Illinois is fast becoming one of the best mid-west states for fishermen. Whether you feel like something new or are intent on visiting every state, Illinois will not disappoint. By far its best attraction is bass, but it is a good location for walleye, bluegill, and others.
Bass are the main attraction for anglers in Illinois, although Illinois also has great allure for families. The state designates many lakes as family friendly lakes, such as Lake of the Woods, Newton Lake, and Cedar Lake. Coincidentally, most family friendly lakes are also great bass lakes.
Cedar Lake is one of the prime opportunities for bass fishing in Illinois. Not only is it the site of many tournaments, but as it sits within a national forest the scenery is beautiful. Kincaid Lake, also within the Shawnee National Park, is another good bass fishery. They are also hot spots for walleye and muskellunge.
Jacksonville Lake is an equally, if not more, popular choice for bass fishing even though the average largemouth size is larger in Cedar Lake. Its bass tournaments always fill up quickly. Jacksonville Lake is an excellent balance of quality without sacrificing on quantity.
More great bass fisheries include Spring Lake, which is good for catching big ones instead of ample catch opportunities. Lake of Egypt is a good choice too, and better yet it is a year round option where three pound bass are not uncommon. Newton Lake is another bass locale that is known for trophy largemouth over five pounds.
The bottom corner of Lake Michigan rests at the top of Illinois. Lake Michigan has excellent trout and salmon fishing, which are worth taking advantage of as you would be hard pressed to find either elsewhere in the state. The main run of coho salmon is in the spring, but expect to find whoppers into summer. Fishing for walleye and bass, particularly smallmouth, is also quite good in Lake Michigan.
Walleye fishing is a rewarding experience and Illinois has a healthy population of walleye. Shabbona Lake is one of the more popular walleye destinations, although Lake Clinton is also excellent. If you prefer denser trophy populations Pittsfield Lake is the best option as long as you can conform to its speed limit. Illinois walleye fishing is good in the cool winter months when little else is available.
Although not widely distributed, muskellunge are another option for anglers in Illinois. Shabbona provided the state record muskellunge which bypassed thirty-five pounds, earning the right to all itself the best muskellunge fishery in the state. Other good muskellunge lakes include Carlton and Clinton. Shelbyville has good muskellunge, especially around its dam waters, as well as black and white crappie, white bass, and walleye.
Regulations should be checked before you cast! Fishing licenses are required by all persons older than fifteen. Annual licenses are available for all persons, while only residents may buy lifetime licenses. Resident lifetime licenses are available for thirty times the present license fee. Vacationers may also opt for one and ten day fishing licenses. Residency is defined as inhabiting Illinois for a period of no less than thirty days. Veterans returning from service may qualify for half priced licenses, as do senior citizens. Licenses can be bought from statewide agencies and/or online, depending on which license. If you want to test the waters, remember the second weekend in June is usually Illinois’ free fishing weekend!
Whenever you head out fishing to a new place, it's always best to speak to local anglers. Use fishing forums to ask questions and learn about the most accurate and up to date conditions.