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Annual Fishing Derby reels in families

When the St. Bernard Parish Men’s Club reeled in dozens of anglers June 17 for its annual Fishing Derby, organizer hoped attendees would catch more out of it than just fish.

“They expect to have good fishing, learn the facts about fishing, [learn about] conservation, learn about sportsmanship,” said Joe Gawel, chairperson for the Fishing Derby. “[It’s] family fun. [It’s] things they can do with their dad, things that maybe their dads did when they were young and they want to carry on a tradition of fishing.”

The Fishing Derby fell one day short of Father’s Day and coincided with the State of Illinois’ Fishing Days, which are designated days where adults are not required to possess a fishing license.

Last year, the Fishing Derby reeled in more than 40 people.

“It depends on the weather,” Gawel said. “Today was [an] iffy day… Sometimes we have 25 [participants.] It just depends on the weather.”

This year, dozens of anglers geared up to go fishing.

“We’ve got a pretty good turnout,” Gawel said. “… We’ve got about half and half—newcomers and [returning anglers].”

Those participating had one hour to go fishing. Partly cloudy skies, sunshine and the stillness of the pond set the scene in front of the Homer Glen parish.

Joe Siergiej, of Homer Glen, said he was glad he and his son decided to go fishing.

“I think it was very fun and relaxing,” he said.

Joe’s 11-year-old son, Max Siergiej agreed. This year was the Siergiej’s first time competing in the Fishing Derby. The two didn’t have much practice heading into the Fishing Derby.

“[The water was] a little breezy but calm,” Joe said. “My son likes going off the pier here and there when we go on vacation, but I haven’t fished since I was a boy,” he said.

David McElligott, of Lemont, spent time fishing with his son and grandson, Dave and David.

“I think it was a great experience for my grandson, David,” he said. “It’s his [second] time fishing, and he’d gotten a new fishing pole and reel for his graduation from kindergarten, so it was a nice time for him to get out here and practice with it.”

McElligott said he hopes their outing could serve as the start of a new tradition.

“Actually, I used to fish with my father,” he said. “I haven’t fished a lot with my son and grandson.”

The Fishing Derby provided a nice way to bond with one another, McElligott said.

“We actually did not catch anything today, unfortunately,” he said. “Still, [it] was a wonderful experience, and it was really wonderful of these people here, from St. Bernard’s, to put this all together for us. I’m really happy about it, and [I] certainly want to try to support it in years to come.”

Top prizes were issued to participants who caught the biggest bass and bluegill.

“All the kids get some kind of a very nice gift for coming out; not that they need it,” Gawel said. “They should just enjoy fishing as a whole. It’s a lifetime sport they can do anytime, any place, anywhere.”

Gawel said it’s clear the Fishing Derby achieves its goal.

“We just want to make it a nice, fun-filled, family event for them,” he said.


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