August 2010

 “Looking Back Through Time”

Where does one begin!  It seems like yesterday, but four decades tell a different story.  Graduating from Lane Technical High School and dabbling in college for 1½ years, I really didn’t know what my mission in life was going to be.  I was a rough and tumble kind of guy and wanted so badly to be a game warden like my childhood hero, George Phillips from Northern Wisconsin.  Then a neighborhood detective named Danker said you might think of being a cop some day and I laughed.  He said “you’re tough enough, and have good street sense,” and the rest is history.

Not to say that fishing was not one of my main interests, but I thought about it and I loved being a Chicago Policeman. I was proud, and when I had the opportunity to leave the neighborhood I grew up in, my friend Jim Riordan, Jr. talked me into transferring to Area One Task Force on the south-side. The Big Red One was just what one would think; a group of tough nosed South Side cops that worked hard every shift and welcomed a couple north-siders with open arms.  We fit in great and the action was daily. There was never a dull moment; every shift had its excitement and dangers. Every day was different and we were a family and got along great and respected each other.  One by one several cops I knew were gunned down and there were times in 1969-1971 that it was a war zone.  One had to learn and think fast depending on your partner as well as he depended on you.

I became friends with one of my fellow cops at Area One, Tom Kelly and we decided to partner up and work day shifts together.  Our friendship and admiration for one another grew and we became very good at what we did.  We had compassion for the neighborhoods we worked, never knowing what area of the south-side we were going to be assigned.  You see, the Big Red One and other area task force units were sent to the highest crime places in Chicago to help suppress and curb crime in those neighborhoods.  We were like the Special Forces unit in those days and everyday was special.

I remember the day a 4 year old boy fell from a Robert Taylor Home window and I carried him to our squad knowing he died instantly.  Residents were throwing rocks at us and the boy’s mother.  They blamed her for the boy’s death, but I still believe to this day it was the right thing to do at the time.

Tom and I received many awards for our police work together, but the fatal day of March 3rd, 1970 will burn in my heart and soul forever.  (PO Thomas Kelly was shot and killed during a traffic stop; PO Neustrom was also shot several times by the offender.)

Following the weeks and months of mending the physical and mental wounds plus being on light duty at the police academy, I was able to return back to the street.  I was re-assigned to VCD Narcotics and got to work with one of the best policeman that ever put on a badge in Chicago.  Former Superintendent Phil Cline, Dennis Muchowicz, and I became a team that worked hard and accomplished a lot in the seemingly endless war on drugs.

I had this haunting influence on my life that revolved around fishing and wanting to migrate to a place where I could share my passion for law enforcement, but also to pursue a lifestyle that would let me enjoy the lakes and rivers of Minnesota in my off time.  When the opportunity came for a deputy sheriff’s job in northern Minnesota, I jumped at it and the journey of a different life was about to begin. Before moving to Minnesota, I started to guide on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and had a talent to share with others.  After a year in Minnesota, I decided I would start a fishing guide service in my off time and realized that I now had a double career.  I was a respected deputy sheriff and a respected fishing guide all at the same time.  I was introduced to a man named Al Lindner who was building a fishing empire and he helped me to pave the way for my fishing career.

Little by little I began to also build a promotional company in fishing and between my deputy job, guiding and promotional business, I was busy 12 months of the year.  My love for fishing has taken me  many places in North America that I only dreamed of as a kid.  The Arctic, Alaska, many provinces of Canada, 20 different states in the U.S., two different oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, Costa Rica, and South America.  Recognized by one’s peers in a sport that I care about, I also have been involved in the politics of natural resources and the preservation of fishing in Minnesota.  I have volunteered and been appointed by the Commissioner of the DNR to several committees revolving around continuing to make Minnesota one of the premier destinations in the country.

After retiring in 2005 from the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office I have continued to pursue my other career in the fishing industry.  In 2009 I was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a guide and promoter of fishing.  There were only 2 guides inducted in 2009 out of the tens of thousands of professional fishing guides across the U.S.  It was an honor that was never expected and I am extremely proud of.

I am proud of my career in law enforcement and in fishing.  I love my life; continue to care about people, the fishing community in Minnesota and its future, spending time with my wife Renee, and living in a place that few have ever had a chance to visit.  I love the lakes and woods that abound my everyday world and wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

I thank all the people in my life that made a difference to build my character and focus. I will someday shake the hands of everyone in a higher place and fish the lake where the fish always bite.  Thank you.


Tom Neustrom 

We Will Never Forget