Illinois Fishing License: The Complete Guide

Feb 29, 2024 | 6 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Illinois is known as the “Prairie State,” but vast stretches of grasslands aren’t the only kind of natural habitat here. There are plenty of freshwater fisheries, packed with Salmon, Walleye, Trout, Steelhead, Bass, and more. Before you reach for your rod, though, you’ll need to get your hands on an Illinois fishing license.

A closeup of the Illinois state flag flying in the wind and showing the logo with a bit of blue sky visible

In this guide, we’ll start with a general overview of who needs a fishing license in Illinois. After, we’ll delve into the difference between resident and non-resident licenses, costs, discounts and special circumstances, and where you can purchase your license.

Keep in mind that Illinois is purely a freshwater fishing state, with no saltwater fisheries. So when we talk about getting a state fishing license, this is what we’re referring to! That being said, it’s also home to one of the Great Lakes, which feels like open ocean fishing!

Who needs a fishing license in Illinois?

All anglers who are 16 and older need to carry a valid license when fishing, whether fishing alone or on a charter. This applies to both residents and non-residents. However, the cost of your license differs depending on whether or not you’re a resident. There are also a few situations where Illinois residents can fish license-free.

Before we delve into the specifics, it’s important to know there’s one group that can fish license-free in Illinois regardless of residency. If you’re a veteran who is at least 10% disabled or in receipt of a total disability pension, just bring along your veteran’s disability card from the Secretary of State. No additional disability permit or license is required.

Information for Residents

An Illinois resident is someone who has lived in Illinois for at least 30 days prior to their license application. They also do not claim residency or maintain a permanent abode in any other state.

Have your driver’s license or ID card on you when applying for a license. This way, you can prove your residency. If you’re under the age of 21, you have to be the child of an Illinois resident who fits into the above category.

The following groups can fish license-free:

  • Illinois residents who have a disability. You must be in possession of a State disabled person I.D card that shows a Class 2 or Class 2A disability.
  • Persons on active duty in the Armed Forces. If you entered the service from Illinois and are an Illinois resident, you may fish without a license when on leave.
  • Illinois residents who are taking a child under the age of 16 fishing. If you’re not fishing, then no license is needed. If you’ll be helping out, however, you’ll need to purchase a full-cost license.
  • Illinois residents who are owners or tenants of a property where waters flow on or over it can fish license-free. This rule does not apply to residents who live in a subdivision with a lake. In this case, you’ll need to purchase a license.

The following groups are eligible for reduced-price fishing licenses:

  • Illinois residents aged 65 and over are eligible for a reduced-price senior fishing license.
  • Illinois residents aged 75 or older are eligible for a reduced-price super senior fishing license. This costs only $1 plus a .50 handling fee.
  • Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are Illinois residents are eligible for half-price licenses after returning from service or mobilization. To purchase this license, contact the Springfield office on 217-782-6302.

Costs for Residents

There’s a good variety of fishing licenses to choose from if you’re an Illinois resident. Whether you want to fish for a day or opt for a lifetime of angling, there are options for everyone. Prices depend on the length and type of license you want to purchase.

Resident License Type Cost
Resident Fishing License (24 Hour) $5.50
Resident Fishing License (Annual) $15.00
Resident Fishing License (Lifetime) $435.00
Resident Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual) $765.00
Resident Senior Fishing License (Annual) $7.75
Resident Senior Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual) $13.50
Resident Super Senior Fishing License (Annual) $1.50
Resident Super Senior Combo Hunting and Fishing License (Annual) $2.75
Resident Veteran Fishing License (Annual) $7.75
Resident Veteran Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual) $13.50

Information for Non-Residents

If you’re simply visiting Illinois, chances are you’ll have to pay for your license unless you’re under the age of 16. The only exception to this rule is if you’re a veteran with a disability.

The main difference between resident and non-resident options is that non-residents are not eligible for lifetime Illinois fishing licenses. You also cannot purchase combination fishing and hunting licenses. You must buy these separately if you wish to partake in both activities.

Costs for Non-Residents

Prices for non-residents also differ depending on the length and type of license you’d like to buy:

Non-Resident License Type Cost
Non-Resident Fishing License (24 Hour) $10.50
Non-Resident Fishing License (3 Day) $13.50
Non-Resident Fishing License (Annual) $31.50

Additional Requirements

We’re almost done, we promise! By now, you probably have a good idea of the type of Illinois fishing license that’s perfect for you. Depending on where you choose to fish, you might also need to purchase stamps in order to target certain species. This rule applies to both residents and non-residents, with the prices remaining the same.

People who do not need to buy fishing licenses also don’t need to buy a stamp, e.g. if you’re a person with a disability. If you’re eligible for the super senior license, you’ll be paying less for the stamps, too. Here’s a breakdown of the different stamps, as well as the costs:

Type of Stamp Cost
Inland Trout Stamp $6.50
Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp $6.50
Resident Super Senior Inland Trout Stamp $0.50
Resident Super Senior Inland Trout Stamp $0.50
Resident Super Senior Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp $0.50

Where to Buy Your Illinois Fishing License

Infographic with the flag of Illinois and text saying "Buying an Illinois fishing license. What you need to know" in all caps and a small graph of a boat underneath.

24-Hour, Multi-Day, and Annual Licenses

There’s a variety of ways for both residents and non-residents to buy an Illinois fishing license, whether you prefer to do it in person or online. Simply use one of the options below and get ready to head out onto the water:

  • Online. Purchase your license from the comfort of your own home within minutes. Make sure you have your relevant documents (usually your passport or ID card) to hand, and you’re good to go! You can either print out your license or save a copy to your phone.
  • In person. There’s a huge variety of places that sell Illinois fishing licenses, including Walmart and bait and tackle shops. To find the nearest approved vendor to you, simply go to the License and Permit Vendors section of the Illinois DNR website and select your county or city. 

Lifetime Licenses

Want to purchase a lifetime fishing or combination license? You have to print and fill out a form from Illinois’s DNR website. This is applicable for Illinois residents only.

Return your completed form, as well as a check made out to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and a copy of your driver’s license, to the following address:

Illinois DNR Lifetime License
One Natural Resources Way 
P.O. Box 19458 
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9458

It can take up to 90 days for the Office of Law Enforcement to review and accept your application. So make sure you factor in this time when applying for your license!

What happens if I lose my license?

If you’re worried about losing your license, your best bet is to purchase it online. This way, you don’t have to carry the physical license with you. An electronic copy downloaded on your phone will do the job.

And if you do lose your license? Don’t worry. Getting a replacement is pretty stress-free. If you purchased your license online, you can reprint it at no additional cost here. You can also reprint your license online if you purchased it from a vendor. The transaction will incur a small fee.

If you bought your license from a vendor and want to replace it in person, you’ll have to pay $3 per item (the license itself and any additional stamps). There is also a small transaction fee.

Do I have to renew my license?

In a word: yes! This is because every Illinois fishing license expires on March 31 each year, even lifetime licenses. You can renew your license from March 1 each year. For example, if you purchase your license on or after March 1, 2021, it’ll be valid until March 31, 2022.


We’ve tried to cover everything, but if you still have questions about getting your fishing license in Illinois, it’s best to get in touch with your local DNR office. You can also leave us a comment below. Now it’s time to grab your license, rods, and reels, find a guide near you, and start fishing!

Author profile picture

Katie is a Philosophy graduate from the UK, and now she spends her time asking (and answering!) the important questions, such as: What, exactly, are the best ways to bait a hook for Redfish? She first cast a line in Florida as a teenager, and it took her a while to circle back to angling as a hobby, but now she's hooked. Her personal fishing highlight? Reeling in a rare Golden Trevally while cruising the deep waters off the United Arab Emirates!

Comments (32)

Steve

Aug 14, 2023

I booked a fishing charter out of Waukegan, the captain said all you need is a fishing permit to fish on Lake Michigan . Is this true or do you also have to get a trout and salmon stamp.

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    Marko

    Aug 15, 2023

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for reaching out. Yes, you’ll need the Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp, which covers both Salmon and Trout on the lake, you can get it online.

    I hope the information helps!

    Tight lines,

    Marko

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David Allen Morber Sr

Jun 26, 2023

why can’t I purchase a fishing license

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    Rhys

    Jun 27, 2023

    Hi David,

    Thanks for reading. What issue are you having when trying to purchase a license? You should be able to obtain one from the Illinois DNR website.

    Tight lines,

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Dana

Jun 19, 2023

My husband is on disability and my son gets a benefit from his disability. Do they need at regular Il state license. And where can I find out if he has some kind of card and number on it?

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    Tanya

    Jun 19, 2023

    Dear Dana,

    Thank you for reading our blog and reaching out.
    Your husband doesn’t need to acquire any additional angling permits apart from having his disability card with him when fishing. To be more precise, we’ll quote Illinois Department of Natural Resources:

    “In order for disabled or blind persons who are Illinois residents to fish without a license, the person must be able to show proof of disability in the form of one of the following:

    A) State disabled person I.D. card (available from the Secretary of State through the drivers license examining station) showing a Class 2 or Class 2A disability. Applies to Illinois residents only.

    B) Veterans disability card – (available from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Office) Veterans who are at least 10% disabled with service-related disabilities or in receipt of total disability pensions may fish with sport fishing devices during those periods of the year it is lawful to do so without being required to have a license, on the condition that their respective disabilities do not prevent them from fishing in a manner which is safe to themselves and others. Applies to both Illinois residents and non-residents”.

    Also, kids under the age of 16 are exempt from buying fishing licenses.

    For more information feel free to contact Illinois Department of Natural Resources directly.

    Hope this helped.
    Take care,

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kenny

May 9, 2023

I live in Missouri and I am a disabled veteran 70 years of age, how do I get a secretary of state disabled card and do I need one from Missouri or Illinois? Will my VA service connected health care card be sufficient for fishing?

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    Andriana

    May 10, 2023

    Hello Kenny,

    From what I’m seeing, you can only apply for the Secretary of State Disabled Card in Illinois, here’s the application. When it comes to fishing in Missouri and documents you need, you can find all the information in this government guide, as well as the list of benefits you’re entitled to.

    I hope this helps, Kenny.

    All the best!

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Larry

Apr 30, 2023

How many fish are you allowed to keep and what are the weight requirements

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    Rhys

    May 1, 2023

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for your good question. The regulations regarding each fish species differ. Sometimes, you’ll even have to abide by different rules depending on where you’re fishing. You can find all the information on the Illinois DNR website. Click on “2023 Fishing Regulations” and a PDF document will open up. I hope this helps.

    Tight lines,

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Darryl

Dec 12, 2022

As a disabled veteran , I understand to fish in Illinois I will need to have my valid V.A. provided i.d. card in my possession.
Am I required to purchase a trout or salmon stamp ?

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    Tanya

    Dec 13, 2022

    Hi Darryl,

    Based on the regulations so far, you only have to bring your veteran’s disability card from the Secretary of State and you don’t have to buy any stamps. However, feel free to get in touch with the DNR directly by calling them at 217-782-6302 and ask them any additional questions you may have. They’ll provide you with the info on the latest rules.

    Hope this helps.
    Tight lines!

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Joseph

Jul 8, 2022

I’m taking my son fishing on Lake Michigan and he will buy a one day license does he need a salmon stamp

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    Lisa

    Jul 11, 2022

    Hi Joseph,

    Thank you for reaching out. If your son’s planning to fish for Salmon, he’ll need to purchase a Salmon stamp.

    Lisa

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Brian Morris

Jul 7, 2022

My grandson is 16 years old, does he have to purchase a fishing license? The rules are not clear if it’s 16 and under or just under 16. If it’s under 16, you need to state 15 and under.

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    Andriana

    Jul 8, 2022

    Hello Brian,

    Thanks for the question, license regulations can get tricky. In this case, if your grandson wants to fish in Illinois, he needs a valid fishing license since he is 16 years old, and the license is required for anglers who are 16 and older. I tweaked the article to make sure the distinction is clear.

    All the best!

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Casey

Jun 11, 2022

Do you have to be a resident of said state to fish during the free weekends?

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    Tanya

    Jun 13, 2022

    Hi Casey,

    Thanks for reading our blog and reaching out.

    The free fishing days are regulated differently depending on the state. While the official Illinois DNR website states that “during the period of June 17, 18, 19 and 20, 2022, it shall be legal for any person to fish in waters wholly or in part within the jurisdiction of the State, including the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan, without possessing a sport fishing license, salmon stamp or inland trout stamp” it doesn’t specify further if this applies to both residents and non-residents. To make sure you’re on the right track, contact DNR for more information.

    Hope this helps.

    Tight lines!
    Tanya

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Pzuniga

Jun 2, 2022

If I have an Illinois fishing license is it valid in Wisconsin?

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    Lisa

    Jun 2, 2022

    Hi Pablo,

    Thank you for reaching out. There’s a statement by The Illinois General Assembly that it gives the state’s Department of Natural Resources sole discretion to enter into “reciprocal fishing agreements with the States of Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indiana to permit persons licensed or legally exempt from licenses by those states to fish in any of the waters forming a boundary between those states and the State of Illinois and lying within the territorial jurisdiction of this State in the same manner and to the same extent that persons holding or legally exempt from Illinois licenses may do if the laws of Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indiana, respectively, extend a similar privilege to persons licensed or legally exempt under the laws of this State.”

    I wasn’t able to find anything on the reciprocity agreement between the states of Illinois and Wisconsin.

    I recommend you to get in touch with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and ask them directly. Toll Free 1-888-WDNRINFO (1-888-936-7463) or via their chat.

    Lisa

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Dave

Feb 12, 2022

I’m an Illinois veteran and senior citizen. Do I qualify for both discounts and get a free license?

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    Vuk

    Feb 15, 2022

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, the written regulations are vague when it comes to applying multiple discounts at the same time so we can’t say for sure. For the most up to date information, we’d recommend getting in touch with the DNR directly by calling them at 217-782-6302.

    Hope this helps.

    Tight lines,
    Vuk

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Greg

Aug 5, 2021

I purchased a non-resident annual license but later became a resident of IL. Do I need to purchase a new annual resident IL license for the same annual period?

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    Lisa

    Aug 6, 2021

    Hi Greg,

    Thank you for reaching out. I believe the best option here would be to get in touch with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. You can give them a call at 217-782-6302 or send an email to [email protected]

    Tight lines,

    Lisa

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Mitch

Jun 26, 2021

I noticed a veterans discount on the annual hunting/fishing combo. Is there one for the lifetime combo? I couldn’t find it, but wanted to confirm before I purchased.

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    Karin

    Jun 28, 2021

    Hi Mitch,

    Thank you for reading. Good question! From what I can see on the Website of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, they don’t offer a veteran discount for the lifetime hunting/fishing combination license. If you want to confirm with the DNR directly you can do so by calling the number for Hunting & Fishing Licenses: 217-782-2965.

    Tight Lines!

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Christi

May 31, 2021

I am disabled I live in illinois how do I get free fishing license?

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    Iva

    May 31, 2021

    Hi Christi,

    If you possess a Class 2O and 2A card you’ll be eligible for a free fishing license in Illinois. All you have to do is pick up a P2O or P2A application at your nearest Secretary of State’s office and fill it out.

    For more information, you can also call this number 618-435-8138 ext. 130.

    Hope that helps!

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John Del Monte

Mar 26, 2021

What the heck. $4.00 if you buy your fishing license online.

Processing Fee $4.00

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    Katie

    Mar 29, 2021

    Hi John,

    Thanks for sharing this. Please would you be able to share which type of license you were trying to buy?

    Tight lines,

    Katie

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Jim Pate

Mar 22, 2021

When purchasing a super senior license is it the year one turns 75 or actually on one’s birthday and after?

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    Katie

    Mar 23, 2021

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for reading! Good question. You’ll only be able to purchase the Super Senior License when you actually have your birthday and turn 75, or any time afterwards 🙂

    Tight lines,

    Katie

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