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posted: 6/4/2014 4:05 PM

Free fishing derbies in the Fox Valley

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  • Michael Garand, 9, of Elgin, sits patiently while waiting for a fish at a previous Fish for Fun derby in Elgin.

      Michael Garand, 9, of Elgin, sits patiently while waiting for a fish at a previous Fish for Fun derby in Elgin.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Caleb Williams, 5, of Elgin, caught a 7-ounce, 10-inch smallmouth bass at a previous Fish for Fun event in Elgin. Caleb was with his father, Justin Williams.

      Caleb Williams, 5, of Elgin, caught a 7-ounce, 10-inch smallmouth bass at a previous Fish for Fun event in Elgin. Caleb was with his father, Justin Williams.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Tuna Kahuna, a free fishing contest in South Elgin for kids 15 and younger, always brings out plenty of families.

       Tuna Kahuna, a free fishing contest in South Elgin for kids 15 and younger, always brings out plenty of families.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Ashley Petschow, 14, of South Elgin brings her 17-inch, 2-pound largemouth bass to the judging table during the 17th annual Tuna Kahuna fishing contest in South Elgin.

       Ashley Petschow, 14, of South Elgin brings her 17-inch, 2-pound largemouth bass to the judging table during the 17th annual Tuna Kahuna fishing contest in South Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2012

 
By Lauren Rohr
lrohr@dailyherald.com

Children and families who love to fish, or want to learn the basics of fishing, can explore the sport in upcoming fishing derbies.

Three community fishing derbies taking place throughout the next two weekends -- Elgin's Fish for Fun, McHenry County Conservation District's Hooked on Fishing and South Elgin's Tuna Kahuna -- will give families a chance to enjoy their time outside together and fish for free, event coordinators said.

"Let's get outside, lets have some fun, let's talk to each other, let's get engaged in nature," said Shane Hamilton, parks supervisor for South Elgin Parks and Recreation and Tuna Kahuna event coordinator.

The first two events will take place this weekend, as organizers take advantage of this year's Free Fishing Days. From June 6-9, residents can fish in Illinois without purchasing fishing licenses, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"That allows people to sample the activity," said Wendy Kummerer, communications manager for the McHenry County Conservation District. "It's a good way to promote the sport and the love of fishing without expense."

The annual McHenry County Conservation District Hooked on Fishing family event will be from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 7, at Rush Creek Conservation Area in Harvard, and again from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, June 8, at The Hollows Conservation Area in Cary. Families should preregister, since fishing poles are limited. However, Kummerer said, nobody will be turned away the day of the event.

Members of Crystal Lake Anglers, a club that is co-sponsoring the event, will be at the event to help families throughout the derby, Kummerer said.

Participants with the biggest, smallest and most fish caught will win prizes, which are geared toward a younger audience, Kummerer said, but family members of all ages are encouraged to participate.

"It's a good family outing across generations," she said.

Also at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, is the annual Fish for Fun event, where children can fish at Hawthorne Hill Nature Center in Elgin, Illinois.

Bill Jones, board member of the Izaak Walton League, a co-sponsor of the event, said prizes will be awarded in five different categories. Additional prizes will be given away through drawings during the event.

Jones said family members can assist children, but he added, "the children have to land the fish."

Though participants are encouraged to bring their own fishing equipment, some poles will be available for those who do not have equipment, Jones said. Corn will be available to use as bait. Volunteers from the community, including a Boy Scout troop, will help participants on site.

"The older Scouts will help some of the younger children take fish off hooks and measure and weigh them," Jones said.

The following weekend, the village of South Elgin's Parks and Recreation Department is holding its 19th annual Tuna Kahuna Free Fishing Contest. From 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, June 14, children ages 15 and younger can fish for free at Blackhawk Park in South Elgin. On-site registration begins at 8 a.m.

Prizes will be awarded to the participants who catch the biggest fish in five categories: bass, carp, bluegill, catfish and other. Hamilton said each winner will receive a rod and reel, a minnow bucket, a minnow net, a boat net, fishing line and a trophy.

As with the other two derbies, no fishing license is required for Tuna Kahuna participants. According to the DNR's fishing guidelines, children younger than 16 don't need to purchase a license to fish.

Hamilton said participants need to bring their own fishing equipment and bait, although SS Minnows Bait shop, located on Route 31 in South Elgin, will be on site selling bait as well. Volunteers will assist families who don't have much experience in fishing or who ask for tips, he added.

"These gentlemen have done this for years, and they know what they're doing," Hamilton said. "They'll tell you how to catch a fish (and) where to catch a fish."

Hamilton and Jones agreed that the best part of family fishing derbies is watching a child catch a fish for the first time, no matter what size it is.

"Some of these kids have never ever fished or never ever caught a fish before," Jones said. "They get so excited, it's unbelievable."

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