fishing lakes in illinois

The Best Fishing Lakes in Illinois: A Comprehensive Guide

Explore the Best Fishing Lakes in Illinois

Fishing lakes in Illinois

Illinois is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts, with a diverse range of lakes and waterways spread across the state. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a newbie, the fishing lakes in Illinois offer a perfect place to cast your line and reel in various fish species. Illinois has a vast range of fishing options, including fishing in rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. Here are some of the top fishing lakes that Illinois has to offer:

1. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Illinois

Lake Michigan is one of the most popular fishing lakes in Illinois, offering excellent fishing opportunities for anglers. The lake is vast, covering 22,000 square miles, with over 1,600 miles of shoreline, making it the largest freshwater lake in the US. The lake is known for its abundance of salmon and trout species, including king salmon, coho salmon, steelhead trout, brown trout, and lake trout. Additionally, the lake is also home to walleye, yellow perch, bass, and catfish. Fishing on Lake Michigan is open all year round, but the best time to fish for salmon and trout is from April to October.

2. Lake Shelbyville

lake shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville is a prime fishing location, with over 11,000 acres of water and over 250 miles of shoreline. The lake is known for its trophy-sized muskies, walleye, and crappie, making it a go-to destination for anglers. Additionally, the lake is home to bluegill, catfish, and largemouth bass, among other fish species. The best time to fish on Lake Shelbyville is during the spring and the fall, when the water temperature ranges from 45 to 70 degrees.

3. Rend Lake

Rend lake

Rend Lake is another popular fishing destination, covering 18,900 acres of water and over 160 miles of shoreline. The lake is home to a wide range of fish species, including crappie, catfish, bluegill, largemouth bass, walleye, and sauger. Additionally, the lake is also known for its white bass run from March through April. The lake’s central location makes it an ideal spot for a day trip from anywhere in Illinois and a great place for anglers to enjoy a picnic while fishing.

4. Lake Springfield

lake springfield

Lake Springfield is a 4,234-acre man-made lake located in the heart of Springfield, the capital of Illinois. The lake is known for its trophy-sized catfish and bass, making it a popular spot for anglers. Additionally, the lake is home to bluegill, crappie, and walleye, among other fish species. The lake has several docks and boat rental facilities, making it easy and convenient for anglers to access the water. Fishing on Lake Springfield is open all year round, but the best time to fish is during the spring and fall seasons.

In conclusion, whether you are looking for trophy-sized fish or just a day of leisurely fishing, Illinois provides an array of options for all anglers. The fishing lakes in Illinois offer a perfect opportunity to unwind and connect with nature while enjoying the thrill of catching your next big fish!

Rend Lake: A Fishing Paradise

Rend Lake Illinois

Rend Lake is a serene 18,900-acre reservoir that offers some of the best fishing in Illinois. Situated in southern Illinois, Rend Lake is a popular fishing destination that offers a variety of fish species, including the largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. The lake has four marinas, several fishing docks, and ample shoreline access that make fishing here a breeze. If you’re looking for more flexibility, you can rent a boat or hire a local fishing guide to take you around the lake on a customized fishing trip.

Rend Lake is known for its largemouth bass fishing, with several local and national tournaments held annually. The lake’s shallow coves, rocky points, and submerged brush piles provide excellent habitat for largemouth bass, making it a favorite among many anglers. The lake’s crappie fishing is also exceptional, with these fish being abundant year-round. The best time to catch crappie is during the spring spawning season when the fish move to shallow water to spawn.

In addition to fishing, Rend Lake offers many other outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, hunting, and boating.

Lake Geneva: A Serene Fishing Haven

Lake Geneva Illinois

Lake Geneva is a beautiful 5,400-acre lake in northern Illinois that is ideal for fishing. The lake is a popular destination for recreational anglers who enjoy fishing for bass, panfish, and trout. Lake Geneva’s clear waters and gentle currents provide a perfect environment for fishing, making it an excellent choice for anyone who wants a peaceful fishing experience surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

Fishing on Lake Geneva is convenient, with several marinas and boat rental facilities located around the lake. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent one from one of the local vendors. The lake also offers easy access to shore fishing, including piers and shorelines.

Lake Geneva’s bass fishing is especially popular. Anglers can catch a variety of bass species, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and spotted bass. The best time to catch bass is during the spring and fall when the fish are more active.

While fishing is a popular activity at Lake Geneva, the lake also offers many other recreational activities, including boating, swimming, hiking, and biking.

