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Fox River

Caught September 2014 on the Fox River near Yorkville, this incredible muskie measured just under 50".

Fox River Fishing Guide

Description: The Fox River runs from its origin in Waukesha, Wisconsin to the confluence with the Illinois River in Ottawa. Flowing for a total of 115 miles in Illinois, the Fox River contains 13 dams and 15 major tributary streams. The upper river is very low gradient, increasing in slope downstream of Algonquin and continuing through a highly urbanized area where most of the dams are located. Downstream of Yorkville, the river is free flowing through ag-land to the Dayton Dam, 5 miles upstream of the Illinois River.

©Illinois State Water Survey

River Access: The Fox River has many public parks in the upper and middle sections. Although there are fewer public areas in the lower river, Silver Springs State Park near Plano offers good access. Boats can be used in many areas of the upper river, while the middle and lower sections are shallow and wadable through much of the year. The lower Fox River from Yorkville to Wedron has several popular canoe floats, which is a great way to access good fishing areas.

Status of the Sport Fishery: The Fox River has a very diverse sport fishery, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, walleye, flathead catfish, and Muskie. Sportfish on the main stem appeared to have weathered the 2012 drought fairly well, although limited mortality of cool water species (walleye and pikes) was observed in mid-July in the shallow areas of Kane County.

Fox River Fishery Facts

   (Click on image for expanded view.)

The Fox River is one of the most versatile bodies of water to fish in Illinois. There are over 100 public access points along this stretch for fishing. The most popular fishing areas have been at the following dams: Dayton, Yorkville, Montgomery, North Aurora, St. Charles, and McHenry. Spring and fall are the best times to catch most species of fish found in the Fox River.

Limits of walleyes are not uncommon at these times, especially in April and September, with many smallmouth bass taken right along with the walleye.

The farthest downstream dam at Dayton is located approximately 5.5 miles up from the confluence with the Illinois River. In addition to the tailwater area below the dam, another exceptional fishing spot is located here. Immediately below the hydroelectric power plant on the west side of the river just down from the dam has been a hot spot for walleye, white bass, crappie, and channel catfish.

   Click on image for expanded view.

Proceeding upstream, in addition to the fine tailwater fishery below the various dams, there are several well-known channel areas that provide fine angling opportunities. Channels and backwaters, in addition to spring and fall, can be exceptionally productive during the ice fishing season and at times of high water. Bluegill, crappie, and yellow bass are most commonly caught at these locations. The east channel just above Montgomery Dam has been noted as probably the best. This channel, at one time, was dug for the purpose of boat lockage; but the project was never completed and has provided a very popular place to catch fish and enjoy the outdoor setting.

Another good channel is an area known as Depot Pond. Located on the west side of the river, at the upper Batavia Dam, it also produces fine catches of panfish, especially crappie.

To the north, the farthest upstream dam is located 2.5 miles south of McHenry. Providing a tailwater fishery of the Fox Chain O'Lakes, this area provides more walleye than any spot on the river and is a prime area for channel catfish, white and yellow bass, and crappie. Flathead catfish have been caught below most Fox River dams, including McHenry Dam, where 20 to 30 pound fish are not uncommon. Northern pike are also taken, especially in April.



Fish Status



These species are in low abundance except in the upper low gradient areas, which are more lake-like. Bluegills were most abundant at Rt. 120 in McHenry and at Burton's Bridge, with many fish exceeding 6 inches in length.


Very Good

Based on surveys, channel catfish are generally more abundant in the areas downstream of South Elgin and appear to favor higher gradient areas of the river. Highest catch rates were found at South Elgin, Algonquin, and Oswego. Many larger fish (>20 inches) were collected at Algonquin and Oswego. Catch rates were a bit lower in the areas downstream of Yorkville.



The IDNR initiated a study in 2009 to characterize Fox River flatheads. Surveys indicate a healthy population with a wide range of sizes present, including individuals up to 45 inches in length. Recruitment has been relatively consistent over the study period. Although fish in the 20 to 28 inch size range are fairly abundant, tagging studies indicate larger individuals are limited in number, especially compared to larger streams like the Rock River. Areas that have produced flatheads consistently, including some larger fish, are South Elgin, St. Charles, Oswego, Silver Springs, and Milhurst. Studies will continue over the next few years.



These species are in low abundance except in the upper low gradient areas, which are more lake-like. Catch rate for largemouth bass was highest at McHenry downstream of the dam, where sampling included some fish larger than 12 inches.



Escapement from local lakes has led to establishment of a muskie fishery in the Fox River. They are found commonly throughout the middle river from Montgomery to Silver Springs, as well as in other selected areas. Creek mouths and areas below dams produce the most consistent numbers. Fall surveys at Montgomery yielded 3 muskie 34-39 inches long and several others were observed. One 38" muskie was collected at Silver Springs, a location which often produces multiple fish.



By far the most abundant sportfish, smallmouth bass are common throughout much of the middle and lower river segments and in larger tributaries. Populations are fairly consistent from year to year with good reproduction in most years. Hot spots include Algonquin, St. Charles, Geneva, and Batavia. Algonquin was particularly good in 2012 sampling, with many fish over 14 inches. Other good locations are South Elgin, Aurora, Oswego, and Yorkville. Pools upstream of the dams and the entire river upstream of the Algonquin hold few smallmouth bass due to degraded habitat and slow current. Downstream of Yorkville, the number of bass in the river is somewhat lower, but fish can be found in the larger tributaries, Big Rock, Little Rock, Somonauk and Indian Creeks. Throughout the river small (4-10 inches) bass were very abundant indicating good future numbers of larger fish.



Walleye were collected at 9 of the 15 Fox River mainstem stations sampled in 2012. The highest number was found at South Eglin where fish were up to 22 inches in size. Walleye were in low abundance at other locations. This year the number of 2" walleye stocked in the lower river was increased from 25,000 to 50,000 with the opening of the fish bypass at Yorkville Dam. The upper river receives passive stocking due to overflow from the Chain O' Lakes program.

There were 12 tournaments held on this waterbody in 2019.

Species Total Fish Caught
Channel Catfish 112
Flathead Catfish 44
Largemouth Bass 163
Smallmouth Bass 9

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2019 tournaments:

1     4.66 lbs
2     4.43 lbs
3     4.41 lbs
4     4.40 lbs
5     4.40 lbs

Top 5 Bag Weights of Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2019 tournaments:

1 86.71 lbs
2 73.20 lbs
3 68.10 lbs
4 54.40 lbs
5 50.31 lbs

Multiple day tournaments are listed with * end date.

Interested in participating in one of these public tournaments? Contact us with tournament ID for more information.

2020 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Max Boats Species Youth? Open to Public?
November-0715669ApprovedLaSalle Ramp boat
20Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish