep dives into fish species and conservation. They also have several fishing outings each semester, both on the ice and on open water, some as weekend trips and others as school-day field trips. Adam says that while several schools around Minnesota have fishing teams, most are extracurricular and often oriented toward competitive fishing. He doesn’t know of any other schools offering a for-credit class focused on basic fishing skills and conservation.
“We’re teaching kids a lifelong skill,” he says. “You might play football until you’re 18, but you can fish your whole life.”
Both Clusiau, a sophomore, and Rebrovich signed up for the class mainly because it sounded fun, but they found it to be more interesting and educational than they’d expected.
“It even teaches me a lot of stuff,” Rebrovich says. “Like invasive species … or the history of Red Lake, and how overfishing really messed it up and it’s in, like, recovery right now.”
He thinks that the class is great not just for kids like him, who have an angling background, but for those who didn’t grow up on the water.
“I’ve fished my whole life,” he says, making another cast with his baitcaster, using his thumb to brake the spool and dropping his bait right on target next to the bank. “A lot of kids don’t get that chance.”
The previous afternoon, Adam teaches the kids to tie spinner rigs in his math-slash-fishing classroom at the high school in Nashwauk. A dozen students, a mix of girls and boys, make up the class, which, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, had to be adapted for online learning. Back in the classroom, the kids are engaged, but with a relaxed, end-of-the-year vibe. They pass around spinner-making materials: hooks, fluorocarbon leader, beads, and spinner blades.
Adam gently steers the room. The first step: tying the hook to the line.
“We’re gonna use the clinch knot,” he says. “Remember the twisty one?”
Some of the students deftly knot their hooks in place with well-practiced turns. Some lean forward to better see Adam’s demonstration.
The classroom has a fishy feel amid the math trappings. The white board, still marked up with a few final algebraic formulas, is crowned by a large mounted northern pike with a blue surgical mask over its toothy face. Beneath a 20-digit printout of the number pi is the NKHS Fish Game Outdoor Wall, where students and staff pin photos of their outdoor pursuits.
After the spinner rig demonstration, Adam points, with the tip of a fishing rod, to a depth map of Bray Lake, where the class will fish the next morning. He quizzes students on which areas of the lake look best for finding different species of fish, and shares information on where he’s caught fish before and what kind of bait and lures work best.
Adam has had a cabin on Bray Lake since the early 1980s, so he really knows the lake. Many anglers keep such knowledge close to the vest, but Adam is happy to share his wisdom with a room full of people.
“I just want the kids to be successful. To have a good time,” he says after class, adding that not all the students have had the same outdoor opportunities he grew up with.
Adam believes that Spartan Angling gives students a chance to connect to the outdoors.
“Fishing doesn’t care about socioeconomic status, or race, or physical ability,” he says. “You don’t have to be an elite athlete to fish.”
And in Adam’s class, you don’t necessarily need your own equipment, either. Piled in a corner is a jumble of fishing rods and tackle boxes available for the students to use if they don’t have their own.
Much of it was purchased with funds from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Angler and Hunter Recruitment and Retention Grant program, which aims to help local groups interest Minnesotans in the outdoors. The grant also helps pay for things like resort fees, boat rentals, and bus charters for class trips, such as a recent outing to Lake of the Woods.
Jeff Ledermann, DNR Fish and Wildlife education and skills team supervisor, worked with Adam on the grant process. Getting kids involved in the outdoors is critical, he says during a phone call a couple of weeks later, and not just for their own enjoyment. It’s important for the future of fishing and conservation in the state.
“We know that people who are connected to nature, and spend time outdoors, are more likely to act in ways to protect it,” Ledermann says.
The tricky part is working outdoors activities into the curriculum. “You can learn a lot about math and science … by participating in archery or in fishing,” he adds. “It’s getting teachers to look outside the box, frankly. Luke [Adam] has done that.”
In addition to two DNR outreach grants, Adam has found strong support from local service organizations and businesses that have donated or discounted gear for the class. “Fishing seems to be universally supported, especially when you can tie kids into it,” he says. “You don’t really need to candy coat it.”
After the outing on Bray Lake, Adam and his class gather at his cabin. Venison brats sizzle on the grill while Adam and his students discuss how the buffer of brush and tall grass between his mowed lawn and the lake helps protect the water from erosion and pollution. They also drag a seine net along the bank to see what kind of fish are using the near-shore habitat.
