Frequently Asked Questions about Fishing in Illinois


Q: Where can I purchase a fishing license? 

A: You can get your license directly from DNR Direct license and permit vendors, online through the IDNR website, or by calling 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648). The system is available 24 hours a day. For online sales and a list of vendors, see:

Q: How much do fishing licenses cost? 

A: Current Fees for fishing licenses in Illinois are as follows:

License Type Fee
Resident sport fishing, annual $15.00
Resident Sport Fish, 65 and older $7.75
Resident and non-resident sport fishing (24-hour) $5.50
Non-resident sport fishing (10 days) $20.00
Non-resident sport fishing (annual) $31.50
Sportsman's License (combined hunting and fishing licenses) $26.25
Senior Sportsman's License (combined hunting and fishing licenses) $13.50
Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp (licensed anglers only) $6.50
Inland Trout Stamp (all waters except Lake Michigan; licensed anglers only) $6.50
Resident lifetime sport fishing $435.00
Resident lifetime combined (hunting and fishing) $765.00

Other license and permit fee information is available at:

Q: When do fishing licenses expire and when can I buy my "new" fishing license? 

A: Licenses expire on March 31 each year. The licenses for 2013 were available starting January 21.

Q: At what age is a fishing license required? 

A: Anglers under 16 years of age (resident and non-resident) may fish without a license.

Q: Do kids under age 16 need to buy a trout stamp to fish for trout? 

A: No. People exempt from purchasing fishing licenses are also exempt from purchasing a trout stamp.

Q: Do non-resident children need a fishing license? 

A: No. Non-resident anglers under 16 years of age may fish without a license.

Q: Do Seniors get a free fishing license? 

A: Seniors aged 65 and older receive a reduced fee for fishing and sport licenses.

Q: Do I qualify for a free license based on my disability? 

A: 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Q: Am I exempt from purchasing a fishing license because I am in the military? 

A: Maybe. Persons on active duty in the Armed Forces are considered residents. A person on active duty in the Armed Forces, who entered the service from Illinois and is an Illinois resident, may fish without a license while on leave. NOTE: Beginning with the 2012 license year, half-priced sport fishing and sportsman's licenses will be available to resident veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces after returning from service abroad, or mobilization by the President of the United States. Veterans must provide verification of their service to the Department at one of the five regional offices. The Department shall establish what constitutes suitable verification of service for the purpose of issuing fishing licenses to resident veterans at a reduced fee.

Q: Do I need a fishing license in order to take my children/grandchildren fishing? 

A: If you yourself are not participating in fishing, you do not. However, if you plan to join the children (and we encourage you to do so!), 24-hour licenses are available for $5.50. Children under the age of 16 do not require a license. For some tips on taking your children fishing, see our Taking Kids Fishing section.

Q: I lost/destroyed my fishing license, how can I get a replacement? 


  1. Licenses purchased via the Internet can be reprinted at no charge by visiting www. dnr. LPR. Vendor transactions will incur a fee.
  2. Replacement licenses, permits and stamps are available for $3 from Regional offices (except Region 2), the Chicago office and the Springfield Public Service area.
  3. Vendors can issue replacement licenses with a DNR Direct terminal. There is a $3 replacement fee per item plus a small transaction fee.

Q: Do I need a fishing license to fish my private pond located entirely on my property? 

A: No. Owners or tenants (if they reside on the land) may fish in waters on or flowing over their lands without a license. This exemption does not apply to club and organizational lakes or lake developments. Guests must have a fishing license to fish the lake unless they meet any of the requirements exempting persons from needing a license - such as being under age 16, Illinois residents who are disabled or blind, or Illinois residents on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces.

Q: Do I need a fishing license to fish our subdivision's private lake? 

A: Yes. Many people believe that if they live in a subdivision with a lake, they are a landowner and exempt from having a fishing license. Unfortunately, this is not correct. Section 5/20-15 of the Illinois fish code (ILCS 515) specifically states that the landowner fishing license exemption "does not apply to club lakes, organizational lakes, or lake developments."


Q: What is the bag limit and size limit on the different game fish species? 

A: Statewide regulations can be found on page 7 of the fishing regulations guide while site specific regulations can be found on pages 7-33 of the guide.

Q: Where can I find fishing reports? 

A: Fishing reports can be found here: Illinois Fishing Reports

Q: How do I find out about boating rules on Illinois lakes? 

A: You can find out all about boating in Illinois, including how to register your boat, at the IDNR site at

Q: What should I do if I catch a tagged fish? 

A: Angler participation is crucial to the success of our sport fish management, which depends on reports from anglers of recaptured fish with tags to assess fish movements, habitat use, and population size. Anglers who catch a tagged fish are asked to report the following (the IDNR phone number is printed on the tag):
• tag number and color
• date of capture
• the location where the fish was caught
• the length of the fish
Anglers are also encouraged to release tagged fish back into the rivers and lakes. Returning tagged fish improves the quality of the data the research team can collect by making as many multiple captures of tagged fish as possible. Additionally, returning fish to the stream gives them the chance to reproduce each spring, potentially leading to a larger, sustainable sport fishery. For more information about safely returning the tagged fish to the stream, please see our catch-and-release section.

Q: Can I use bluegill as bait? 

