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Kankakee River

©Illinois State Water Survey

Kankakee-Iroquois River Fishing Guide

Description: The Kankakee River runs from its origin near South Bend Indiana to the confluence with the Des Plaines River near Channahon. Flowing for a total of 59 miles in Illinois , the Kankakee River contains 3 dams and twelve larger tributary streams, including the Iroquois River. The upper river is low gradient, running through the Momence wetlands, a high quality floodplain forest. Downstream of the Kankakee, the gradient increases, flowing over bedrock and cobble through the Kankakee River State Park and past Wilmington, joining the Des Plaines to form the Illinois River.

An angler can fish from a canoe or jon boat, try his luck from shore or wade the stream. Caution must be used, since there are sharp dropoffs and deep holes in the river.

The Kankakee is predominantly a clear, shallow stream with gravel-rubble riffles, sand-bottom pools and swampy marsh areas along the upper portion. Larger pools are formed by dams at Momence, Kankakee and Wilmington, as well as by the Dresden Lock and Dam on the headwaters of the Illinois. An aquatic resource of about 3,338 acres exists on the Kankakee.

River Access: Shore access and boat ramps can be found in most of the larger towns along the river, including Momence, Aroma Park, Kankakee, and Wilmington. The Kankakee River State Park offers eleven miles of excellent river access.

 Kankakee River Fishery Facts

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 Basin Report:Kankakee River

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Status of the Sport Fishery: The Kankakee River is a very high quality system, supporting a high diversity of fishes and mussels. It is well known as an excellent sport fishery for smallmouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, rock bass, and northern pike.

The best smallmouth action occurs in early spring and fall. Spinners, crank baits, jigs and similar artificials are good on the spunky fish, but minnows, worms, frogs and crayfish also can produce. Riffles, creek mouths and fast water below dams are good for "bronzebacks."

Quieter areas, like backwaters of the Des Plaines Conservation Area along the river, are good spots for largemouth bass. Quiet water also is a good spot for northern pike, which also are taken behind islands and ebb areas formed by tributaries.



Fish Status


Very Good

It's hard to find a better place to fish for channel cats. they are common throughout the river with a mean electrofishing catch rate of 11/hr. sizes ranged from 8 - 30", with a catch rate of 7/hr for channel catfish > 20". Hot spots in 2020 were Warner Bridge and Wilmington


Very Good

One of the best small mouth rivers in the State. Hot spots are Momence and Kankakee River State Park where fall boat electrofishing catch rates ranged from 94 to 176/hr. Catch rates for smallmouth ≥ 14in. were between 15 and 20/hr. Reproduction has been strong in 2 of the last 3 years.



The IDNR stocking program, which releases 90,000 fingerlings per year, has produced an excellent fishery. Spring electrofishing catch rates average 33/hr. Grood fish males averaged 18" while females averaged 22". Females often exceed 26". Summer catch rates have also been higher in recent years.

Fish Stocking







Fingerling 1 - 3"




Fingerling 1 - 3"


Additional information for stocking on Kankakee River

There were 1 tournaments held on this waterbody in 2023.

Species Total Fish Caught
Channel Catfish 10
Common Carp 7
Crappie 6
Flathead Catfish 7
Largemouth Bass 10
Smallmouth Bass 13
Walleye 9

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2023 tournaments:

1     3.19 lbs
2     3.00 lbs
3     2.88 lbs

Top 5 Total Tournament Weight of Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2023 tournaments:

1 22.38 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.

2024 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Max Boats Species Youth? Open to Public?
June-1625376PendingRiver Isle Boat Ramp boat
10Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
26018ApprovedBird Park (Bank Fishing Only) boat
200Multiple SpeciesNoYes