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Richard J. Daley Fishing Derby Reels in City Anglers

By Casey Cora | July 31, 2013 7:08am
 The monthly competition awards cash prizes for the heaviest catches.
Richard J. Daley Fishing Derby
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BRIDGEPORT — No fish tales here.

Every angler’s catch during the Richard J. Daley Sport Fishing Derby is weighed, accounted for and entered into the summer-long contest.

"It's about fostering Chicago fishing," said Tom Palmisano, co-owner of Henry’s Sports and Bait Shop, 3130 S. Canal St., the Bridgeport institution that helped launch the contest more than 10 years ago.

The next prize period for the derby begins Thursday and lasts through the end of the month. Here’s what’s eligible throughout August: Chinook salmon, steelhead, perch, carp, catfish and panfish (bluegill, rock bass and crappie).

All fish caught in the city’s public bodies of water — the Chicago River, park district lagoons, the Lake Michigan shoreline and all 10 harbors within the city limits — can be entered into the contest.

Fish caught in Lake Michigan from charter or personal boats are eligible, too, but the contest rules state those boats must leave from and return to a City of Chicago boat launch or harbor. A complete rundown of the rules is available at the Henry's website.

Weigh-in stations include Park Bait Company, 600 W. Montrose Ave.; Vet’s Live Bait, 10150 S. Indianapolis Blvd.; and Henry's, where you'll also find a leaderboard touting the top catches in each category of fish.

Outside of the cost of a fishing license — available online or at one of the city's six bait shops — the derby is free.

The seasonal event once received financial support from the Chicago Park District, but the agency yanked its funding a few years back, Palmisano said.

It’s now sponsored in total by several Chicago maritime businesses, including a few private charter operators; Westrec Marinas, which operates the city’s docks; and the Henry Palmisano Memorial Fishing Foundation, named after the late bait shop co-owner, outdoors advocate and brother to Tom and Steve.

During each prize period, first place pays $100, second place pays $75 and third place pays $50.

No one seems to know the exact origins of the derby, but local fishermen say it began with a nod to the city's late former mayor, himself an occasional outdoorsman.

Bob Long Jr., the manager of the park district's fishing program who helped get the event under way in the early 2000s, said events like the Daley Derby can help boost awareness of the sport and bring more families to the city's waterways.

"That’s what fishing does. Everybody has a possibility, everybody has an opportunity, everybody has a chance. It's based on some luck and some skill," he said. "Even the best of them don't always win everything frequently. It’s the lucky guy who happens to stick with it."