Now that summer is in full swing, it's time to see if you can hook a prize in the Forest Preserve District's second annual "Big Fish" contest.
The free contest runs from July 1 through August 30 at Monee Reservoir in Monee Township. Winners will be announced September 1. Participants must be age 16 or older. Registration is not required. Each winner will receive a prize valued at $100.
It's easy to participate. Simply bring your catch of the day to the visitor center where it will be measured, photographed and recorded. All photos will be included in the Big Fish Display at the visitor center, and all contestants are encouraged to catch and release their live entries.
A lot of Monee's regular anglers took part in last year's fishing contest, but Bob Bryerton, an interpretive naturalist who oversees the contest, said he'd like to lure more newcomers to the competition this year.
The most popular and competitive category in 2019 was for bass fishermen, but large fish were caught in all categories. In addition to bass, contestants reeled in catfish, bluegill, perch and green sunfish.
"I think some of the folks thought if they did not have a big fish they could not enter, but the grand prize is drawn from all entries, no matter the size of the fish," Bryerton said.
The Forest Preserve will be posting a list of fish entries all summer at the Monee Reservoir Visitor Center, so participants can see where they stand and what they need to try and beat to be in the lead.
"All fish are eligible for a prize, so any adult who catches a fish should consider entering it in the contest," Bryerton said. "Most of the bass were released, so those fish are still in the reservoir to be caught again."
And now that the state is entering phase four of its COVID-19 reopening plan, boat and equipment rentals will resume at Monee Reservoir on Tuesday, June 30, just in time for the beginning of the contest.
"So that should help visitors get to different areas of the lake where they can snare entries for the fishing contest," Bryerton said.
The contest is designed to make summer fishing forays more interesting, but being out on the water after winter's cold weather and spring's COVID-19 stay-at-home order should make any reservoir outing more enjoyable, Bryerton said.
"While this is a contest to see who can catch the biggest fish, it is also just about catching fish in general, and being out at Monee Reservoir and enjoying the day," he said. "I would encourage any adult who catches a fish to enter the contest because you never know how it will go. Any fishing day at Monee Reservoir could be a winning day."
Last year's winners were:
- Biggest panfish: an 11.5 inch perch caught by Walter Mankiewicz.
- Biggest bass: a 22.5-inch bass (around 5 pounds) caught by Christian Luna.
- Biggest catfish: a 29-inch (around 9 pounds) specimen caught by Dan Burklow.
- Grand prize winner: (drawn from all entries) was Dwayne Dooley.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, shoreline anglers are asked to maintain social distancing, and all boat and rental equipment will be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
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