Saturday was an epic fishing day for Mike Kelly, of Aroma Township, and his grandson, Brody Kelly, of Bourbonais, as they battled successfully with a whopper of a northern pike in the 35th annual Kankakee River Fishing Derby.
Fishing in the Illinois Route 17 bridge area near home on Saturday afternoon, Mike tied into a huge northern that gave him the top catch in the pike class at 14 pounds, 7 ounces, just 5 ounces shy of Joyce Siwicki’s derby record of 14 pounds, 12 ounces, set in 2012.
Brody, 9, caught a 3 pound, 14 ounce northern Saturday morning on a Mepps spinner to win the $100 boys competition in Kids Corkin’ Day. On opening day, he was on the Derby Big Board for rough fish — a 11 pound, 12 ounce carp — but was knocked out of that competition.
Mike Kelly, a veteran Kankakee River angler, said he has caught “only a handful of pike all the years I have been fishing.”
His derby prize-winner hit a golden roach minnow and gave him a battle for the books.
Soon after, he hooked the northern “it turned and got under the boat ... then it got the line wrapped around the trolling motor a couple times,” he said. “I got it loose and he took off and turned a couple times.”
The battle took “maybe about five minutes,” he said. “It was a pretty strong pike. ... Luckily, we got it in the boat.
“I’ve never caught a pike anywhere near that size. Probably never will again,” he said. “It’s going up on my wall. ... It was really fat — only 38½ inches but really fat. If it had ate another bluegill, it might have broken the record.”
The derby, which ended at 6 p.m. Sunday, produced “a lot of exciting fishing and happy people,” said Ken Munjoy, derby chairman and president of the sponsoring Northern Illinois Anglers Association.
“We saw some new names on the big board this year and a lot of great catches,” he noted.
“We had nine tagged fish caught and that is amazing,” he said, adding that he’s not sure when that many were caught previously. “Last year we had only six caught and three of them were out of the quarry.” The quarry fish are $100 prize fish strictly for anglers under age 16. None were caught this year. Only four tagged fish were caught in 2016.
The nine tagged fish this year were worth a total of $5,500.
Two were $1,000 fish — a Daily Journal sponsored fish caught by Shannon Richey, of Kankakee, the other sponsored by Nucor and caught by Jason Cooper, of Lacon.
Seven $500 fish were:
Sponsored by JR’s Chicken and caught by Dylan Miller, of Chebanse;
Sponsored by The Dugan Family and caught by Matthew Sommer, of Kankakee;
Sponsored by Kankakee River Forest Preserve District and caught by Jared Tofte, of Bradley;
Sponsored by Panozzo’s Amish Furniture and caught by Brett Burson, of Kankakee;
Sponsored by Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and caught by Joseph Catona, of Momence;
Sponsored by Key City Liquors and caught by Kelly Wyatt, of St. Anne; and
Sponsored by Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 6 and caught by Jeff Janssen, of Bourbonnais.