Carlyle Lake: A Fishing Destination for Everyone

Carlyle Lake Illinois

Carlyle Lake is a fantastic 26,000-acre lake located in southwestern Illinois. The lake is a popular destination for fishing and is known for its abundance of fish species, including catfish, crappie, and white bass. Carlyle Lake is also a renowned sailboat racing venue and host to several regattas throughout the year.

Fishing at Carlyle Lake is a treat, with several excellent fishing spots available throughout the lake. Anglers can fish from the shoreline, public piers, or from boats, making it a great choice for anglers of all levels. The lake’s most popular fish species include largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and walleye. The best time to fish for these species is during the spring or fall when the fish are most active, and the weather is mild.

Carlyle Lake also offers several boat rental and launch facilities, making it easy for anglers to access the lake’s many fishing spots.

Aside from fishing, Carlyle Lake also offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, and biking.

Fishing at Rend Lake

Rend Lake

Rend Lake is a 13-mile-long lake located in Franklin and Jefferson counties in southern Illinois. The lake is a popular spot for fishing and outdoor recreation, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The lake has 18,900 acres of water, with plenty of different locations and species of fish to try and catch.

Anglers come to Rend Lake for its expansive populations of catfish, bass, and crappie. Rend Lake’s catfish population includes channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. The lake’s bass population is made up of largemouth bass, and spotted bass. In fact, Rend Lake is home to one of the best populations of spotted bass in the state of Illinois.

When it comes to crappie, Rend Lake is a must-visit destination. The lake has an incredible population of both black crappie and white crappie, thanks in part to the quality of the lake’s water. The crappie fishing on Rend Lake is so good that the lake holds multiple crappie tournaments each year, including the annual Crappie Masters tournament.

Rend Lake is also home to a variety of other fish species, including bluegill, redear sunfish, walleye, and white bass. However, most anglers come to Rend Lake for the big three: catfish, bass, and crappie.

There are many different spots around the lake that anglers can try their luck. The lake is well-suited for boat fishing, with numerous boat ramps located around the perimeter of the lake. Many of these ramps are located near popular marinas where anglers can rent boats or purchase equipment.

However, fishing from the shore can be just as productive at Rend Lake. Anglers can find numerous rocky points, jetties, and coves suitable for fishing. The lake is also home to several fishing piers and other public fishing areas.

Overall, Rend Lake is an excellent destination for anyone looking for a high-quality fishing experience in southern Illinois. The lake’s large size and diverse population of fish make it a perfect spot for anglers of all skill levels and preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned angler looking for a new challenge or a beginner looking to catch your first fish, you’re sure to find something to love at Rend Lake.

The Beauty of Lake Geneva Fishing Experience

Beautiful view of Lake Geneva fishing

Located in northern Illinois, Lake Geneva is one of the most picturesque fishing spots to visit. The lake boasts of a tranquil ambiance, surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills, making it a perfect destination to escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy city and indulge in a calming retreat.

Fishing in Lake Geneva is a fun and thrilling experience for both novice and experienced anglers. It is well known for its diverse fish species, including muskie, walleye, and bass, among others. The lake’s water is clear, providing an excellent environment for the fish, which makes them easy to spot. Besides, its size allows fishermen to fish in different areas, which increases their chances of catching different fish species.

It is advisable to come prepared when fishing at Lake Geneva. Anglers should ensure to bring appropriate gear for the type of fish they intend to catch. For instance, those who plan to fish for large muskie should bring heavy-duty rods, reels, and bait that can handle the fish’s weight. Additionally, because the lake can be vast and open, a fish finder can be handy in locating the best spots for fishing.

The lake’s management and administration put in place fishing regulations and guidelines to ensure that fishermen abide by the rules and protect the lake’s sustainability. Some of the regulations include catch and release of certain fish species, fish size, and bag limits, among others. It is necessary to obtain the appropriate fishing permit and adhere to the regulations to avoid fines and legal implications.

Lake Geneva is more than just a fishing spot. It is home to varied attractions that visitors can enjoy during their stay. Tourists can indulge in water sports activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and boat tours and explore the lake’s nooks and crannies. The Lake Geneva area has several camping grounds, resorts, and hotels, offering accommodation suitable for all budgets and preferences. Visitors can also enjoy shopping, dining, and visiting art galleries and museums as part of their itinerary.

