LASALLE — The Better Fishing Association of Northern Illinois isn't at all about fishing.
"The smallest portion of it is fishing. We promote fishing; that is what we do, but there is so much more," said Dave Haupt of Peru.
Initially, the group organized behind the efforts and ideal of having the state of Illinois purchase the Hennepin Canal, so it could be rehabilitated.
"They were going to de-water it at one time. The club organized the people all along the canal all the way to the Quad Cities to gather together to get the state to purchase the canal," said Ed Herman of Spring Valley.
The group was successful, and the Hennepin Canal has been improved through the years for generations to enjoy through the efforts of many, including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
This goal is one of seven major goals the Better Fishing Association of Northern Illinois had when they started, which they still honor today. The group also:
• Promotes, encourages, fosters and supports the acquisition, rehabilitation and development of other like, similar and suitable properties and natural resources, as conservation areas and public fishing and recreation areas by the IDNR.
• Preserves and develops natural resources, fish, game and wildlife and to assist in the conservation thereof.
• Encourages, supports and sponsors legislation, laws, regulations and rules commensurate with the aforementioned purposes.
• Extends cooperation to other organizations having like or similar purposes.
• To generally extend its efforts toward the betterment of fishing, conservation and outdoor recreation in the state of Illinois.
• To encourage, promote and sponsor children’s fishing programs and get local service organizations involved.
The last idea is what gets current group members excited. The organization sponsors two major fishing events in the spring every year which enables them to give area youth the ability to try fishing, some for the first time. The first event is the 16th annual Kid's Fishing Expo from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 17 at Baker Lake in Peru. The second event is the 29th annual Lock 14 Kid's Fishing Tournament on June 7 at the I & M Canal in LaSalle. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and fishing runs from 9 to 11 a.m.
Each member speaks with great enthusiasm when talking about the two children's events. The Baker Lake event is looked at as a teaching activity by the group. There are stations where children can learn things from casting a fishing pole to tying their own flies (bait) to eating fish. The kids get a free lunch, door prizes and participation gifts. The Lock 14 Fishing Tournament is where children can compete to catch the largest fish.
At each event, if a participant does not have equipment, it is provided for them. The goal of the group is to promote fishing and the love of outdoors to those who participate.
The group then works hard throughout the year to raise money for both of these events. They hold fish fries and also have area sponsors who help. Each event also has many volunteers who help make it a success.
"We love what we do," Haupt said. "Fishing and the outdoors is what we do best."