It wasn’t long after the pontoon anchored at St. Albans Bay in Lake Minnetonka on Tuesday morning that a child on board shouted in excitement.
“I got one! I got one! I got a sunny!” the boy said, a sunfish dangling from his fishing line.
After he posed for a photo with his prizewinner, a volunteer from the Hopkins Police Department removed the hook with a pair of pliers. The sunfish wiggled out of his hands and splashed back into the water.
Hopkins police were taking the young angler and about 20 others out on the lake for a day of fishing. The annual outing is a way for children who performed well in their classes to interact with the great outdoors.
“It gets kids out and … introduces them to a good pastime,” said Jessica Thomas, school resource officer for Hopkins schools and a volunteer on Tuesday’s trip. “It’s great to see their excitement when they catch a fish, too,” she said.
Hopkins Police Chief Brent Johnson said his father Earl, a former chief, started the fishing outing in the early 1980s.
“The cops brought numerous children from the community who were kind of underprivileged kids,” Johnson said. “Good kids, but they didn’t have the means or the opportunity to go out fishing.”
When Johnson made sergeant in 2009, he brought the program back through a grant from the state Department of Natural Resources. The event sustains itself through donations from Cabela’s, Maynard’s, Cities Live Bait and others.
“It’s not only beneficial for the children … but also very beneficial for the officers to interact with the youth in our community,” he said.
The yellow school bus pulled into the Bay to Bay Boat Club in Excelsior about 9 a.m. Volunteers greeted the kids and fitted each one with a life jacket.
The kids made their way across the still lake on three pontoons, a gentle breeze and overcast skies working in their favor. At St. Albans Bay, volunteers gave each child a fishing rod, which they got to keep.
It was only the first or second time fishing for many of the children. After a quick lesson, they cast their lines into the water.
Luck struck soon for 9-year-old Gibon Osoro, who reeled in his sunfish from the back of the pontoon. A young girl did the same minutes later.
“I was expecting that fish to come over to [my line],” 10-year-old Olivia Whitaker said, slightly frustrated. “Nothing biting yet.”
Sebe Gilmore, 8, who just finished second grade at XinXing Academy, hadn’t caught anything for most of the morning. What did he like most about fishing? “It just takes patience,” Sebe said as he kept his eyes on the bobber.
He felt a pull from his rod a few minutes later. He reeled in his line, only to pull up his worm.
“I definitely did get a bite!” he told the volunteer behind him.
But patience paid off. Sebe caught his own sunfish just before lunchtime.