It pays to go fishing!

Prize $$$ waiting to be caught in river fishing derby

For the next 10 days, it very well could pay to do a little fishing in the Kankakee River. That's because the 35th annual Kankakee River Valley Fishing Derby is underway, offering thousands of dollars in prizes to pre-registered anglers who land any  95 tagged fish that are worth $500 or more in cash and/or merchandise.

The derby kicks off this morning and runs through 6 p.m. Sunday, July 8. The grand prize fish, sponsored by Local #176 NECA/IBEW, is worth a boat, motor and trailer if caught.

Derby organizers tagged and released an impressive variety of fish thanks to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources who used electro-fishing boats to gather them on Wednesday.

More then 150 smallmouth bass, channel catfish, walleye, northern and roughfish were scooped up in less than two hours of electro-fishing, a creel more bountiful than past years.

Among the tally was a 20-inch muskie, the first one ever collected in the 35-year history of the derby. It was quickly released without a tag since it was undersized. Other unique finds included a freshwater eel, a Koi (likely from someone's private pond) and a blue catfish. One healthy northern had a tag in it from past years. It received a 2018 blue tag and was released allowing for some lucky angler to pocket an extra $100 for the old tag, along with the new tag's winnings.

You don't have to catch a tagged fish to be a winner as the Big Board Contest is back with 24 place winners in eight different categories. Anglers who bring in the heaviest fish caught from the river over the next 10 days will compete for the top three prizes for walleye, smallmouth, northern, largemouth, crappie, channel catfish, rock bass or roughfish.

Also a $100 bonus will be awarded in the Derby Dollar Days competition where the heaviest fish of the day takes the prize. Today is roughfish day, Saturday is largemouth, Sunday smallmouth, July 2 rock bass, July 3 channel catfish, July 4 northern pike, July 5 crappie, July 6 walleye and July 7 any species (excluding catfish and rough fish) caught during Kids Corkin Day.

Tagged fish have been released in the river at mostly public access spots from Momence to Wilmington. On average, there are two tagged fish per mile of river. Anglers must be pre-registered $20 per family) at least 24 hours prior to turning in a tagged fish. Tags must not be removed from fish and angler is responsible for keeping fish fresh or alive.

Tagged fish and Big Board entries can be verified at one of four weigh-in stations that includes Angelo's Outdoor Sports at 708 W. Baltimore in Wilmington. To pre-register visit Angelo's or go online to