For 24 years, getting families together outdoors on Father's Day weekend has been the basis of the Wheaton Park District's Fish-O-Rama fishing competition.
And like most fishing competitions, some come mainly for the fishing, and others for the competition.
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"With my daughter, it's actually all about the competition," Steve Zumbrock of Wheaton says with a laugh.
His daughter, 11-year-old Amanda, arrived Saturday morning as the defending champion in the biggest fish category of the competition. Last year she landed a 24½-inch catfish as her first catch of the day, albeit about three-quarters of the way through the competition.
And Saturday, she led her parents Steve and Mary back to her lucky dock at the pond at Northside Park. This time it took her only an hour to catch a 14½-inch catfish.
She knew from prior experience, though, that patience can pay off.
"That's why they call it 'fishing' and not 'catching,'" her father joked.
The first hour's luckiest participant, though, was 12-year-old Meghan Aragon of Wheaton, who was in both first and second place with a 24-inch and a 24¼-inch catfish.
But in the second hour, 11-year-old Micah O'Neal of Forest Park caught a 26½-inch catfish as his second fish of the day and ended up winning the biggest fish category. He and his family accompanied the family of their former neighbor, Nic Novak, the Wheaton Park District's superintendent of trades.
The most fish caught by anyone during the morning event was 16. Only children 15 and younger were eligible for either category of the competition.
Saturday marked the 24th year of Fish-O-Rama, which began at Elliot Lake, said Terra Johnson, the park district's Lincoln Marsh program manager. But after Northside Park went through a major renovation, officials realized it was a bigger and better venue for the event.
"I've been involved for 10 years, and I'm seeing families I've seen all along," Johnson said.
She recognizes children she sees only once a year and is surprised by how much they've grown in that time.
More than 170 contestants registered this year, which is pretty close to the average annual turnout of about 200, Johnson said.
The lake is stocked with additional fish, especially catfish, for the event. Though Fish-O-Rama has a catch-and-release policy, fish caught on other days of the year can be kept, Johnson said.