GSWNH_FishingDerbyPoster_091523

Fishing derby returns to McKinley Park

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Revitalized lagoon to be stocked with 2,000 fish

By Tim Hadac

Six years after the McKinley Park lagoon saw its first fishing derby in about 40 years, the popular event is set to return later this month.

McKinley Park resident and attorney Steve Demitro is sponsoring the catch-and-release fishing derby from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 30.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will stock the lagoon with more than 2,000 fish—more than double what they have in years past, Demitro told the Greater Southwest News-Herald this week.GSWNH FishingDerbyPoster 091523

What varieties of fish remain to be seen, but past efforts have seen the DNR introduce large-mouth bass, sunfish and channel catfish.

Invited to participate are children ages 7-13. There is no admission charge, but parents are asked to register their children in advance by visiting ourneighborhoodjournal.com.

“Our goal was to create Chicago’s best fishing derby and help revitalize McKinley Park—the lagoon, the larger park and even the surrounding neighborhood,” Demitro told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “We’ve succeeded, even more than we anticipated.”

In recent years, more than 100 people came to the event.

Children are encouraged to bring their own fishing poles, tackle and bait; but for those without, a limited supply may be made available, thanks to corporate donations.

There will be prizes awarded to children at the event.

Demitro said the tournament “brings the community together. In recent years, when I needed volunteers and put the word out, a number of people came forward–people I didn’t even know. Most of the people who came out last year were families, and most of the kids had never fished before in their lives.”

Demitro saluted volunteers.

“Volunteers are a key ingredient to a successful neighborhood event,” Demitro added. “Giving back to the community and making a difference is a common theme. We are grateful for the incredible amount of volunteers who together work diligently each and every day to make McKinley Park the best it can be. Our community is growing and thriving due to the volunteers that freely give their time and energy to the following organizations: American Legion William McKinley Post #231, Hoyne Park Advisory Council, McKinley Community Play Garden, McKinley Park Advisory Council, McKinley Park Civic Association, McKinley Park Development Council, Neighbors for Environmental Justice and the McKinley Park Dog Park Advisory Council.”

Demitro grew up in the area, attending the old Longfellow School and Kelly High School. With fondness he recalled participating in fishing derbies and other events at McKinley Park—sponsored by Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Park District back in the 1970s.

He said a long-term goal is to grow the lagoon’s fish population in the years ahead and make it “the best fishing destination in the city” after Lake Michigan itself.

Demitro, the son of immigrants, noted that fishing is one thing that ties together the various immigrant communities in the neighborhood—Mexican, Chinese, Polish and more.

“Fishing is worldwide, universal,” he said. “Whatever your language or wherever you come from, a [fishing] rod is something we’re all comfortable with.”

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