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Competitive fishing at the high school level would get a $200,000 boost from the state if enough legislators get behind a Senate bill designed to address infrastructure needs.

The sport is growing fast but constrained by a shortage of boat captains and boat ramps large enough to accommodate tournaments. State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is backing an initial $200,000 grant program proposed by Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids.

“Just to get more kids into the realm of wanting to go fishing,” said Ingebrigtsen, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee.

Lakeville fishing team coach Dave Schueck said the funds could help widen bottlenecks that could limit participation. In two years, there could be 3,000 high schoolers active in competition, yet there’s already a limited supply of lakes with the launch capacity to handle major tournaments.

“Our boat ramps are fairly confined in comparison to the southern half of the United States,” he said.

High school fishing also would benefit from a registry of boat owners — vetted by background checks — willing to volunteer as boat captains, Schueck said.

“I don’t know how it would be handled … but lots of parents don’t have boats and we need volunteers,” Schueck said.

Tony Kennedy