By Brandi Makuski
The 11th annual Cops-N-Bobbers fishing event drew local youth and their families to Bukolt Park on Saturday, with more than 100 kids eager to catch a fish—maybe even a prizewinner.
Aiden Raykowski sure was. The 13-year-old was looking forward to catching the biggest fish, along with his sister Kneila, 9.
Instead, they caught a snapping turtle. Or rather, their grandmother, Kathy, did.
“I was watching the other pole, when my grandmother yelled, ‘You better get over here, you’ve got something!'” Aiden Raykowski recounted.
Kathy Raykowski said she reeled in the beast from the park’s north side lagoon but wanted the kids to get the credit. The family managed to place the turtle inside a five-gallon bucket, and Aiden Raykowski hauled it to the weigh station on the other side of the park, with his sister in tow.
“Yep, that’s a snapper alright,” said John Charewicz, former Portage Co. Sheriff who was manning the weigh station, peering over the bucket.
The annual Cops-N-Bobbers event is sponsored in part by the sheriff’s office, along with Stevens Point and Plover police departments, Stevens Point Elks Lodge 641, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The event joins local youth and their families with area law enforcement for a day fishing, food, and prizes, during the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Free Fishing Weekend each June.
“Well, it won’t count [in the fishing contest], but we can still weigh it,” Charewicz said.
The Raykowski turtle came in at 21 pounds. A DNR ranger at the event measured the turtle’s shell at 15 inches, adding had it been turtle season (July-November), the turtle would have been of legal size to harvest.
According to the DNR’s website, the snapping turtle is Wisconsin’s largest and heaviest turtle, can weigh up to 50 pounds, and measure up to 16 inches long.
Aiden Raykowski said while he wasn’t disappointed the turtle wasn’t eligible for the fishing contest—but he did seem disappointed he couldn’t keep the animal—he was so excited with the catch he had to show it off to police and wardens stationed across the park.
“I know kids have caught turtles out here at past events,” said Deputy Eric Koepsell, who helps organize the Cops-N-Bobbers event, “but nothing that big, at least not that I remember.”
Kathy Raykowski said the family lives near Bukolt Park, and she’s brought her grandchildren for the past five or six years.
“It’s close to home, it’s a great free fishing weekend, and the kids enjoy it,” Kathy Raykowski said. “That’s what matters to me.”
After pausing for a quick photo, the family released the turtle back into the lagoon.