Later, Kaydince Thoennes, a junior, stands at a picnic table where a half-dozen northern pike, caught that morning, await the knife. The fillets will be added to walleyes the students caught on Lake of the Woods, then shared in an end-of-the-year fish fry at the school. “I think it’s cool,” Thoennes says when asked why she wanted to clean the fish. “And I think I’m good at it.”
Thoennes learned to fish as a young kid, but says her family had gotten away from it in recent years. She originally signed up for Spartan Angling because she needed to take an elective class. “I thought it was gonna be boring,” she explains, removing the thin strip of meat that contains the northern’s pesky Y-bones. “But I actually turned out to really like it.” Especially, she says, since there were other girls in the class—four this semester.
With the first northern filleted, Thoennes asks Adam if they can check the predator fish’s stomach to see what it had been eating.
“We’ll do a little lesson here,” Adam says, and students gather around. “What do you think is in there?”
“A minnow!” comes the chorus reply.
Adam cuts a small incision in the end of the pike’s stomach and squeezes from the bottom, like it’s a slimy tube of toothpaste. A small half-digested fish with faint vertical stripes slides out, to the loud disgust of a few students.
“Whoa! Perch!” says Thoennes, reaching for the knife. “Can I do some more, Mr. Adam?”
Itasca County School Offers Fishing In The Classroom
If Luke Adam, a 19-year teaching veteran had his way, every kid who
attends school in Minnesota would have the opportunity to learn about
“I think there’s a big disconnect in generational learning right now,” said
Adam, who teaches math in the Nashwauk-Keewatin Public Schools
system in Itasca County. “Passing on knowledge from parents, grandparents or any older relative to the younger generation, especially things
like fishing and hunting skills, is becoming more rare it seems.
With strong support from school administrators, and after having
secured a $20,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources through a program that seeks to recruit, retain and reactivate
participants in outdoor activities—such as fishing and hunting—Adam
established Spartan Angling.
Spartan Angling is not a fishing club. Nor is it a competitive team, like
those becoming so popular in schools statewide. Spartan Angling is a
for-credit elective class in which students meet every school day to learn
the Art and Science of Fishing.
“I’m a lifelong angler, and have been a teacher for my entire career,”
Adam explained, “and I’ve always wondered whether it would be
possible to teach a fishing class. When I stumbled upon the DNR grant,
everything kind of worked out from there.”
While the teaching of practical fishing skills—casting, knot tying, lure
selection etc.—is a big part of the curriculum, there’s much more to it
than that, the instructor explained.
“We basically start with an introduction to fishing,” he said, “and talk
about the different fish species in Minnesota. We discuss the different
gamefish and the types of lures you’d use to catch them—that sort of
thing. Then, we get a little scientific and talk about fish behavior and
movement; the different types of lakes and how to determine a lake’s
fish population using data from DNR creel and gillnet surveys.”
Spartan Angling also emphasizes the need to preserve this natural
resource with sections on aquatic invasive species, shoreline management, water quality and more. Each student also takes a deep dive with a
Spartan Angling students landed a 5-foot lake sturgeon during a field
trip to the Rainy River.
class project on a fish species of his or her choice. They do research and
report on the species’ biology, forage preferences and habitat preferences
through the seasons, as well as identify local waters where their
particular fish can be found.
Of the 15 or so students in the class each semester, typically some are
experienced in the outdoors; a few have never been fishing before, and
many fall somewhere in between. So, field trips, understandably, are
the most exciting and anticipated part of the class. Often the excursions
are to local lakes, but the class has also fished Lake of the Woods, Lake
Winnibigoshish and other larger waters.
Adam maintains a tackle lending library, as well, so students can check
out gear whenever they want for their own personal excursions.
“The grant has helped with the cost of our field trips and equipment, but we
also rely on donations from local business sponsors and individuals to cover
the costs,” said Adam. “Likewise, volunteers from the community help out
during the trips so we can make sure the kids have a good experience.
Proper tackle preparation is critical to fishing success. Here Alex Milstead
spools line on a spinning reel while instructor Luke Adam lends a hand.
Exploring career paths in the outdoors is in the classroom mix as well.
