Mother Nature might have roughened up this year’s Northern Illinois Anglers Association’s Kankakee River Fishing Derby, but that made for some stiff competition for this year’s top catch.
“The conditions were really tough,” NIAA President Ken Munjoy said. “The water was really high, fast and dirty throughout the derby. But the quality of fish caught this year was really great.”
Munjoy said judges initially eyed for classifications of fish for the top catch of this year’s derby. They whittled it down to two fish before a tie-breaking vote sealed this year’s winner.
Munjoy did not disclose the top four fish or the winner until last night’s fishing derby award ceremony at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Sportmen’s Club.
“It was really competitive,” Munjoy told the Daily Journal on Tuesday. “There wasn’t a fish that jumped out and said, ‘Pick me. Pick me.’ It was a fight between a handful of fish.”
Here is a breakdown of the winners from each category in alphabetical order:
Darrell Powers took the channel catfish crown with a 9-pound, 15-ounce cat. Dan Guennette took second with a 9-pound, 11-ouncer.
Anthony Benvenuto, of Orland Park, won the crappie title with a 1-pound, 3-ouncer. Matt Hoekstra, of Momence, came in second with a 1-pounder, followed by Sauk Village native Thomas Palhegyi at 14 ounces.
James Merritt, of Braidwood, dominated the inaugural flathead catfish category with a 23-pound, 11-ounce flathead. Kankakeean Jim Anderson’s 9-pound, 14-ounce flathead took second. Merritt also caught a 21-pound, 9-ounce flathead, but an angler can only take one place in each category.
Greg Schneider, of Grant Park, waited until the last day of the derby to catch the largest largemouth bass. His 4-pound, 8-ounce largemouth topped the 4-pound, 3-ouncer Noel DeFrance, of Steger, caught for second place.
Zach Mallady, of Kankakee, snagged the northern pike title with a 6-pound, 13-ouncer. James Swisher, of Kankakee, took second with a 6-pound, 4-ounce river wolf.
Steven Dickey, of Bourbonnais, edged out Matthew Sommer and Mike Dickey in a tight rock bass group. Dickey’s 12-ouncer topped Sommer and Dickey’s 10-ouncers.
Bob Wilbur, of Kankakee, claimed the rough fish title with a 16-pound, 3-ouncer. Thomas Brandenburg, of St. Anne, took second with a 15-pound, 12-ouncer and 15-pound, 6-ouncer.
Eric McNeeley, of Franklin Park, pulled away with 3-pound, 10-ounce smallmouth bass to take first. Ian Galley, of Momence, and James Soucie, of St. Anne, took second and third, respectively, with 3-pound, 6-ouncers.
Paul Smith, of Kankakee, handedly won the walleye title by almost six pounds with a 7-pound, 13-ouncer. Bob Aucone, of Kankakee, caught the second-place walleye at an even 2 pounds.
Anglers reeled in seven tagged fish year, but one still is awaiting validation by the NIAA.
Thomas Palhegyi, of Sauk Village, and Jared Tofte, of Bradley, each hauled in $500 cash prize fish sponsored by the Bourbonnais Friendship Festival and Dr. Fred Waldschmidt, respectively.
Jeff Hanson, of Bourbonnais, won a $500 fishing package by catching a fish sponsored by The Wilmington Free Press.
Evan Lagacy, of Cisna Park, won $500 worth of merchandise from Security Lumbar.
Barbara Soucie, of St. Anne, also caught a fish worth $500 in rentals from Reed’s Rent All.
Katelin Ramirez, of Kankakee, rounded out the tagged fish winnings with $100 cash from United disposal.