In conclusion, Lake Geneva is a peaceful and serene setting that guarantees an unforgettable fishing experience. It provides a perfect escape from the daily pressures of life and is the ultimate destination for individuals, couples, and family retreats. With the right gear and preparation, anglers can enjoy the thrill of catching different fish species, while also appreciating the beauty of the lake. Anyone considering a fishing trip to northern Illinois should consider Lake Geneva to enjoy the rich fishing culture and indulge in the beauty of nature.

Carlyle Lake

Carlyle Lake

Carlyle Lake, located in Clinton County, is the largest man-made lake in Illinois, covering over 26,000 acres. Created by building a dam across the Kaskaskia River, it is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities.

The lake has plenty of fishing opportunities, with an abundance of catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass. Fishing tournaments are held at Carlyle Lake regularly, and many anglers come back year after year to try their luck. The lake has a number of boat ramps and marinas, making it easy to access the water from various points.

One of the best spots for fishing at Carlyle Lake is the spillway, where catfish and other fish congregate to feed. The spillway is located near the east end of the lake and can be accessed by hiking a trail or driving down a road. There are plenty of picnic areas and benches around the spillway, so it’s a great place to spend a day with family or friends.

If you’re looking for some secluded fishing spots, Carlyle Lake has plenty of coves and tributaries that are ideal for catching crappie and other panfish. Many of these areas can only be reached by boat, so if you don’t have your own, you can rent one from a local marina. There are also several fishing guides in the area who can take you to the best spots and give you tips on how to catch fish.

Another great thing about Carlyle Lake is its beautiful scenery. The lake is surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills, which provide a picturesque backdrop for fishing and boating. There are several hiking trails around the lake, including the popular General Dean Trail, which offers stunning views of the water and wildlife.

Overall, Carlyle Lake is a fantastic fishing destination in Illinois. With its abundance of fish, easy access to the water, and beautiful scenery, it’s no wonder that so many people come here to fish and enjoy the outdoors.

Fishing Regulations in Illinois

fisherman holding a fish in Illinois

Illinois has numerous fishing regulations that anglers need to adhere to for the preservation and protection of aquatic life. It is imperative to check the regulations for the specific lake and species you intend to fish before you cast your line into the water.

Fishing License

Illinois fishing license

Any angler age 16 and above will need a fishing license. The licenses can be purchased through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website or any licensed vendor. The cost of licenses depends on whether you reside in or outside of Illinois. The fees vary per license type, duration of the license, and the age of the angler.

Fishing Hours

Fishermen fishing at dusk at a lake in Illinois

Fishing hours in Illinois vary depending on the species you intend to catch. All types of fishing are prohibited from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise, unless an exception is made. If you intend to fish for trout, you can only fish from 5:00 am-11:00 pm Fridays preceding the first Saturday in April up to and including October 31st. Aside from that, fishing hours are generally unrestricted.

Bag and Size Limit

Fisherman measuring fish caught in Illinois

Illinois imposes a bag and size limit for each species of fish. The bag limit refers to the number of fish an angler can catch in a day, while the size limit refers to the minimum size of fish you are allowed to keep. Some lakes may have different limits from other lakes, hence the need to check the specific regulations for each lake. Generally, the daily bag limit in Illinois varies from 1-6 fish per species, while the size limit ranges from 9-18 inches.

Fishing Methods

Fisherman using a fishing rod in Illinois

Illinois allows anglers to use different methods of fishing such as poles, handlines, and snagging. However, some methods like using explosives, poison, and firearms are illegal. Additionally, some lakes may prohibit specific methods or equipment, so always check the regulations for each lake you plan to fish in.

Special Regulations

Sign indicating fishing regulations in Illinois

Some lakes in Illinois have special regulations that anglers need to know. These regulations may limit the use of bait, prohibit certain types of lures, or require that all fish caught be released immediately. If there are any special regulations in place for the lake you intend to fish in, they will be available in the fishing guide for that specific lake.

Violations and Penalties

Police officer checking angler's fishing license in Illinois

Failure to adhere to Illinois fishing regulations may lead to penalties such as fines, confiscation of fishing equipment, or revocation of fishing licenses. Additionally, anglers are required to carry their fishing license at all times when fishing and present them when requested by a conservation officer. Avoid violating the regulations by making sure you are knowledgeable about the rules and regulations in place before heading out to fish in Illinois.

