Cops and Kids Fishing lands another successful summer event
By Gabby Landsverk
It was a humid morning June 13 on Lake Minnetonka, and the quiet of St. Alban’s Bay was soon broken by fishing lines whizzing through the air, and the shouts of 8-10 year-old fishermen reeling the first of dozens of fish to be caught that day.
The fishing frenzy marked another successful year in the Cops and Kids Fishing event, an annual tradition and one of the many community outreach events for the Hopkins Police Department, according to Sgt. Michael Glassberg.
A busload of children arrived at Bay to Bay Boats in Excelsior to meet some of Hopkin’s finest, including Chief Brent Johnson and School Resource Officer Jessica Thomas.
Putting life jackets on 20 energetic youngsters proved to be a daunting task, particularly when a curious neighborhood feline showed up to watch the proceedings, prompting a mad dash of children eager to make a new friend.
Climbing aboard the boats, at least one of the students showed some trepidation about being on the lake for the first time. Some of the students had never been fishing before, or even been on a boat; others had plenty of practice with family or friends.
Every year since 2008, the Hopkins department has reached out to area schools for help selecting a group of exceptional elementary-age students for the event. Glassberg said the 20 students are chosen for excellence at school, as well as good behavior, but also for the challenges they’ve overcome. Many of the students have overcome difficult circumstances; their families might struggle with socio-economic challenges or may otherwise not have the means to go out fishing on a boat.
“Oh, they’re going to catch some fish today,” Glassberg said with a laugh on the boat ride out to the bay.
He was right: once on the boats, the students quickly set to work catching every fish within reach.
“This is number 27! I caught 27 fish!” yelled one student, fifth-grader Dylan of Glen Lake Elementary.
Eager to one-up him, several others chimed in. “I caught 29 fish!” “I caught 30!”
Tall fish tales included, Hopkins department aims to bring the children that quintessential Minnesota experience, but also foster ongoing relationships that extend beyond a pleasant day on the lake.
“Three months from now, you might roll up to a park on patrol and the kids remember you,” Glassberg said. “We want them to know our police officers personally and feel comfortable with us.”
After a morning of catching sunnies, the cops and their young charges headed back to shore for lunch at Maynard’s in Excelsior, another sponsor of the event.
Sponsors like Maynard’s and Bay to Bay, as well as Driskill’s Food, Cities Live Bait, Cabela’s and other businesses, have helped sustain the event since it was revitalized nine years ago by a Department of Natural Resources grant.
The program was started much earlier, in the 1990s, by then-police-chief Earl Johnson. His son, Brent Johnson, now himself the chief of the department and an avid fisherman, relaunched the program.
After lunch, the students headed out for another round of fishing, and ended the afternoon back at the police department for ice cream.
The rain plan, according to police officers, was Tuttle’s for bowling, but fortunately, the rain held off for the duration of the event.
On St. Alban’s Bay, between the shallow water, the ample hiding spaces, and the perfect weather, the fish were out in force. Soon after casting their lines, students on all sides of the boat are pulling in schools of sunnies, ranging in size from slightly bigger than goldfish to larger than a hand.
Before long, officers of the law found themselves ducking to avoid sunnies swinging wildly from lines as the exuberant students proudly displayed their catches.
More than one Hopkins officer was hit by one of the flailing fish in the line of duty. But it was all in good fun.
Glassberg said it’s just part of the department’s ongoing mission to build relationships throughout the community, promoting trust and engagement between law enforcement and the citizens they serve.
“It’s not something you can do in a day. You have to continuously do that work,” he said.
To that end, dodging a few wayward worms swinging from a fishing line is well worth it. The fish may be caught and released, but for Glassberg, the rest of the officers and especially the students, the memories will hopefully last a lifetime.
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]