Flannel Shirts: ‘There is no higher factor’ — Perham children expertise outdoor in aggressive fishing league – Perham Focus

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Editor’s Note: The following originally appeared as a free magazine insert in the October 20-22, 2022 edition of your Lakes Area newspaper.
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Although fishing is a popular summer activity in Minnesota’s Central Lake District, it’s not always an accessible hobby for those interested. To Jacket Fishing Team Head Coach Jesse Thalmann, that’s really too bad. Four years ago, he and local school districts decided to do something about it.

“[The Jacket Fishing Team]started with a couple of schools getting together and saying, ‘Hey, let’s start a fishing team,'” Thalmann explained. “And Perham was one of those schools. They sent out a memo to all the different schools in the area and there was a lot of interest. So they formed a league.”

Perham School District Superintendent Mitch Anderson approached Thalmann, who runs his own fishing guide business, and asked him to train the tam. Since then, Thalmann has been heavily involved in getting youth fishing in the Perham area.

In the first year this league was introduced, the Jacket Fishing Team had 20 kids on the roster. In the last season, 2022, it was 65.

“It grows and grows and grows,” said Thalmann.

A total of 22 schools in the region are involved with their own teams in the fishing league, which stretches from Breckenridge to Bertha-Hewitt and Alexandria. The shoals are split into about four different pods that are close enough together to compete and these pods get together about five times throughout the summer and fish in competition.

Every tournament is catch and release. Members compete both individually and in teams, and each competition is judged using a points system based on fish length.

Jesse Thalmann is the Head Coach of the Jacket Fishing Team, now in its fourth year at Perham.

Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

At the end of the season in September, all 22 of these schools send their top nine anglers to the team championship where they can all compete against each other. Although the league is only four years old, the Jacket Fishing Team at Perham has already begun to shine.

In 2021 they took first place in the team championship and in 2022 they placed second. Two of those top anglers who competed in the 2022 championships are Prairie Wind Middle School students and brothers Sullivan (Sully) and Jack Hendrickson.

“So you’re fishing about two or two and a half hours, but it only feels like 15 minutes,” Sully said. “Everything goes by so quickly. It’s just fun to compete with friends and acquaintances.”

Thalmann added, “It kind of gives them that tournament feel – the competitive side of fishing.”

Although both Sully and Jack have spent most of their lives fishing in the summer – and even dabbled in ice fishing in the winter – there is something different and nice about going out and having a little friendly competition in a team environment.

“It’s just cool to write a little bit about winning (to friends), you know?” Sully joked. It’s also cool for him to just look around and see so many other people fishing around him.

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Sullivan Hendrickson, a student at Prairie Wind Middle School, loves the competition that comes with being part of the jacket fishing team.

Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Although Jack is much less competitive than his brother, he still enjoys any competition. It’s more about having fun fishing. While the competitive nature of the Fishing League is great fun for kids like Sully, that’s not the only fun part about it. According to Thalmann, it’s more about getting the kids outside to go fishing.

That’s how this whole league started – they just wanted to get kids out in the great outdoors.

“We have 65 children on my list,” Thalmann said. “I would bet there are a dozen of them that outside of this program that we have here would never get a chance to fish or fish. So it’s a good opportunity to find kids who might not have a boat at home and take them out and compete.”

Those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to fish can now simply sign up for the team and experience what Jack and Sully love so much about it: get out, relax and just hook a big fish.

That thrill is what they love most about fishing as a hobby. For them, there’s just something about never knowing what’s going to happen when they hit the water for the day. Will they catch a big zander or will they catch nothing? That uncertainty is part of the joy.

“There’s always some fish that got away and you just go back and try to catch it,” joked Jack. “And that’s what makes you go out there sometimes — just that one fish you lost.”

Although both boys enjoy fishing, they are also just attracted to outdoor activities in general. They even have a YouTube channel, Rusche Boys, where they record all of their outdoor recreation activities from fishing to hunting.

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Jack Hendrickson, also a student at Prairie Wind Middle School, enjoys the outdoor aspect of recreation when he is on the Jacket Fishing Team.

Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

As coach of Sully and Jack, it was amazing for Thalmann to see them succeed and excel at fishing. He has never doubted their abilities as anglers as they have always loved to fish but it is still so much fun to watch them receive their awards at the end of competition nights. He knows some kids spend all day looking forward to holding up their chalkboards at the end of the night, and he loves seeing them do it every time.

He, along with Jack and Sully, would recommend joining the Jacket Fishing Team.

“I just think it’s a fun time to just get kids out there and just enjoy the outdoors and take them away from technology,” Sully said. “I think they would like it. Even if you’re not doing your best, you could still have fun. You might just catch a few fish, but it’s still fun to just get out there.”

Thalmann added, “I agree on the technology thing; get away from technology and get outside, right? Kids these days are stuck on technology so this is something to break free from leaving that at home and just enjoy the great outdoors. There’s nothing quite like being out in the great outdoors.”

The Jacket Fishing Team is open to children from grades 6 to 12. With the 2022 season of competitive fishing over, there is always room for more to join the league in the 2023 season. Sully and Jack advise the students to look for the papers that the district hands out toward the end of the school year with a list of activities to sign up for.

The newspaper includes information on an upcoming Jacket Fishing Team meeting for parents and interested children to attend and register for. Until then, you can find more information about the team on their Facebook page Perham Jacket Fishing Team.

“It’s a good program to get kids outside and (fishing) is a lifelong sport,” concluded Thalmann. “It’s something they can carry with them for life, you know?”