People surrounded Shiloh Lagoon in Zion early on Tuesday.
By 8 a.m., about 40 people had picked a spot on the rocks near the lagoon, with fishing gear near their feet and bobbers in the water in hopes of getting the biggest fish at Zion Park District’s annual fishing derby.
Previously, the derby had been held at a later time, 11 a.m., but park district officials thought moving it to early morning would fit better with the rest of the 4th of July festivities, including a fun fair and the fireworks show in the evening.
Near the shade of a large tree, three generations of fishermen enjoyed the sport.
Tim Gondek, of Beach Park, supervised his 3-year-old son Kolbe, while the man’s father Jim enjoyed watching his son and grandson.
Jim said he taught Tim how to fish when his son was Kolbe’s age, and Tim took to it right away and loved it.
“No matter where we’d go, he’d be down by the water,” Jim said of Tim.
The Gondeks were spending the day with relatives, Daniel Bednarczyk and his son Kyle Bednarczyk of Hanover Park.
Daniel Bednarczyl said he used to fish a lot in his native Poland. Now, he doesn’t find much time to get out and do it, but he said he still enjoys it and was grateful for Tuesday’s “sunny but not too hot” weather.
“It’s a good family event. No phones, no iPads, just the water,” he said.
All participants received free tickets to the fun fair, new bobbers and lures. Participants who caught fish received extra tickets.
For those who don’t fish and didn’t have the gear, the park district provided everything they needed to fish.
“I like to promote the sport,” said Kevin Zaleski of the park district, adding that he gave prizes to those he saw fishing the entire duration of the derby.
Zaleski said he’s an addict of fishing, and anytime he can introduce someone to the activity, he’s happy.
“Every time you catch something it’s like Christmas, because you don’t know what you’ll pull out of the water,” Zaleski said.
Zaleski taught a little girl how to cast for the first time and shortly after she caught a fish, he said. It was a bluegill.
This year was the first year Zaleski only saw bluegill fish caught at the lagoon.
Ayden Flores, of Zion, didn’t catch much after his line caught some seaweed and got tangled. But before that happened, the 8-year-old did get a fish about 36 inches long that won him second place and many tickets to the fun fair.
The biggest fish caught was a little longer than 36 inches, Zaleski said.
Flores said his papa taught him how to fish, and he was happy with his catch that day.
“It’s fun. It’s like playing the patience game,” Flores said.
Yadira Sanchez Olson is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.