No VR headset or vibrating game controller can reward the anticipation or replicate the rush when that bobber disappears, the line starts swimming, and the tug on the other end signals “Game on!”

To capture those genuine feels and draw the most wholesome experience from recreational fishing as it was intended, full immersion into the sights, sounds and elements – a play date with nature – is the only thing that can truly deliver.

Now we’ve just gotta get the kids hooked.

The Fox Valley Park District’s Operations team is hosting a Free Youth Fishing Derby – rain or shine – from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at Jericho Lake. The event is geared toward youth, but all are welcome. There is no cost or advance registration, though anglers 16 and older are required by law to have a fishing license.

“The idea is to introduce kids to fishing first and foremost, but we also want them to experience the outdoors, learn a little bit about the value of conservation, and get a better understanding of why we spend so much time in the parks and around our waterways,” said Chris Kuehn, the FVPD’s manager of arboriculture and lake management. “Let’s put the phones and video games down for a few hours, get people together, and get outside and enjoy it.”

Limited fishing poles will be available for those without gear, and live bait (nightcrawlers) will be provided. Young anglers can win prizes in friendly competitions such as biggest fish, most fish, and more. A hotdog lunch will be grilled onsite by members of the District’s Operations team.

“Our intent is to provide opportunity to everyone, especially kids who might not ever get the chance to go fishing,” says John Kramer, the FVPD’s director of operations. “This is simply a chance to spend some time outdoors, relax, and have fun.”

Jericho Lake is home to a wide variety of species, most notably bluegill/sunfish, crappie, catfish, largemouth bass and carp. The heavy bluegill population often provides a consistent bite, making Jericho an ideal destination for beginning anglers to learn the basics.

FVPD Operations staff will be on hand to assist young anglers with baiting hooks, resolving equipment issues, and removing and releasing fish – after pictures, of course.

Jericho Lake is located on Aurora’s far southwest side, on Jericho Road, about a quarter mile west of the Jericho/Orchard Road intersection.