Clayton Godwin, who graduated from Nashwauk-Keewatin High School
this year, is now in a college program that will lead him to becoming
a conservation officer. The Spartan Angling program, he says, inspired
him to seek a job last summer as an invasive species inspector for the
county, checking boats and trailers as they arrive at and leave public
access ramps. This summer he’s helping take samples and monitor
invasive species in various lakes in the county.
“I’ve been passionate about fishing since I was in the 6th grade, “ he said,
“but the program really helped me get a better understanding of different fish
species and how to catch them, as well as helping improve other skills—like
reading lake maps. It also inspired a stronger appreciation for the resource
and how important it is that we take care of it.“
“The whole point of the class,” Adam concluded, “is to expose student
to fishing, and everything that surrounds it. To give them the skills to go
on and be successful anglers for the rest of their lives, if they choose to.”
It’s not all about taking fish from the water. Spartan Angling students removed
all this trash from Pickerel Creek, a popular trout stream near Pengilly.
If you’d like to donate cash or equipment to help young people learn
more about the outdoors, contact Luke Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
This information is produced and distributed by the Mississippi Headwaters
Board in an effort to motivate everyone to protect our natural resources.
A recreation based lifestyle is part of our MN Traditions and is only preserved
when we protect our aquatic resources from invaders such as zebra mussels and
Eurasian milfoil. To support Minnesota Traditions join us on social media here:
Website: www.minnesotatraditions.com for more information
Spartan Angling: Women of Skill
Coming from a family of one fisherman and three fisherwomen, I am the only male in my household. The other three enthusiastic anglers are my wife and children (5 & 13). My aunt also has a fishing addiction that will never be cured. Many of our family trips revolve around fishing, as it is the pastime we choose to raise our children experiencing. Covid has also encouraged fishing, as there is no better way to socially distance. My fondest memories with my wife have water and fishing as a baseline and included a marriage proposal on Rainy Lake. Angling teaches many life skills such as patience and perseverance, as well as the taste buds’ rewards of fresh fillets hitting the oil. Male or female, makes no difference in these important human life lessons. My girls will grow up fishing and will be the “catch of a lifetime” for a partner someday.
In January of 2019, I applied for a DNR grant and started Spartan Angling. Spartan Angling is a class at Nashwauk High School that is open to grades 9-12 and teaches the art and skill of Minnesota angling. Anglers investigate a variety of topics from: fish identification, species angling methods and locations, lake biology, lake conservation, slot limits, invasive species, shoreline management, and, of course, go fishing! The class has been making slimy memories for kids for over two years, and we are still going strong!
The class often has many males and only a few female anglers. But this spring, one-third of the anglers are female and more are coming! News flash: Women can fish and love to learn the sport! Guys: You can take your girlfriend or wife on a date and go fishing! On our first outing of the spring semester, Spartan Angling went to Blue Lake in late February. We were targeting panfish and crappies and highs were forecasted in the 30’s, making for a great experience for all. We were also outfitted with 25 rods and reels from Women Anglers of Minnesota last year!
After unloading fish houses and handing them over to the girls and boys in the class, I directed them to set them up. Without hesitation, the girls assembled the fish house and were ready for the next step. I handed them the auger and had them make their own hole. Squeals of excitement were erupting from the fish house, as for many of the females, this was their first experience augering through 28 inches of ice to the water. They also handily scooped out the ice holes and banked in the house for the day.
The next part was providing the anglers with Vexilars. Vexilar 101 was in session, but if anyone knows how to use a flasher, it is a fast learning curve. As the “green” bait met the “red” fish, the battles were on. They were catching fish! It was fun to see the excitement of learning this technology as the teacher. Girls and boys were hooked on angling! Several fish were caught that day by everyone, and everyone baited their own hooks, removed fish, and fished independently, after some brief instruction.
Having taken my own girls fishing, I have some experience on taking females out on the frozen water. It is imperative for everyone to make sure they leave the house with the proper clothing to have a great day. Dress for success! Bring a bucket with a toilet seat and provide privacy in a crowded area. Several companies make a toilet seat that just snaps on to a five gallon pail. Music was playing in the fish houses and don’t forget the food, it’s part of the experience! It is worth the extra effort to have females and males comfortable and help them enjoy the experience.
