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 at, or by calling Customer Service at
866-716-6550. The system is available 24 hours a day. For online sales and a list of vendors, see:

Fishing licenses and permits can be purchased. A license is required for fishing in all Illinois waters, including lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. Licenses are not required for anglers who are under the age of 16, blind or disabled anglers, or residents on active military service.

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 sport fishing (24-hour) $5.50
Non-resident sport fishing (24-hour) $10.50
Non-resident sport fishing (3 days) $15.50
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 the current year are available starting on March 1st of that year and expiring on March 31st of the FOLLOWING year (e.g., Licenses bought after March 1 of 2020 expire on March 31 of 2021).

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 who are residents of Illinois and are aged 65 and older receive a reduced fee for fishing and sport licenses. When senior residents turn 75, the fee is further reduced through our super senior license, which is only $1 plus .50 handling fee.

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.

There is no disability fishing permit that you need. All you need is your disabled card from the Secretary of State, but you must have it with you when fishing.

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: In recognition of the services of Illinois resident veterans, the Department of Natural Resources will issue veterans a current fishing license, sportsmen's combination license or hunting license at one-half the current fee. Half-priced licenses are 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 contact the Springfield office to obtain a half-priced license. Please call 217-782-6302. For additional information:

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 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 have to have my physical license with me when I go fishing or can I just have a picture of it on my phone?  

A: An electronic copy of the license is allowed.

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. 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 9-59 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. Examples of legal sunfish that can be used for bait include bluegill, redear sunfish, green sunfish, longear sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, warmouth and their hybrids.

Q: Can I use goldfish as bait? 

A: Yes. There is nothing in the administrative rules or statutes that disallows the use of goldfish as bait.

Q: Can I use umbrella rigs in the state of Illinois? 

A: The answer is complicated. The short answer is yes, however Umbrella rigs such as the Alabama Rig are not allowed on those waters that are designated "2 pole and line only" unless 3 of the 5 lures have the hook/barb clipped off. The reason is: "2 pole and line only" allows for no more than 2 lures per line. If the waterbody you want to fish is not designated a "2 pole and line only" water (such as the large Corp of Engineers reservoirs), then the Alabama umbrella rig is allowed with all functioning 5 baits/hooks.

In short, if the water is designated a "2 pole and line only" lake, the umbrella can be used only with 2 functioning lures. If the water is not designated a "2 pole and line only" water, then the umbrella rig is allowed with all 5 baits functioning. Most of our waters are "2 pole and line only" waters, so please check the fishing regulations book before fishing the water of choice.


Q: What is the reason for 10hp limits on numerous lakes in Illinois? 

A: We get this question a lot. The horsepower allowed on a lake is dependent upon many factors:

  1. If the waterbody is not owned by the IDNR, the horsepower limit is set by the waterbody owner and we must abide by that. For instance, the US Forest Service may have set the limit in the Shawnee. Another example is Lake Sangchris in the central part of the state, which is owned by an electrical utility, and they set the horsepower limit.
  2. For state-owned waters, the horsepower limit is: electric trolling motors only for lakes under 60 acres; 10hp up to 500 acres; and 25hp for lakes larger than that to help maintain a quiet fishing lake. No high-powered boats, wave runners or skiing allowed.

Years ago, the IDNR tried a pilot program with 5 lakes statewide where there was no HP limit, but with a no-wake for boats over 10 hp. That was met with many hostile comments from smaller boat owners and the idea was dropped after one year.

Q: How often do I need to register my boat? 

A: Boat registrations expire every 3 years on September 30th. You can register your boat online here:

Q: How much does it cost to register my boat?  

A: You can find the fee schedule for boat registration here:

Q: Do I have to register my canoe? 

A: Non-motorized watercraft, canoe, kayak, paddle boat, or sail board, under 22 feet in length are no longer required to be titled/registered in Illinois, unless the vessels have a motor or sail.

In addition, there is no longer a Water Usage Stamp required for use of non-powered watercraft in Illinois.

Q: Do I need to report an accident I've had with my boat?  

A: The operator of every vessel is required by the Illinois Boat Registration Act of 1959 to file a report in writing whenever a boating accident results in loss of life, injury to a person or property damage in excess of $2000.

All persons involved in an incident resulting in serious personal injury, death, or damage to property from any action directly involved in a hunting, snowmobiling, or boating activity, must report such incident to the IDNR within (5) days. All submitted reports are summarized in a yearly report.

The Boating Accident Form can be found here:

Q: How old does my child need to be to operate our boat? 

A: No person under 10 years of age may operate a motorboat. Age 10 years and less than 12 years of age may only operate under a parent or guardian's direct control.

Note: Beginning January 1, 2016 no person born on or after January 1, 1998, unless exempted by subsection (i), shall operate a motorboat with over 10 horse power unless that person has a valid Boating Safety Certificate issued by the Department of Natural Resources or an entity or organization recognized and approved by the Department. Please check back at a later date for more details.

Persons at least 12 years of age and less than 18 years of age may only operate a motorboat if:

  • They have in possession a valid Boating Education Certificate of Competency issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Safety Education Division, or
  • They are accompanied on the motorboat and under direct control of a parent of guardian, or a person at least 18 years of age designated by a parent or guardian.

Find out more about boat safety classes here:

Q: I'd like to take a boating safety class. Where can I find one? 

A: There are two ways to take a boating safety class:
Instructor-Led Classes-The traditional class method is through an 8 hour instructor-led class structure. Classes may be taught in one day or over a couple of different days, usually on the weekend. The class will end with an exam to pass the class. Interested individuals may call 1-800-832-2599 or check the List of Education Courses by County.

Online Self-Study Course-Students may study the course material at their own pace, completing chapter reviews along the way. At the end of the course material the student will be required to pass an exam. Student certification will be mailed by the course provider. Find out more information here:

Q: Who do I talk to about my watercraft taxes? 

A: Please contact the Department of Revenue at 1-800-732-8866 for assistance.

Q: What do I need to do to be a Fishing Guide in Illinois? 

A: To be a Fishing Guide in Illinois, all you need is a boat livery license. There is no guide permit license required in the State of Illinois. Please see more information here.


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: That depends. If you are the sole owner of the waterbody, as of 2018, there are no longer any statewide limits that must be adhered to by private pond owners. However, privately owned and stocked/maintained lakes, such as subdivision or private club lakes, are still covered by Illinois statewide sport fishing regulations. These regulations can be found in our Current "Illinois Fishing Information" booklet (download here). In other words, because private club, association, subdivision lakes are not solely owned, those private ponds/lakes must conform to statewide regulations.

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 189,000 Chinook (king) Salmon, 300,000 Coho Salmon, 120,000 Lake Trout, 135,000 Rainbow Trout, and 110,000 Brown Trout. However, these numbers may vary annually based upon forage availability that is monitored by all the surrounding states, tribes and federal agencies, such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Geological Survey.

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 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.