By Brandi Makuski
After skipping last summer due to COVID-19, the annual Cops-n-Bobbers event on Saturday saw a record turnout.
Despite temps topping out at 95 degrees, the program returned on June 5 for its 12th annual event to get kids “hooked” on fishing—and have positive interaction with local law enforcement. Last year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program was launched in 2008 by Plover Police Officer Seth Pionke and Portage County Deputy Eric Koepsell. The fishing event provides children ages 3-15 and their parents a chance to enjoy a free day of catch-and-release fishing with local law enforcement.
The event is always held during the Free Fishing Weekend sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources, so no fishing license is required.
“I remember our first year, we had this little tent, and we were set up over there,” Pionke recalled on Saturday, pointing to the southwest side of the lagoon at Bukolt along the Wisconsin River. “It was cold and raining, and I think we had 15 kids.”
Koepsell said 176 kids were registered for this year’s event, exceeding a previous record of 135.
“It’s such a nice turnout, so great to see this many kids come out,” he said.
Kids were awarded prizes for the fish they caught, and many others left with door prizes donated by local businesses.
The program is made possible thanks in part to a $2,000 grant from the Stevens Point Elks Lodge No. 641. The Lodge also assists with serving lunch.
Officers from the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office, Plover Police Dept., Stevens Point Police Dept., UW-Stevens Point Police Dept., Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, and other local law enforcement agencies were on hand to help kids with their equipment and reel in fish.