Spartan Angling iced about fifty fish that day, and then the next day, we cleaned the fish. I gave a few examples and turned it over to the kids. The kids filleted the fish and for many, it was their first time. Some hack jobs were made, but the kids learned. They learned by doing, not watching. I just walked around and coached
the kids, and kept flipping slimy slabs on their desks, where math homework was done the hour before. A large Tupperware container was plump full of thin fillets for tomorrow’s fish fry.
The next day included directions on how to prepare and cook fish in our, unfortunately, retired home economics room. You just don’t fry fish; it’s more complicated than that. I showed the kids my staple fish batter….⅓ mixture of flour, Italian bread crumbs, and cornmeal. It gives a nice coating without the mess of a wet batter. I also explained the importance of oil temp…too cold your fish will be soggy and too hot and you will have fish chips. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest parts of the cooking process and it relies on sounds, smell, and experience. As the fish plunged the oil, the bubbles of gold started. Fried fish smell began to permeate the hallways of the school, then heads started to poke in, wondering if they could have a little taste. I talked to the students regarding the importance of sharing your catch with people, as the kids could have easily gobbled up all the fish. I gave the kids a three piece limit for their own bellies, and then the successful anglers showcased the mounds of golden panfish around the school feeding our beloved employees. I told them to find every adult in the building and give them fish. It’s our way of giving back a little bit to a school who took a chance on the dream of a crazy math teacher who wanted to start a fishing class at the school!
Spartan angling is always in need of financial help to keep these experiences alive. If you wish to donate or see more about our program, please see www.spartanangling.com for information about the program and how to donate. Make fishing season 2021 a great one, and what female can you introduce to the sport? Fishing is a life sport that can be enjoyed by all. Providing a supportive educational opportunity is the key to success.
Setting up Houses
Learning to Fillet Fish!
At Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, fishing class is in session
Teaching the “art and science of angling”Written By: John Myers | Mar 8th 2020 – 6am.
Alex ‘Bubba’ Milstead gets a little help from teacher Luke Adam while spooling a reel in Spartan Angling fishing class Tuesday, March 3, at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School. (Tyler Schank / email@example.com)
NASHWAUK — In one corner of Luke Adam’s classroom in the high school here, under the whiteboard usually reserved for math problems (show your work), a pile of ice fishing gear is accumulating.
There’s a battery-powered ice auger, some flasher-style fish finders, a pop-up fishing shack, buckets of rods and reels, a few tackle boxes and a sled to tow gear onto the ice.
“There’s a lot more down in the store room. And all the summer fishing stuff is down there, too,’’ Adam said, explaining the gear is part of a “lend library” for fishing that kids can sign out and use whenever they want.
Adam, 41, loves his job teaching pre-algebra to junior high kids in the Nashwauk-Keewatin school district. He’s been doing it for 18 years. But he also loves to fish. He always has, since he was a kid growing up in Keewatin when his grandfather took him on fishing trips.
Now Adam has combined his passions for teaching and fishing in what may be the only official high school curriculum in Minnesota to offer a standing fishing class every semester.
It’s called Spartan Angling, after the school’s sports moniker. It’s not a club, a fishing team, a section of a science class or an after-school project. It’s a for-credit, elective class open to students in grades 9-12. They meet from 2:15-3:05 p.m. every school day, and they are graded on their work.
“We don’t have tests, per se,’’ Adam said. “But they are graded on their class project, and their participation … There’s academic rigor here.”
The three R’s
The effort started just over a year ago when Adam was successful at landing a $20,000 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant aimed at “recruiting, retaining and reactivating” Minnesotans into outdoor sports like hunting and fishing. The number of participants in traditional outdoor activities continues to shrink in many areas, in some cases by alarming numbers, and wildlife lovers worry about the future of conservation if future generations don’t connect to the outdoors.
So far the class has attracted a mix of already-hardcore anglers and kids who have never been fishing, or been only once or twice. Some are products of single-parent households who don’t have the time or money or connections to fishing. Others are disconnected by distance or circumstance from their grandparents who were avid anglers.
“We have that fishing tradition up here in northern Minnesota. We have these great natural resources right in our backyard. But, for more of these kids than you might think, they are a generation or more away from that tradition. We have kids in class who have never caught a walleye before in their lives,’’ Adam said.
The curriculum was approved by the Nashwauk-Keewatin School Board in January 2019. Adam started the class that same month and hasn’t looked back. It started with a dozen kids that first semester, mostly boys, but a few girls, too. He tries to keep it to 15 or fewer students each semester.