The Best Fishing Lakes in Illinois

fishing lakes illinois

Illinois is a great place for fishing with many quality lakes to choose from. Lake Michigan is the most famous and provides great fishing opportunities, but there are also many smaller lakes and ponds that are ideal for fishing. Below are some of the best fishing lakes in Illinois.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan fishing

Chicago and other cities along the coast of Lake Michigan offer some of the best fishing experiences in Illinois. Lake Michigan is home to many fish species that are highly sought after by anglers, including steelhead trout, coho salmon, chinook salmon, and lake trout.

Kinkaid Lake

Kinkaid Lake

Kinkaid Lake is located in southern Illinois near the Shawnee National Forest. It is known for its large bass and crappie populations, which draw anglers from all over the state. The lake is also stocked with channel catfish, making it a great location for catfishing.

Braidwood Lake

Braidwood Lake

Braidwood Lake is a cooling lake that is located in Will County, about 50 miles south of Chicago. It is stocked with bass, catfish, and walleye, making it a great location for anglers looking for a variety of fish.

Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville fishing

Lake Shelbyville is located in central Illinois and is known for its crappie and bluegill populations. It is also home to bass, catfish, and walleye, making it a great location for anglers of all levels. The lake has numerous fishing tournaments throughout the year.

Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake is a 900-acre reservoir in central Illinois that is stocked with many fish species, including catfish, muskie, pike, and walleye. Anglers can also find largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, and bluegill in the lake.

Chain O’Lakes

Chain O'Lakes fishing

The Chain O’Lakes is a freshwater system located in northeastern Illinois that contains 15 interconnected lakes and numerous tributaries. It is known for its abundant fish populations, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, and northern pike.

Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield fishing

Lake Springfield is a 4,260-acre lake located in central Illinois. It is stocked with bass, catfish, and bluegill, and it is also home to walleye, muskie, and crappie. The lake has several public fishing access points and a fishing pier.

The Top 8 Fishing Lakes in Illinois

Fishing Lakes in Illinois

If you’re an avid angler looking for the best fishing lakes in Illinois, you’re in luck. From popular tourist destinations to remote fishing spots, Illinois has a plethora of options. Here are the top eight fishing lakes in Illinois.

1. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Illinois

Stretching along the eastern border of Illinois, Lake Michigan offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the state. It’s home to an abundance of fish such as salmon, trout, and bass. There are also fishing charters available for those who prefer to fish with an expert guide.

2. Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville Illinois

This popular fishing lake is located in central Illinois and boasts of 11,100 acres of water. It’s known for its great catfishing and bass fishing opportunities, with plenty of other species available as well. To make the most of your visit, consider renting a boat and exploring the lake.

3. Lake of Egypt

Lake of Egypt

Situated near the Shawnee National Forest, Lake of Egypt spans 2,300 acres and offers excellent fishing all year-round. Its waters are home to species such as catfish, crappie, bass, and bluegill. Don’t forget to purchase a fishing license before casting your line.

4. Rend Lake

Rend Lake Illinois

Rend Lake in southern Illinois is a popular destination among fishermen for its plentiful fishing opportunities. The lake spans over 18,000 acres, offering a haven for species such as crappie, catfish, and bass. There are many fishing tournaments held at Rend Lake throughout the year.

5. Busse Lake

Busse Lake

If you’re looking for a fishing lake near Chicago, Busse Lake is a great option. Located within the Busse Woods Forest Preserve, this lake offers a variety of fish such as largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie. There are several fishing piers available for those who prefer not to rent a boat.

6. Lake Sara

Lake Sara

Lake Sara in eastern Illinois is a hidden gem among fishermen. It’s known for its picturesque surroundings and abundant fish species such as catfish, crappie, and bluegill. There are various boat rentals available for those who want to explore the lake further.

7. Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield Illinois

Lake Springfield spans over 4,000 acres and is located in the heart of Springfield. It’s home to a plethora of fish species such as bluegill, crappie, and catfish. There is also a marina available for those who want to rent a boat or purchase fishing gear.

8. Pierce Lake

Pierce Lake Illinois

Pierce Lake is located within the Rock Cut State Park and offers a tranquil setting for fishing. It’s home to species such as largemouth bass and bluegill. There are several fishing docks available for those who prefer not to rent a boat.


Fishing Lakes in Illinois

Illinois offers a diverse range of fishing lakes and waterways for anglers of all skill levels. From the famous Lake Michigan to lesser-known gems such as Pierce Lake, there’s a fishing spot for everyone. Remember to purchase a fishing license before casting your line and check for any fishing regulations in the area. Happy fishing!

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