A: Yes. There is nothing in the Illinois Fish Code that prohibits the use of legally taken bluegill or sunfish as bait for another species of fish. The bluegill/sunfish must have been taken by a properly licensed sport fisherman using legal sport fishing devices. You must also observe all size and creel limits both where the bluegill/sunfish were taken and where they are being used as bait. Also, it is illegal to cut up or dress or be in possession of cut up or dressed fish on any body of water where there is a size limit for that particular species of fish.


Q: Where can I get fish to stock my pond? 

A: There are several other local, statewide and regional sources of fish for stocking ponds. Most local county soil and water districts sell a variety of fish species. Also, there are numerous private fish dealers and hatcheries throughout the Midwest that supply and deliver live fish. A listing of these fish dealers is now available here.

Q: Who is my District Fisheries Biologist and how do I contact them? 

A: Find the county your pond is located in from this list and call the appropriate District Fisheries Biologist.

Q: Can I catch and take as many fish as I want from my lake? 

A: No. A privately owned and stocked/maintained lake is still covered by Illinois statewide sport fishing regulations. These regulations can be found in our "2013–2015 Illinois Fishing Information" booklet (download here).

Q: How do I control yellow grub and black spot in the fish in my private pond? 

A: In order to help minimize the number of grubs in your fish, you must attempt to break the parasite's life cycle by reducing the numbers of snails present in your pond. The best way to do this is to:

  • Control the aquatic weeds in order to remove hiding places for the snails.
  • Stock at least 100 redear sunfish per acre (stocking adults is most effective). Redear sunfish are known as shell crackers in the southern U.S. because their feeding litters the pond bottom with broken snail shells.


Q: How many salmonids are stocked in Illinois waters of Lake Michigan? 

A: The annual stocking plan calls for 305,000 chinook (king) salmon, 300,000 coho salmon, 60,000 lake trout, 100,000 rainbow trout, and 100,000 brown trout.

Q: How many salmonids are stocked in Lake Michigan? 

A: Approximately 14.5 M (million) salmonids are stocked annually in Lake Michigan: 5.6 M chinook (king) salmon, 2.6 M coho salmon, 2.4 M lake trout, 1.9 M rainbow trout, 1.6 M brown trout, 245,000 brook trout, and 80,000 splake (a hybrid of brook trout and lake trout).

Q: How can I charter a boat to fish for salmon on Lake Michigan?

A: Charter fishing trips can be arranged by calling any of the three charter fishing associations.

Q: Where can I launch a boat to fish Lake Michigan? 

A: Lake Michigan boat launches are available at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, Waukegan Harbor, Lloyd Park in Winnetka, Dawes Park in Evanston, Diversey Harbor, Burnham Harbor, Jackson Harbor, and 95th Street in Calumet Harbor.

Q: Where is the artificial reef?

A: The artificial reef is located east of the 59th Street Harbor in 25 ft of water. It is 800 ft long, oriented north-south, and rises an average of 7 ft off the bottom. GPS coordinates for the reef are N 41 47.600 / W 8733.133 (north end) and N 41 47.473 / W 87 33.144 (south end).

Q: Can I eat Lake Michigan fish?

A: The Illinois Department of Public Health issues annual guidelines for the consumption of Lake Michigan fish based on the species and size of the fish. See our consumption advisory here .

Q: Where can I fish in the Chicago harbors? 

A: Fishing is allowed in most of the Chicago harbors. Contact the Chicago Park District at (312) 747-PLAY to obtain a brochure indicating designated fishing areas for the Chicago harbors.


Q: As I was cleaning a fish, I noticed tiny white worms in the fillet. What are these and is the fish still okay to eat? 

A: What you are seeing are likely yellow grubs. Yellow grubs are worm parasites that spend part of their life cycle in fish. This parasite is not a parasite to man. Fish infected with them are edible. Some additional information about yellow grubs: The adult grub lives in a heron's mouth. They lay eggs in the saliva which wash out of the birds mouth as it feeds. Upon emerging from the water, the eggs hatch and the larvae must invade the flesh of a particular type of snail of the genus Helisoma. If these snails are not present in the lake, the life cycle is broken. If this genus of snail is present, the larvae invade its flesh and multiply themselves manyfold. When they mature, they burst out of the snail and penetrate the fish's skin and become encysted in the muscle. This encysted form may be white or yellow and 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. When teased out of its cyst, it wiggles, squirms and crawls about. The large size and active behavior of this grub can shock anglers when they fillet an infected fish. The life cycle is completed when the fish containing these encysted grubs is eaten by a feeding heron. Dissolved out of their cysts by the digestive juices of the heron, they mature into adult worms, which migrate up the bird's gullet to its mouth, where the life cycle begins again. This parasite is not a parasite to man. Fish infected with them are edible.

Q: The fillets of the fish I cleaned appear "peppered." What is this caused by and are they safe to eat? 

A: What you are describing sounds like black spot. Fish infected with this are edible. In black spot, the adult grub lives in a kingfisher's intestine, depositing eggs that enter the water via the bird's feces. Upon entering the water, the eggs hatch and the larvae enter the body of a snail. When they mature, the larvae burst out of the body of the snail and swim to the nearest fish. They become encysted in the fins, under the scales and in the meat. The fillets of an infected fish may appear to have been "peppered". The black pigment is actually provided by the fish. The tiny grub itself is white. This parasite is not a parasite of man. Fish infected with them are edible.