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Illinois River

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS U.S. Geological Survey

Illinois River Fishing Guide

The slow-moving Illinois River, which twists 273 miles through the heart of the state before joining the Mississippi River 14 miles upstream from Alton, has shown an improved fishery since the late 1970s, and anglers have made fine catches of sauger and walleyes, white bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass and panfish from both the main stream and backwaters.

Forming at the junction of the Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers in the northeastern part of the state, the Illinois and its backwaters provide some 87,000 surface acres. There are five dams on the Illinois River besides the one on the Mississippi at Alton in which pool the lower 80 miles of the Illinois is included. The depth of the river is regulated for navigation purposes by this series of locks and dams. Each section of the river between dams is called a navigation pool. The pools are given the name of the dam, which controls the water level of the pool, that is, the dam that is immediately downstream from the pool.

Illinois River Pools:

Lockport: Lockport extends from the Lockport Lock & Dam located near Lockport, Illinois, upstream to the Chicago Harbor Lock, in Chicago, Illinois.

Brandon: Brandon extends from the Brandon Lock & Dam located within Rockdale and Joliet, Illinois, upstream to the Lockport Lock & Dam located near Lockport, Illinois.

Dresden: Dresden extends from the Dresden Lock & Dam located south of Channahon, Illinois, upstream to the Brandon Lock & Dam, in Rockdale and Joliet, Illinois.

Marseilles: Marseilles extends from the Marseilles Lock located near Marseilles, Illinois, upstream to the Dresden Lock & Dam located south of Channahon, Illinois.

Starved Rock: Starved Rock extends from the Starved Rock Lock & Dam located near Utica, Illinois, upstream to the Marseilles lock located near Marseilles, Illinois.

Peoria: Peoria extends from the Peoria Lock & Dam located near Peoria, Illinois, upstream to the Starved Rock Lock & Dam located near Utica, Illinois.

La Grange: La Grange extends from the La Grange Lock & Dam located south of Beardstown, Illinois, upstream to Peoria Lock & Dam located near Peoria, Illinois.

Alton: Alton is used to describe the unimpounded portion of the Illinois River. It extends from the Mississippi River upstream to the La Grange Lock & Dam south of Beardstown, Illinois.

Species

Rank

Fish Status

BLACK CRAPPIE

Very Good

BLUEGILL

Very Good

BROWN BULLHEAD

Very Good

CHANNEL CATFISH

Excellent

Fishing is at its best when the river is rising and floods the lowland timber areas, revealing new food for these fish. There is a fish consumption advisory for channel catfish from the Peoria Pool to the head waters of the Illinois River.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Good

SAUGER

Excellent

The major portion of the sauger population lies below the Starved Rock Dam and extends all the way down to the Mississippi River. Usually beginning in March or even earlier, one of the best ways to catch these tasty fish is to use a minnow on a floating jig with enough weight to keep it on the bottom.

WALLEYE

Excellent

Anglers can expect to find good numbers of walleye in the upper pools below the dams at Dresden and Marseilles. Some of the bigger walleye can be found at Starved Rock, with sampling finding fish ranging from 23 to 27 inches in length.

WHITE BASS

Excellent

WHITE CRAPPIE

Very Good


There were 45 tournaments held on this waterbody in 2018.

Species Total Fish Caught
Bighead Carp 1
Bigmouth Buffalo 4
Blue Catfish 1
Channel Catfish 1194
Common Carp 170
Crappie 23
Freshwater Drum 10
Grass Carp 231
Largemouth Bass 232
Sauger 581
Shortnose Gar 32
Silver Carp 3430
Smallmouth Bass 122
Smallmouth Buffalo 67
Walleye 25
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid 393
White Bass 4

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2018 tournaments:

1     4.94 lbs
2     4.50 lbs
3     3.62 lbs
4     3.23 lbs
5     3.22 lbs

Top 5 Bag Weights of Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2018 tournaments:

1     88.31 lbs
2     45.90 lbs
3     37.76 lbs
4     28.94 lbs
5     26.50 lbs


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

2019 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date End Date
(if different from start)
ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Hook/Bow
Max Boats Species Open to Public?
March-22March-2311909ApprovedSpring Valley Boat Club boat
hook
100Sauger
Walleye
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
April-1411751ApprovedHenry Public Boat Ramp boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
April-2811215ApprovedSeneca Ramp (LST Memorial Ramp) boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
May-0511341ApprovedLacon Municipal Harbor boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
May-0810923ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
May-2210926ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
June-0510928ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
June-1910932ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
July-0310934ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
July-1311268ApprovedSpring Valley Boat Club boat
hook
10Multiple SpeciesNo
July-1411270ApprovedAllen Park (Ottawa) boat
hook
10Multiple SpeciesNo
July-1710936ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
July-2011342ApprovedLacon Municipal Harbor boat
hook
18Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
July-2111392ApprovedHenry Public Boat Ramp boat
hook
18Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
July-3110940ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
August-1410944ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
August-17August-1811343ApprovedLacon Municipal Harbor boat
hook
24Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
August-2810945ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
September-06September-0712072ApprovedCity of Pekin Boat Ramp boat
hook
100Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
September-2112196ApprovedCity of Pekin Boat Ramp boat
hook
30Crappie
Yes
September-2210952ApprovedWilliam G. Stratton SP boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes