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.
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
|Resident Fishing License (24 Hour)
|Resident Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Fishing License (Lifetime)
|Resident Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Senior Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Senior Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Super Senior Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Super Senior Combo Hunting and Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Veteran Fishing License (Annual)
|Resident Veteran Combination Hunting/Fishing License (Annual)
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
|Non-Resident Fishing License (24 Hour)
|Non-Resident Fishing License (3 Day)
|Non-Resident Fishing License (Annual)
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
|Inland Trout Stamp
|Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp
|Resident Super Senior Inland Trout Stamp
|Resident Super Senior Inland Trout Stamp
|Resident Super Senior Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp
Where to Buy Your Illinois Fishing License
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.
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!