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Kishwaukee River

©Illinois State Water Survey

The Kishwaukee River Basin covers an area of approximately 1,218 square miles, spanning seven counties in northern Illinois, including parts of Boone, McHenry, Kane, DeKalb, Ogle, and small parts of Lee and Winnebago counties. The mainstem of the river empties into the Rock River about 3 miles south of Rockford, Illinois. It is formed by two branches which unite just south and west of Cherry Valley, IL. The North Branch arises in east-central McHenry County and flows to the west to near Rockford, where it turns south before uniting with the South Branch. The South Branch has its origin on a moraine just north of Shabbona. It flows northeasterly to the village of Genoa, where it turns to the northwest before uniting with the North Branch The two branches thus united, then flow only a short distance before emptying into the Rock River.

More than 60 species of fish have been found in the Kishwaukee River Basin, including several species of sport fish. The most sought after of the sport fish are the smallmouth bass and channel catfish, with both found abundantly and of good size. Panfish such as bluegill and rock bass can be found in some areas of the river, along with largemouth bass. Northern pike can also be found in several areas, but in low numbers.

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Fish Status



Bluegill can be found throughout the Kishwaukee River system, but generally in low numbers due to a lack of suitable backwaters. Best populations have been found in the South Branch of the Kishwaukee near DeKalb and Sycamore, or upstream of the dam at Belvidere where the water is impounded.



Channel catfish are abundant and of good size in the North Branch of the Kishwaukee River below the Belvidere dam, all the way down to the confluence with the Rock River south of Rockford. They can also be found in the South Branch of the Kishwaukee River, especially near the confluence with the North Branch south of Rockford. A study done in 2011 found that the average length of the channel catfish collected from the Kishwaukee River was 15.2" with the largest at 21". The average weight of these fish was 1.2 pounds, with the largest at 3.9 pounds. Very few channel catfish occur upstream of the dam in Belvidere due to the dam blocking upstream migration. Channel catfish have been stocked above this dam, but they have failed to establish permanent residence.



Rock bass are commonly found in the rocky areas downstream of the Belvidere dam. The largest number have been found near the Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve south of Rockford where several individuals greater than 8" in total length were collected.


Very Good

Smallmouth bass are common and abundant in the Kishwaukee River. A survey conducted in the summer of 2011 found good numbers of smallmouth bass from the Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve south of Rockford, upstream to just below the Belvidere Dam in Belvidere Park. Good numbers of bass were also found just upstream of the Belvidere Dam near the old railroad bridge. The average size of the bass collected was 11.8" with the largest near 17" in total length. The number of bass larger than 14" was good, with 27% of the collected fish in this size range and 7% of the collected fish over 16" in total length, indicating good fishing opportunities. Best fishing can be found near rip rap areas and/or around structure. Note: There is a closed season on smallmouth bass. All smallmouth bass caught between April 1 and June 15 must be immediately released alive and in good condition back into the waters from which they came.

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