More than 500 children participated in the 15th annual Kid’s Fishing Expo at Baker Lake in Peru on Saturday.
There were 567 registered participants this year, according to Barry Welbers, president of the Better Fishing Association of Northern Illinois.
“All of us that participated are very pleased with the strong turnout and the beautiful weather that we had,” Welbers said.
According to Welbers, the free event originally was organized by former BFA president Tom Wall. Wall said the expo is a means of preparing children for the organization’s fishing tournament at Lock 14 a few weeks later.
When the tournaments began, Wall said, only 20 percent of the children would catch anything — the lucky ones or the children whose parents were fishermen. Now, 80 percent of participants catch fish at the tournaments.
There are multiple stations at the expo, where children learn various fishing skills. One station is run by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and includes a live fish display.
“That’s a real hit with the kids and parents alike,” Wall said.
Children who attended each of the eight stations received a tackle box as a participation prize. There also were free hot dogs, chips and soda for the children, and free samples of fried fish for all. According to Wall, the expo provides an average of 400 pounds of fried fish for sampling.
This year, Wall said, a military jeep was on display courtesy of owner Vernon Gadd in honor of Armed Services Day.
“We had tremendous support from volunteer help from the organizations involved,” Wall said.
The fishing expo has grown since its inception and now includes volunteers from Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary Club, La Salle Rotary Club and Center for Youth and Family Solutions, as well as IDNR and the BFA.
The Lock 14 Kid’s Fishing Tournament is sponsored by all the above organizations in association with the cities of La Salle and Peruand Peru Rescue Squad. The 28th annual tournament will be Saturday, June 8 at Lock 14. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. with fishing 9-11 a.m.
Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 220-6975 or email@example.com.