“It’s a good number to manage when we go on field trips,’’ the teacher said.
And they have gone on several of those field trips, including to local lakes spearing northern pike and ice fishing, as well as bigger trips to Lake Winnibigoshish and Lake of the Woods, where students caught a nearly five-foot-long sturgeon last spring. Class members are practically salivating over this spring’s planned trip to Border View Lodge at Lake of the Woods for walleye.
Math teacher Luke Adam assists students in setting up an Eskimo pop up ice fishing house in the hallway at Nashwauk High School during Spartan Angling fishing class Tuesday, March 3. (Tyler Schank / firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Obviously it’s good to see them work on their (class) projects. But it’s so much fun to watch them have a fish on the line,’’ Adam said.
The trips all happen during the school week, with the blessing of the administration. And everything is free of charge for all of the students.
“That’s what the grants have gone for,’’ Adam noted. The only expense any of them have is their fishing license, if they are 16 (or older) and need to buy one.”
Principal Ranae Seykora didn’t just okay Adam to teach the class, she’s gone out fishing with them, too, chaperoning on field trips.
“I grew up a Minnesota lake girl. I was a biology teacher. I know the benefits of getting students outside,’’ she said. “There are real benefits to learning about nature by being out in it.”
Rose Kuhlmann of Nashwauk took the Spartan Angling class the first semester it was offered. She grew up fishing with her family and represents the portion of the class who come in as seasoned anglers.
“I mean, that’s just what we did as a family. It was the weekend, so we went fishing,’’ the sophomore said. “But some of the kids in the class, they had never been (fishing) before. I couldn’t imagine that, growing up in northern Minnesota.”
Even though she was a veteran angler, Kuhlmann said the class taught her a lot of new things about northern Minnesota lakes, rivers, fish and ecosystems — so much so that she now is looking at a career in fisheries biology.
“We learned so much about invasive species and fish habitat and keeping our lakes clean, about taking care of our lakes,’’ she said. “I’ve always thought of fishing as just something you did for fun. But when I found out you could make a living fishing, studying fish and lakes, I thought that would be a great career.”
This semester’s Spartan Angling class inspired Clayton Godwin of Pengilly to apply for a summer job as an invasive species inspector at boat landings, checking boats and trailers at Itasca County lakes and interacting with anglers before and after they fish.
“It pays pretty well,’’ Godwin said, but noted that’s not the only reason he’d like it. “Fishing has been my passion since I was in 6th grade. It would be great to be able to help the lakes by keeping invasive species out.”
That’s just the kind of switch Adam hopes to flip with the class. While not every student will go on to outdoor careers, his goal is to instill a love of and respect for the outdoors.
“It’s a life sport. It’s a family activity. It brings people together. It gets people off their electronics and outside. What’s not to like about fishing?’’ Adam said.
DNR officials are happy with Adam’s use of the grant money.
“We’ve had programs, like MinnAqua, in a lot of schools for many years now, in science classes and phy-ed classes across the state … But this class is probably the most comprehensive effort we’ve seen,’’ said Jeff Lederman, who heads the DNR’s fish and wildlife recruitment effort.
Adam now is pursuing a second state grant, $8,500 from the Legislature’s No Child Left Inside program enacted in 2019. He’s also received some grant funding through the school district for curriculum that might encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math, so-called STEM fields.
Adam is also seeking private sponsorships. And he’s receiving unsolicited donations as more people, and more businesses, discover what his class is about. The list of sponsors keeps growing. Alumacraft boat company donated money. L & M Fleet Supply offered fishing tackle to expand the lend library for fishing gear for students in the class. There have been grants from the Grand Rapids and Nashwauk Community Foundation, Muskies Inc., Lews rod company, Women Anglers of Minnesota, the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association and more.
“I get people who walk up to me and say ‘here’s an ice auger,’ or ‘here are some rods,’ or ‘here’s some money.’ People are excited about what we’re trying to do,’’ Adam said.
Real science, real fun
On a recent afternoon in Adam’s classroom, Paige Groshong, a 9th grader, was finishing a class poster on rainbow trout, complete with some crayon art work. The poster included information Groshong had researched about the chrome-colored trout, including its habitats, its natural range, potential lures and baits to use for fishing rainbows and even trout recipes.
“I like fishing but I didn’t get to do it much as a kid,’’ said Groshong. “So it’s fun to get that chance.”
