Cops team up with kids to get them 'hooked' on fishing

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WZAW) -- The annual Cops-N-Bobbers event happens Saturday, June 1. For the past 11 years, it allows kids, ages 4-13, the opportunity to bond with local law enforcement officers over a shared love of fishing.

Portage County Deputy Eric Koepsell and Plover Police Officer Seth Pionke started the event in 2008. The program gets kids 'hooked' on fishing, instead of drugs or crime.

"This is an opportunity to get kids and officers out fishing together, a positive interaction between each other," Koepsell said.

He joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 on Wednesday to talk about the upcoming event, along with Officer Jordan Nissan of the Stevens Point Police Department and Leonard Preston, from the Stevens Point Elks Lodge 641, a long-time sponsor of the event.

This will be Officer Preston's first year joining the event.

"Fishing is always something I liked doing and it's nice to do it as a cop and create that relationship with kids and family and us as cops, show them we're more than just officers, we're people too," Nissan said.

Preston explained that funding comes from the Elks National Foundation and it's passed along to the Portage County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

About two dozen volunteers from the Elks Lodge prepare the food, serve it and clean up the shelter after the event is over.

"We like to get involved with this because one of our mottos is 'Elks care and Elks share'," Preston said.

The event coincides with the free fishing weekend, so kids and their parents don't have to worry about having a fishing license. Koepsell said everything at the event is free for the kids. Fishing supplies are provided and the kids will also receive a t-shirt.

You're asked to register for the event by May 20. To do so, call 715-346-1425 or by emailing koepselle@co.portage.wi.us. When you call, you'll be forwarded to Deputy Koepsell's vocemail and asked to leave your name, contact information, number of attendees, if equipment is needed and shirt sizes for children.

You're also asked to arrive to the event at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point by 8:30 a.m. the morning of June 1. The event itself starts at 9 a.m. and goes to 11 a.m. with lunch and prizes to follow.

For more information,visit the Facebook page "Portage County Cops-N-Bobbers.