Ice fishing derby a chance to reel in prizes and dinner – Chicago Tribune
Leonard Dane enjoys seeing three generations of dangling poles out on the Chain O’ Lakes each February when the Northern Illinois Conservation Club holds its annual ice fishing derby and winter festival in Antioch.
Grandfather, fathers and grandsons come out to fish, said Dane, the club’s president. “It brings families together and provides fun.”
The derby, in its 57th year, is the group’s major fundraiser. When it’s thick enough, people can fish on the ice. If not, they can fish from the shoreline.
It’s a fun, simple concept. Fishermen purchase a raffle ticket for $3 every time they catch a fish and want it entered in the derby. Small prizes are given out every hour in 10 categories of fish for the largest and the smallest.
In addition there’s a cash prize at the end of the derby for the largest fish and smallest fish caught, and a silent auction on Sunday afternoon, which Dane said often attracts a crowd.
Fishermen can catch and release or keep their fish to prepare and eat, he said. They should bring bait, poles and their Illinois fishing license.
Fish that can be caught in the Chain O’ Lakes include bass, sunfish, sheepshead, catfish, crappie, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, walleye and striped bass. The Chain is owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which keeps check on the fish population, he said.
The largest fish caught in the derby’s history was a flathead catfish over 3 feet long, Dane said. “That’s a pretty good-sized fish.”
For smallest fish, a 3-inch bluegill has taken the prize.
Dane’s favorite fish to catch on the Chain is the walleye, which is good eating, he said. “Blue gills are delicious as well.”
The two-day event brings in several hundred people annually – and children’s games including egg tosses and gunny sack races are run periodically, Dane said.
The silent auction at 3 p.m. Sunday will feature gift certificates to local restaurants among a host of other items. Some people come just for the auction and not to fish, Dane said.
Funds raised go toward the conservation club, which owns 62.5 acres of woods and wetlands open for fishing and hiking and nature observing to members. No hunting is allowed.
The club also holds educational programs including an annual youth event open to the public in summer. “We also open the grounds to scouts and youth groups,” Dane said. Programs have included leaving a natural area as you found it and archery safety.
“We work to teach and encourage people in our area about the beauty and tranquility of nature,” Dane said.
Sheryl DeVore is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.
Chain O’ Lakes Fishing Derby and Winter Festival
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Feb. 11; 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Feb. 12
Where: Thirsty Beach, 42273 N. Woodbine Ave., Antioch
Tickets: $3 per fish entry