Freshman Paige Groshong adds to her project on rainbow trout during Spartan Angling fishing class Tuesday, March 3, at Nashwauk High School. (Tyler Schank / email@example.com)
In class, students identify fish species, learn where fish live (habitat) and what they eat. Then they learn about what those smaller critters eat and how they thrive — and things like you can’t have fish without fish food and clean water. That’s called an ecosystem. There’s extensive class work on invasive species and on shoreline management and water quality, learning that what happens on land has a profound impact on what happens in the water. (On the recent field trip to Lake Winnibigoshish, students were amazed to see zebra mussels stacked on the lake bottom through crystal-clear water caused by the invasive zebra mussels filtering tiny organisms in the lake.)
Pretty soon kids in fishing class are learning fairly complex biology and life sciences. But they also learn about fishing — where to go to catch fish, angling tactics, how to read contour maps, fishing regulations like length limits and how to release fish without hurting them. And they learn about the history and evolution of fishing in Minnesota.
“You can’t just say go jig for walleyes and expect them to understand,’’ Adam noted. “You have to teach them what a jig is. How to jig. When to jig; what time of year. Where to jig, where that walleye is going to be … what it feels like when they bite.”
They even learn how to fillet and cook the fish they catch.
The goal, Adam says in a theme he used to get the class approved, is to create student anglers that are “stewards of Minnesota’s waters” by teaching them the “art and science of angling.”
Graduates of the class, Adam hopes, will have the basic skills needed to be lifelong anglers, to be successful on the water (who wants to keep doing something you aren’t successful at?) and to be aware of real conservation issues.
Some students have been begging for an advanced angling class, a hunting class and trapping classes, too.
“You never know. It could blossom into that,” Adam said. “It would be great if we could have fishing taught in every high school in Minnesota. That would be by goal.”
To donate time, money, or resources to Spartan Angling contact Luke Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-969-5517.
Nashwauk-Keewatin math teacher Luke Adam (third from left) helps senior Alex ‘Bubba’ Milstead spool a reel in Spartan Angling fishing class Tuesday, March 3, as Alex Keranen (left) and Logan Wright (right) put the finishing touches on their project about smallmouth bass. (Tyler Schank / email@example.com)
Fishing for students
Teachers and youth group leaders looking to connect kids to fishing don’t need to start from scratch or offer a semester-long class. There are several programs available to help teachers and group leaders teach fishing:
The National Fishing in Schools Program is a nationwide in-school program that teaches the positive lifetime activity of fishing to students in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. NFSP educates students about fish, insects, aquatic environment, resource stewardship and conservation using fishing, and learning the skill of casting, as the instructional tool. Go to fishinginschools.org.
Minnesota Trout in the Classroom is an educational arm of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. The group received grant funding from the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund for our project “Connecting Students with Water Stewardship through Hands-on Learning.”
Teachers use trout as a platform to implement educational opportunities for students to learn about watersheds, water quality, fish biology, and wetland ecology in hands-on lessons and field days. The program provides aquariums for teachers so classes can raise trout from eggs to fingerlings, which the students release into a designated trout stream or pond in the spring.
The program has 44 tanks in schools and nature centers across Minnesota — from Northome in the far reaches of northern Minnesota to Winona and Rochester in the south. The program is intended for grades 4-12, includes field trips and visits from Trout Unlimited members to run activities on topics such as fish life cycles, adaptations, watershed ecology, careers in natural resources, and even fly tying! Go to mntu.org/trout-in-the-classroom/
MinnAqua is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ effort to get fishing into schools and youth groups. The program can help teachers and leaders develop or improve education programs that promote fishing recreation and aquatic conservation.
The MinnAqua leader’s guide has 39 detailed, illustrated lessons and activities to help you introduce kids to fishing and address academic standards with relevant, interdisciplinary and fun ways to learn! You can also download full curriculum or lessons. Go to www.dnr.state.mn.us/minnaqua/ or contact Jeff Ledermann at Jeff.Ledermann@state.mn.us.
1Nashwauk-Keewatin students, from left to right, Rick Webster, Brade DePaulis and Jon Olson, hold a monster 59-inch sturgeon caught on the Rainy River last spring during a field trip of the Spartan Angling class they took for credit in school. The fish was released. Contributed photo.
Here is a news clip of Spartan Angling on Jay Gould Lake.
Chelsie Brown interviewed anglers about the program! Very cool!
Anderson: Class project isn’t only landing a whopper; it’s landing outdoors stewards
MAY 30, 2019 — 2:55PM
Rick Webster, Braden DePaulis, and Jon Olson, left to right, of the Spartan Angling class with a sturgeon on a class trip.T
Maybe Luke Adam has the answer to America’s growing nature deficit disorder.
Adam, a math teacher in northeast Minnesota, is the brains behind a new fishing class at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School that is hooking kids in ways even they didn’t think they would be hooked.
Called Spartan Angling — after the school’s sports-team name — the class next week will conclude its debut semester. Establishment of the course followed Adam’s successful funding request a year ago to the Department of Natural Resources.
“Our school board, principal and superintendent have all been very supportive,” Adam said. “They understand that, historically, fishing has been an important part of northern Minnesota culture that has been passed from generation to generation, and that it’s a great activity for everyone.”
But even in northern Minnesota, some youth are missing out on the outdoors traditions their forebears enjoyed. Some kids can’t afford to fish, Adam said, or otherwise don’t have an opportunity. Others are being raised by single parents who don’t know how to fish or are too busy to go.
Whatever the case, an important link that connects the past, the present and the future has weakened, Adam said, or is missing altogether.
“Our district has a 50-percent free or reduced lunch population and a 30-percent special education population,” Adam said. “By the same token, our district is full of great kids who are passionate about the outdoors, but sometimes don’t have the knowledge, means or equipment to participate.”
Adam’s fishing-class idea was sparked when he saw a DNR publication noting the agency had grant money for programs designed to recruit, retain and/or reactivate hunters and anglers.
Growing up in Keewatin, Adam was bitten early by the fishing bug. His grandfather had him on the water often and also took him to Canada on a fly-in trip.
“That was a walleye trip, and when you’re exposed at a young age to Canadian fishing, it hooks you for life,” he said.
When Adam learned the DNR had funds to lure Minnesotans into traditional outdoor activities, he summoned his twin passions — teaching and fishing — to write a $20,000 grant request to underwrite a fishing class (see spartanangling.com) at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School.
“My personal passion,” Adam wrote in the application, “is to equip high school students with the knowledge, experiences, awareness and conservation mentality to foster lifelong skills to enjoy angling for many years.”
Meeting five days a week, the credit-earning class is open to students in grades 9-12. Thirteen kids were enrolled in the semester just ending. Two are of American Indian descent and one is a girl.
“The class seems to attract kids who are looking to identify with an activity,” Adam said. “Many aren’t involved in typical school sports. And some know nothing about fishing. I had one student who didn’t know what an ice auger was.”
Twenty-nine students have signed up for Adam’s angling class for next year, an impressive number, considering a typical Nashwauk-Keewatin High School graduating class numbers total between 40 and 50 students.
“Some students who enrolled this semester thought we would go fishing all the time,” Adam said, chuckling. “But the class is more than that.”
A lot more, as it turns out.
Adam’s goal is to teach children that “a whole gamut of knowledge” comes with fishing. What must anglers consider before they fish? While they fish? After they fish?
As importantly, what makes one lake healthy and able to sustain good fish populations and another lake unhealthy, with no fish?
To teach the class, Adam had to relinquish the hour of preparation time he and other teachers are allowed daily. But that was an easy sacrifice to make, he said.
“This isn’t just a one-day shot at fishing” Adam wrote in his grant application, “but instead the goal is to build a foundation of knowledge, skills, and conservation awareness that creates success on the water and a respect for the environment.”
In class, students learn to identify various fish species, their habitat needs and how to catch them. Fish and water conservation are stressed, as is identification of various invasive species and the threats they pose to fish and the broader environment.
Adam has recruited individual anglers and fishing clubs to share knowledge with the fishing class, and a portion of the grant money was used to buy rods, reels and other gear that students can borrow.
“The class does go fishing,” Adam said. “Our big trip this last semester was to the Rainy River for sturgeon. Our principal, Ranae Seykora, went along, too. And the kids caught a big one — a 5-footer!”
Driven to see his fishing class become a staple in Nashwauk-Keewatin High School and in other schools, Adam is seeking new funding. The DNR money runs out after the fall semester, and he can’t reapply for the same grant.
