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Top Illinois Destinations

Top Fishing Charters in Illinois

Fishing in Illinois

Are you looking to book a trip to the Midwest? Have you thought about an Illinois fishing trip? Fly to the midwestern “Prairie State” for excellent fishing along world-renowned rivers and lakes. Illinois is a state where rivers make up the majority of its borders, allowing anglers to catch a range of species, such as Pink, Coho, and Chinook Salmon, Channel, Blue, and Flathead Catfish, Lake and Rainbow Trout, Longnose, Spotted, and Shortnose Gar, Northern Pike, Walleye, Sauger, Muskellunge, and more.

Illinois Fishing Spots

There are so many fishing spots to choose from when fishing in Illinois. You have over a million-and-a-half acres of water to wet your lines in! There are plenty of power plant cooling lakes to fish, which are hotbeds for Catfish. Other top fisheries include Carlyle Lake, Rend Lake, Lake of Egypt, Evergreen Lake, Cedar Lake, and plenty more.

Mississippi River

Known as the "Father of Waters," the Mississippi River runs 580 miles through Illinois before continuing on. In Illinois alone there are 15 dams along its stretch, creating additional sections and rivers to fish. You’ll be able to target different species in various parts of the Mississippi. The upper part is great for Channel Catfish and both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. Head further down the river for excellent Flathead and Blue Catfish. Walleye fishing is best in one of the tributaries of the Mississippi, the Rock River. You can also explore other tributaries which are great to fish, such as Green River and Apple River.

Illinois River

Fishing the Illinois River has only improved over time. Since the Clean Water Act in ‘72, the sportfishing here has blossomed. You can fish along the 273 miles of Illinois River for Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Sauger, White Bass, Brown Bullhead, White Crappie, and more. As well as the river itself, try fishing the lakes around it. These freeze over in winter and are great for ice fishing.

Ohio River

This huge tributary of the Mississippi River is great for catching Largemouth, Smallmouth, White, Striped, and Hybrid Bass, Sauger, Walleye, and more. Although the average size of the Largemouth Bass here is between 12–15 inches, they have been known to reach 21 inches. The best time to catch bigger Bass is in summer, in the main parts of the river. You can catch Catfish in the Ohio River, where 15 lb Channel Catfish and 25 lb Flathead Catfish are common. On occasion, the local Flathead Catfish can reach huge sizes! Fish during the cooler part of the day in May and June for great results.

Rock River

For Smallmouth Bass, head toward the section of the river between Oregon and Grad Detour. You’ll need to release the Bass caught here between April and June. If you’re looking for table fare, you’ll want to target the Channel Cats that make their home here instead. Flathead Catfish is also great here, as well as in the stretch of river between Grand Detour and Dixon. The next part of the river, between Dixon and Sterling, offers anglers depths of up to 50 feet. This is a huge difference to the 15’ depths found in the rest of the river. If you’d like to target Northern Pike, head toward Rockford along the southern part of the river.

Lake Michigan

The third largest of the Great Lakes, there are 63 miles of Lake Michigan coastline available in Illinois. You can choose to fish from the shore or head out into these productive waters. The fish you can target here include King and Coho Salmon, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Steelhead, Perch, Freshwater Drum, Carp, Crappie, Channel Catfish, and more. Throughout the year there will be closed seasons for certain species, so check with the captain which species can be caught when.

Fishing Tips

  • Just below the dams, especially on the Mississippi River, use ¼ to 1 oz jigs and minnows on three-way rigs for best results. When above the dams, spinners and crankbaits are best.

  • Summer is the best time to catch Walleye, where they’ll be feeding en masse, so use crawfish baits. In the spring, plastic worms and crankbaits are used to better effect.

  • Along the Illinois River, use heavier weights than normal (around ¾ to 1 ounce). This will really get the attention of Sauger and Walleye.

Need to Know

There are many baits and lures anglers can use. In Illinois, it’s illegal to use live rusty crayfish.

Check with your captain about the number of poles that can be in the water at once. On many bodies of water in Illinois, only two poles are allowed. Ice fishing usually allows for three poles, but some places have tighter restrictions.

Regulations

You’ll need to purchase a fishing license before you cast your first line. Always check the latest regulations for the size and number of catch you’re legally allowed to keep.

Dispose of your fish correctly, and don’t fillet your catch on any waters where there are length limits.

When fishing in Lake Michigan, you’ll need to get a “Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp” before you begin your trip.

Budget

Trips in southern Illinois are generally half the price of trips further north. Eight-hour trips along the main rivers in the north range between $750–850 for six people.

The freshwater fishing in Illinois will keep you busy year-round. Whether you’re ice fishing, fishing the dams, or classic river fishing, anglers of all experience levels will love their vacation here.

Illinois
4.4
Based on 13583 reviews by FishingBooker anglers

Illinois Fishing Seasons

Bluegill on the Fox Chain O’Lakes is good this month. You’ll be ice fishing, so wrap up warm.

 

This is a great month for Sauger in the Illinois River. Fish for Perch in Lake Michigan.

Shallow waters are great for Crappie in March, before the spawning season starts. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and see the Chicago River dyed green!

Bass are good in the shallows this month. Join the Illinois Bass Federation for tournaments from now onwards.

Perch can’t be taken this month. Visit the Benton Rend Lake Water Festival for parades, food, and live entertainment.

 

Perch can be targeted after June 15. The Ravinia Festival is a three-month music festival that you should visit while here.

 

The North Michigan Avenue Art Festival showcases both known and unknown artists. Good month for Bass and Channel Catfish throughout Illinois.

 

Target Carp, Smallmouth, and Largemouth Bass in August. Visit the Chicago Air and Water Show and be amazed!

 

Plenty of music festivals this month, including the Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival. State Good month to target King and Coho Salmon.

On land, visit the Chicago International Film Festival. In the water, target Steelhead, Perch, Brown Trout, and Channel Catfish.

Watch the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, a huge spectacle not to be missed. Catfish continue to be good, as well as King and Coho Salmon.

December is a good month for Crappie and Blue Catfish, which can reach trophy sizes this month.

Illinois Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Illinois

"6hr trip with Capt Ray"

Craig M. fished with Xtasea IV Charters on July 15, 2019

Get ready to have some tired forearms the fishing is amazing!

"6 hour a.m. trip"

Bryan B. fished with Long Gone 3 Charters on July 10, 2019

Bring light weight pants to fend off the biting flys that are present during July & summer months.

"5am to 10am Salmon trip!"

Jennifer J. fished with Kristy Lynn Charters on July 10, 2019

This was definitely worth the trip for a first time charter fishing experience and loved that everyone caught something and the captain cleans the fish on the boat and sends home with you!

"Full Day Trip with Captain Fred"

Donald R. fished with Full Moon Fishing Service on July 9, 2019

Captain Mike and I fished Lake Kinkaid not Lake Murphesboro. Sorry for the confusion.

Top Targeted Species in Illinois

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Brown Trout

Brown Trout

Salmon (Chinook)

Salmon (Chinook)

Crappie

Crappie

Bass (Largemouth)

Bass (Largemouth)

Bass (Smallmouth)

Bass (Smallmouth)

Perch (Yellow)

Perch (Yellow)

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