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Minnesota residents can fish in state parks without a license

At many state parks all around Minnesota, regulations have been lessened to allow people to experience fishing without all the paperwork they would typically need. It is now legal for people to fish in certain areas without purchasing a fishing license.

"For some time now, with a few exceptions and limitations, fishing in state parks can be done by Minnesota residents without a license. It's not a free-for-all, though," said Kurt Mead, an interpretive naturalist at Tettegouche State Park. "There are some exceptions and any designated trout waters in a state park require the full fishing license and trout stamp. Also, all other fishing laws and fish limits apply. People should check with the individual park before doing this, just to make sure."

The parks are also loaning out free fishing kits that include a rod, a reel, and a fully stocked tackle box to allow people to try fishing before investing in all their own gear.

"The fishing kits are available in limited numbers, first-come, first-served, for scheduled 'I Can Fish' programs at state parks," Mead said. "If people sign up early enough for the program, they'll get a kit. Others can join the event, but won't get the freebies."

The "I Can Fish" program teaches newcomers to the sport how to tie a proper fishing knot, how to cast their line, and how to identify the fish that they may catch. The lessons are offered to anyone 5 years of age and older, though anyone under the age of 18 needs to be with a legal guardian. The lessons come from experienced anglers and are geared towards first-time or beginning fishers. They last roughly two hours and are taught in small groups with all gear provided.

The instructor will demonstrate techniques and then give students time to practice the things they need to know before they are ready to go out fishing on their own. Participants will receive a tackle box to take home with them. The lessons began June 3 and will continue throughout the summer until Aug. 27. Slots can be reserved online, but tend to fill quickly. The program is funded by an organization called MinnAqua that strives to teach people how to fish properly and how to care for aquatic habitats. They work to conserve marine wildlife and make sure that fishers know what to do to prevent invasive species from infesting our waters. The idea behind their initiative is quite simple; give more people a way to fish.

For more information on the program or to sign up for a I Can Fish event, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/ican/fish.html. The next event at Tettegouche State Park is Aug. 12 from 1-3 p.m.

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