“I’m not the kind of guy to let something like this die,” he said. “I know I’m doing a great thing for kids in my district, and I also know my students will walk out of Spartan Angling with a new respect for our natural resources, and that will help the cycle of outdoors participation in our area continue.”
Outdoors columnist and editor Dennis Anderson joined the Star Tribune in 1993 after serving in the same positions at the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 13 years. His column topics vary widely, and include canoeing, fishing, hunting, adventure travel and conservation of the firstname.lastname@example.org
When Luke Adam asked his Spartan Angling class at Nashwauk High School the first day of class one fish they wanted to catch–that fish was the Lake Sturgeon. The chance to catch a four to five foot fish was enough to lure the kids to the infamous Rainy River. These students unanimously voted to target this species as the “big” trip for the class. A date fishing date was set, and all the class had to do wait for the day!
Spartan Angling was founded at Nashwauk High School in January of 2019 from a DNR grant aimed to recruit and retain anglers. Math teacher Luke Adam, an avid fisherman, wanted to bring angling knowledge, experiences, and provide opportunities for kids to become lifelong anglers. The Spartan Angling experience exposes them to Minnesota fish species, locations and seasonal patterns, tactics, slot limits, over harvest, invasive species, shoreline management, and several other topics. The class is way different than emerging fishing teams, because the kids learn a lot more about the art and science of angling.
Eleven students from the Spartan Angling class, Luke, and the principal Ranae Seykora made the trip May 9th to Baudette Minnesota. 11 inches of snow fell the night before in Duluth, but luckily the eager anglers were driving up in rain instead. As we went through Bigfork, the skies began to part and slivers of sunshine began streaking through the ski. Miles of no cell phone service had kids working on homework and talking face to face! It was a welcomed change to the youth anglers. The instructor, Luke Adam had formed a fishing partnership with Border View Lodge and the kids were loaded into two charter boats and Luke’s Alumacraft Tournament Pro. Border View Lodge values youth angling and gave Luke a deep discount on the trip with the students. The students created a thank you poster in partnership with the NK Shop Class and hand wrote letters of appreciation to the resort.
The boats anchored in the last few miles of the Rainy River near the the resort. Several sturgeon were spotted surfacing in the morning by guides and students were dressed in ice fishing gear to battle the elements. It didn’t take too long for Braden DePaulis to tie into a prehistoric beast that was making her journey to spawn in a portion of the river or tributary. Screams and arms waving with excitement echoed from the charter boat as other boats kept hearing, “We’re hooked up!” DePaulis decided to share the fish of a lifetime with other anglers in boat. Jon Olson, Rick Webster, and James Newman all got to tussle with the white bellied monster for several minutes, as principal Seykora captured smiles on camera. As the whiskers broke the surface the excitement peaked with sheer screams and sound carrying for miles. The anglers had won–a nearly FIVE FOOT lake sturgeon was grunted and wrestled into the boat by the guide and adrenaline rushed anglers. It was like the red carpet was rolled out for the crew as camera flashes and “slime high fives” slapped the air with excitement. The David v.s. Goliath was won and the migrating mother of thousands of eggs was gently released into the murky waters of the river to restart her journey.
Other anglers did manage to catch a few smaller sturgeon, suckers, and eelpout. The fish were all released and memories were made by all. Students now know the tactics, locations, and habitat to look for as their enter their driving stages of life and can trailer their 12-14 foot boats to the river. They now are able to identify the scutes on the fish, baits used, and what to look for on the rod as they wait for a bite. They know why the sturgeon has large pectoral fins and a tail designed to travel long distances to forage and spawn. They are successful graduates of Sturgeon University. They can now feel the excitement of not being able to sleep and create memories for themselves, friends, and future families. They are the future of fishing and experiences like this start the fishing traditions that are being lost in today’s society. I am proud of my anglers and they were incredibly appreciative of their experience today. My grandfather, Dave Heritage, who passed the priceless gift of teaching me fishing, would be so proud today.
Spartan Angling is in need sustainable funds to continue this class. We are looking for sponsors and business to help financially sustain trips like this for kids. We are also looking for avid anglers to share knowledge and speak to kids. If you are interested in donating time, money or resources, please e-mail Luke: email@example.com to help continue this opportunity to youth at Nashwauk-Keewatin High School and provide these memories for years to come.