Baseball has been called a game of inches. The same could apply to the annual Chain O' Lakes Ice Fishin' Derby and Winter Festival.
On Sunday, the concluding day of this year's 53rd annual derby, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Conservation Club and held on Channel Lake, by the Thirsty Turtle Beach Bar & Grill in Antioch, the fishermen slowly trickled into the heated judging tent, where each catch was measured under the watchful eye of Cary resident Mike Venet, who has been involved with the event for more than 20 years.
"There is nothing too serious about it," Venet said. "Just a good time for everybody to get out."
Despite the rain and 40-degree temperatures, the ice was still thick enough for ice fishing. And plenty of fish were caught. The talk of this year's derby was the 40-inch catfish brought in by a team consisting of three generations of Herringtons -- grandfather Dan, father Steve, and his 11-year-old son Dylan, all of Ingleside.
Dan Herrington, 61, has been fishing in the derby since 1986.
"We had it good out there," he said Sunday.
However, Steve said he and Dylan had to scramble to get ready.
"The morning started out pretty crazy," he said. "I worked yesterday. I fell asleep at five o'clock in the afternoon. I slept all the way until four in the morning. At four in the morning, I get up, and junior here (Dylan) is still playing his video game. He was up all night. I looked up at him and said, 'What are you doing? Don't you know the derby is today?'"
For an hour and a half, the two worked at digging all their equipment out of the garage before they picked up grandpa.
The group went to one bait store, which turned out to be closed, before it found another that was open to buy some minnows.
By the time they made it out to the fishing hole, there was some suspense about the weather, because of the amount of snow covering the ice.
"We were worried about just crashing through. If you had a spot with snow on it and not a lot of ice, you could go right through," he said.
The 40-inch catfish they caught was the biggest one the family has caught so far.
Laura Golonka, the conservation club's president, said a couple hundred fisherman placed their tents on the icy surface of the water. Some came from as far away as Canada and Germany.
"One of the main reasons we do this is to bring families together," Golonka said. "This is a family event."
Proceeds from this year's event goes toward scholarships for those studying aspects of environmental science. In the past, scholarships to students studying to be forest rangers and biologists.
There are 10 categories of fish, with more than $5,000 in cash and prizes, with prizes awarded hourly for large and small fish.
Inside the tent, there was plenty to entertain the fishermen after they were done, including cheeseburgers and chili and items up for auction, including a duck decoy and a charcoal grill.
Last year, Golonka said the fishermen had to fish off shore, since there was no ice.
"We run this event, no matter what the weather is," she said. "Nothing stops us."