The state of Illinois has a large number of rivers, lakes, and ponds counting up to 400 bodies of water. To protect this rich environment, the state has implemented general and site-specific regulations that anglers have to observe while they are having fun in the wild. The following lines are meant to give you an idea of statewide regulations.



Unless you live and fish on the land on which the pond lies or the river flows through, you must purchase a fishing license. The disabled, the blind and people under 16 years of age can go fishing without a license.

Non-residents that are under 16 can also fish without a license, but those over 16 have to buy one for the state of Illinois. If you’re in the area but don’t really need an annual license, you can get a 24 hours sports fishing license. All fisherman have to buy separate stamps for fishing salmon and trout.


Bait fishing

Some of the regulations are meant to keep bait fishing in check. If you need bait and you’re eager to get it from the rivers or lakes in Illinois, here’s what you need to know.

You can use nets, shad scoops and minnow seines to get shad, minnows or crayfish. You can use them as bait, but it’s prohibited to sell them or barter them. There are clear specifications concerning the size of cast nets, scoops and minnow seines.

You can use traps for catching crayfish, but those are also regulated. They cannot be more than 24 inches wide and 36 inches long.

The state of Illinois allows the use of bluegill as bait as long as it happens on the same body of water they’ve been taken from.


Techniques and equipment

Culling is illegal in Illinois, but some tournaments allow it as it’s considered a catch-and-release system rather than actual culling.

There are regulations that refer to snagging and bowfishing, and they are strict when it comes to methods, species, and location. Still, you can use both if you follow the rules precisely.

You can go ice fishing in Illinois as long as you don’t use more than three poles with two hooks on each line. You can replace the poles with tip-ups if you like that. Also, you’re not allowed to cut a hole that’s wider than 12 inches.

You can harvest bullfrogs, but you must stick to traditional methods, like hook and line or bow and arrow.



There’s no statewide limit when it comes to white or black crappie, and the same is valid for bluegill and redear sunfish unless there’s a site-specific regulation that establishes such a limit.

If you want to catch striped bass, white bass, and yellow bass, you can also feel free to take as much as you can as long as they’re not over 17 inches in length.

Fishing for these species only regulates specimens over 17 inches. You can only harvest three a day if there’s no specific condition on the body of water. The daily limit is 25 or 30 in case you’re on the Mississippi between Illinois and Iowa or Illinois and Missouri respectively.

For largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass the daily bag is limited to 6, and in streams and rivers other than Mississippi and Ohio, the limit for smallmouth bass is 3. Some rivers and tributaries have a catch-and-release regulation that is in place from the 1st of April to the 15th of June.

You can catch only one muskellunge or tiger muskie per day, and it has to be more than 36 inches in length.

You can’t keep more than five trout and salmon a day and two paddlefish. The limit for walleye, sauger or saugeye (their hybrid) is 6 per day, but you must measure it as it has to be 14 inches long.



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