NEW BETHLEHEM – What happens when you mix together a bright May morning, several young anglers with a collection of fishing gear and members of area law enforcement? You get the perfect recipe for New Bethlehem Police Department’s first annual “Cops and Bobbers” Fishing Derby.
On Saturday, May 11, area children of all ages are invited to New Bethlehem’s Gumtown Park to drop a line in the Red Bank Creek with members of the New Bethlehem Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies for a fun-filled day of free fishing, food and prizes.
“We hope this event will help kids see us as something other than cops writing citations or arresting people,” New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky Jr. said Tuesday of why he decided to organize a community-wide fishing derby in New Bethlehem. “We want to show them that we are just like them, but at the same time are tasked with enforcing the law.”
According to Malnofsky, “Cops and Bobbers” is a trademarked program offered by the Cops and Kids Foundation of Wisconsin, a non-profit organization which strives to promote collaborative partnerships between law enforcement officials and the community they serve.
“I had done other programs at my previous department and thought it would be a good idea to try something similar here,” Malnofsky said, noting that a fishing derby seemed like the perfect event given New Bethlehem’s proximity to Red Bank Creek.
“I grew up outside,” he continued, explaining that he believes children in today’s technology-centered society are losing the sense of adventure that once existed. “There’s a wealth of opportunity here for all kinds of outdoor activities. I want to show kids that there is a whole world outside their door.”
As part of the “Cops and Bobbers” fishing derby, Malnofsky said officers from the New Bethlehem Police Department as well as officials from several other area law enforcement agencies — including the state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission, Clarion County Sheriff’s Department, Clarion State Police and Jefferson County Probation, which will have its police dog for a meet and greet — will be on hand all day to help young anglers bait, cast, hook and release fish beginning at 9 a.m. on May 11.
“We opened it up to all branches of law enforcement in our area,” he said, noting that invitations were also sent to the Manor Township Police Department, Brookville and Clarion borough police departments, and the Jefferson County Army National Guard as well as the local magistrate and the Clarion County District Attorney’s Office.
Fishing derby participants will be divided into age groups, and several prizes will be awarded to children in each group up to age 17. Children will need their own fishing poles, bait and tackle (although a few loaner poles and bait may be available), and children over 15 years old must have a fishing license. Event organizers will stock the creek with fish just prior to the start of the fishing derby.
A hotdog lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. Boy Scout Troop 403 will also be selling snacks as a fundraiser.
Malnofsky said fishing derby participants must pre-register before April 30 and be accompanied by an adult. Registration forms are available at the New Bethlehem Police Department, Sport Shack in East Brady and online at www.newbethlehemboro.com/police.
“There’s no ending time set [for the derby],” Malnofsky noted.
Although plans for the fishing derby are coming together, Malnofsky said the police department is in need of monetary donations to buy fish to stock the creek and food for the event.
“Fish are expensive,” Malnofsky said, explaining that good-sized trout cost at least $4.50 a piece. “I want to be able to get nice-sized fish to make the derby memorable for the kids.”
In addition, Malnofsky said that fishing equipment donations for prizes are also being accepted.
Cash donations can be dropped off at A-Plus Mini Mart in New Bethlehem; Northwest Savings Bank in New Bethlehem and Rimersburg; the New Bethlehem Presbyterian Church (P.O. Box 214, New Bethlehem, PA 16242); Sport Shack in East Brady; and the New Bethlehem Police Department.
Rods and reels for prizes can be dropped off at the New Bethlehem Police Department or J&K Service Center in East Brady.
“We need the public’s support,” Malnofsky said, noting that he hopes to build on the fishing derby in the future and even offer different events throughout the year. “I hope to implement a lot of programs, but we need help from the community.”
In fact, Malnofsky said he hopes the fishing derby and other events will help strengthen the relationship between the local police department and the communities it serves.
“We need the public in order to be a good police department,” he said, explaining that local police rely on the eyes and ears of residents to help report incidents. “If we don’t get support we won’t be a good police department. We’re only as good as our community.”