Best Fishing Locations in Illinois: Top 9 Spots to Visit for Your Next Catch

Illinois attracts many fishermen as a recreational sport with its many tournaments. One of the best states to fish in the midwest, the Illinois fishery management has created many breeding reservoirs for recreational use.

Fishing in Illinois can be fun for anglers because their natural lakes have lots of large catfish and largemouth bass.  You’ll find a diverse variety of fish, just like you will in other states like Connecticut or North Carolina.

If you are planning a fishing trip to Illinois, the many options may overwhelm you. But, fear not because here is a list of the top nine locations for a great fishing excursion. Keep reading so you can choose your favorite.

1. Mississippi River

Mississippi River Fishing Illinois

The Mississippi River spreads across most of the United States, from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mighty Mississippi River is as long as it is muddy. But this river rewards anglers with some of the best trophy catches. While fishing in Illinois, you can test your mettle by landing a jumbo catfish.

All it takes is the right bait. During the day, you can scavenge for hidden caves for catfish and then return at night to catch them when they feed. Here what you can catch in these muddy waters:

  • Walleye
  • Catfish
  • Bass
  • Sauger
  • Bluegill
  • Northern Pike
  • Crappie
  • Perch

2. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Fishing Illinois

Lake Michigan is one of the top places to fish in the entire state of Illinois.  It’s near Chicago, making it a great location for tourists with families, and giving you plenty to do if you should decide to explore other outdoor activities besides fishing.

Reelers of all levels of experience can enjoy boating on the lake. They do have a maximum speed limit of 55MPH on the lake, which shouldn’t be a problem for most anglers, unless you decide to do some speedboating in between your fishing expedition. There are also “slow” areas where you need to watch your speed and your wake.  It’s also a great place for kayaking and overall exploring some of the more beautiful scenery in the Chicago area.  You can also go Ice fishing on Lake Michigan, depending on the time of year.  Make sure you bring your favorite Auger.

Here are some of the types of fish you can expect to catch out on Lake Michigan, depending on where you end up (it’s a big lake).

  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • SMelt
  • Lake and/or Brown Trout
  • Walleye
  • Steelhead

3. Heidecke Lake

Heidecke Lake Chicago

Heidecke Lake is a former cooling lake for the Collins Station Power Plant that has been out of service for more than 10 years. They have some rules to follow to fish this lake, so be sure to review them before you go. The lake is unique in structure because it has a perched part for better cooling, but it can be risky when it is windy.

The lake also varies in depth, so it is advisable to use a fish finder to locate schools of fish. There is not much vegetation there, but there is also less timber in the water. It’s a great place to find a wide variety of fish, so you’ll want to have a variety of gear that’s equipped to handle just about any type of fish.

It now holds the title of an ambient lake that provides a wide variety of fish including:

4. Lake Springfield 

Lake Springfield

When fishing in Illinois, you may want to visit Lake Springfield, beautiful parkland with abundant wildlife. Woods and bluffs surround the shoreline. Anglers in the area can encounter wildlife like deer, turkey, and even eagles in the winter season. Amenities include the nature park, picnic shelters and a boathouse you can rent for special occasions that offer a view of the lake.

Anglers can rent a kayak or canoe to go out on the lake. The warm water from the plant affects only one-fourth of the lake where schools of bass search for plankton. Anglers can hook a variety of fish including:

5. Crab Orchard Lake

Crab Orchard Lake Illinois

Crab Orchard Lake is an artificial lake they constructed for flood prevention and recreational purposes. It is a 7,000-acre paradise for water skiers, swimmers, campers and fishermen. They also allow all manners of water transportation without restrictions. Lotus planting and introducing largemouth bass every year has stabilized the population.

The creel limit for largemouth bass is three per day and they must be larger than 16 inches. Spinnerbaits and artificial lures produce the best results for largemouth bass. You may hook any of these fish species in Crab Orchard Lake:

  • Channel catfish
  • Crappie
  • White and largemouth bass
  • Bluegill

6. Devils Kitchen Lake 

Devil's Kitchen Lake Illinois
By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Devils Kitchen Lake features a large amount of largemouth bass spreading over 810 acres. With steep slopes and sandstone valleys, the deep Devils Kitchen Lake is a sight to behold. Clear waters and submerged timber make the ideal habitat for fishing. But there is a 10 horsepower limit on outboard motors.

The southeast part of the lake is accessible only to boats with electric motors or by pedaling. The lake has standard site regulations on fishing, including what types of watercraft you can use. The regulations and constant efforts of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are contributing to the healthy numbers of fish in Devils Kitchen Lake. Here’s what you’ll find on the end of your line:

  • Rainbow trout
  • Bluegill
  • Redear sunfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Yellow perch
  • Carpie

7. Rend Lake 

Rend Lake
By Bradley W. Furlow [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
When most people think about fishing in Illinois, they think of Rend Lake, a reservoir with a longshore close to Benton, Illinois. The depth of this lake varies from 10 to 35 feet, which is enough for fisherman to explore. You can also get a guide or an eight-hour boat trip with supplies like water, bait and tackle. There is a golf course at Rend Lake, too, making it a versatile place for fishing in Illinois.

The park also offers camping sites, museum tours, hiking and cycling. There are lots of largemouth bass, but you can only take those larger than the 14-inch minimum length. Angler can expect to find one of these fish species in Rend Lake:

  • Largemouth or white bass
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Channel, blue or flathead catfish
  • Carp

8. Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake Illinois

Evergreen Lake is a man-made pond they built back in 1970. It still attracts people who love fishing in Illinois with its many eye-pleasing areas and lots of trees. Whether you are a professional reeler in a rowboat or a landlubber on the shore, you’ll see plenty of fish.

You can rent a paddle or rowboat for a fair price. But the best part is this lake allows fishing without a license from any state. You can snag these fish at Evergreen Lake:

9. Sand Pond

Sand Pond Chicago Illinois

Sand Pond may only be a small pond, but it offers a relaxation on its sandy shores. You can fish with choirs of western chorus and leopard frogs in the background. In the summer, the marsh-like pond is full of dragonflies and places for catfish to hide. This location is for landlubbers of all skills.

In the spring the trout almost jump on your hook. But there is a creel limit of one largemouth bass a day. You may even encounter waterfowl or Canadian geese, but stay away because they are protective of their young. They don’t allow boats or wading in Sand Pond. Landlubbers can cast their lines and catch these fish:

  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Rainbow trout

With the sheer amount of game Illinois has to offer, there is no question they will see more anglers in future years. Be it the grand Mississippi, or some other inland river or lake, there is a spot for everyone. No matter if you are an experienced angler or a novice, you’ll find a challenge fishing in Illinois.

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