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Lake Information

County: Lake

Acreage: 987

Recreational Amenities

Boat Fishing? Unrestricted

Boat Ramps? Yes

Boat Rental? Yes

Skiing? Yes

Swimming? Yes

Picnicking? Yes

Camping? Yes

Grass Lake Fox Lake Pistakee Lake Lake Catherine Channel Lake Bluff Lake Lake Marie Petite Lake

 Click on area names for a more detailed map.
  Bluff Lake, Lake Catherine, Channel Lake, Fox Lake, Grass Lake,
  Lake Marie, Nippersink Lake, Petite Lake, Pistakee Lake

Maps are not intended for navigation.

There are zebra mussels in this lake.

Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

Click here for a list of all reports.



Fish Status


Very Good

In 2015, 36% of the bluegill collected were longer than 6”, but these data vary greatly depending on the amount of vegetation present and sampled. Fish ranged from 1” to 8.5” and topped the scale at 0.47 lbs.. 25% of the bluegill collected were over 7” long and 8% exceeded 8” long. Bluegills approaching 9.5” long were reported by a few lucky anglers this fall!



This species is maintained through natural reproduction and are common in river systems. Since the Chain is part of a river system, these fish are a significant predator, relatively abundant and caught by a lot of anglers. Channel catfish ranged in size from 10” to 28” long and weighed up to 7 lbs. In 2015, 59% of the channel catfish collected exceeded 18” in length, 50% were over 22” long and 11% were over 24” long.



Both black crappie and white crappie were collected in 2015. Fish measured between 2” and 15” long and weighed up to 1.7 lbs. 59% of black crappie and 87% of white crappie exceeded 9”, and 11% of black crappie and 30% of white crappie exceeded 11” long.



Though not common, flathead catfish are present in the Chain O Lakes above the McHenry Dam, but commonly targeted below the McHenry Dam south to Dayton. Site Regulation: 3 fish daily limit; one fish greater than 28" and 2 fish less than 28" but greater than 13".



In 2015, bass were collected at a rate of 40 fish/hr compared to 28/hr in 2013 and 36.4 fish/hr in 2011. Fish measured from 2” - 19” long and weighed up to 3.8 lbs. 51% of the bass collected were over 12” long and sexually mature, 25% exceeded 14 inches (legal size), 9% were over 15” long, 5% were over 16” long and 1% were over 18”. This is a well-balanced population that supports quality panfish development and supports bass angling opportunities. Site Regulation: 6 fish daily limit, 14" minimum length (No more than 3 fish can be smallmouth bass, smallmouth must be released immediately between April 1 to June 15, no possession)


Very Good

Muskie are managed for high catch rates, and the longevity of the stocking program has allowed females to grow LARGE! The average muskie is 36” long, but fish up to 51” are caught and regularly reported. In the Chain, it takes at least 12 years for a muskie to reach 48” (legal length) and about 15 years to reach 51”+. Male muskie occasionally grow beyond 40” long, but females easily grow through it and are the longest fish in a system. Muskie are surveyed each year, in spring nets, to track tagged fish and growth. Females weighing over 30 pounds are regularly collected with our largest-ever weighing 36.2 pounds (in 2007)! There are some really nice fish in the Chain! Site Regulation: 1 fish daily limit, 48" minimum length.



Site Regulation: 3 fish daily limit, 24" minimum length.



Site Regulation: Daily limit of 3 fish; smallmouth must be released immediately between April 1 to June 15 (no possession).


Very Good

The Chain O Lakes is a brood source for the State Hatchery System, so it is managed to produce large walleye! During the biennial fall survey (2015), walleye were collected at a rate of 8 fish/hr compared to 18 fish/hr in 2013 (we really found them that year). Fish ranged from 3” to 27” long and weighed up to 7 lbs. In spring 2015, several 10+ lb. fish and a 12 lb. female were collected. All brood fish were returned to Lake Marie after being processed by the Hatchery. Fall 2015 data indicated 68% of the walleye sampled exceeded 14” long, 39% were over 18” long and 11% of the sample was over 24” long. The slot regulation protects female fish and promotes harvest of males. Site Regulation: 4 fish daily limit. Minimum Length regulation: up to 4 fish 14" to 18", no possession of fish 18" to 24" 9protected slot limit), and only 1 fish can be greater 24"

Location: The Fox Chain O' Lakes is located 50 miles northwest of Chicago off Illinois Route 173 and U.S. Route 12 near the cities of Antioch, Fox Lake, and McHenry.

Description: The Fox Chain O' Lakes are unique from other major bodies of water in the state in that they were formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Composed of 9 major lakes interconnected by channels, the Fox Chain O' Lakes is classified as a public navigable waterway managed under the authority of the Department of Natural Resources and the Fox Waterway Agency to provide a variety of water oriented recreational activities. There is a total of 7110.0 acres above the Stratton Dam and 1100 acres between the Algonquin and Stratton dams. Lake Catherine: 149.5 acres; Channel Lake: 348.5 acres; Lake Marie: 585.0 acres; Bluff Lake: 92.4 acres; Grass Lake: 1451.4 acres; Petite Lake: 234.5 acres; Fox/Nippersink Lake: 2376.8 acres; Pistakee Lake: 1715.7 acres.

There are state-owned FREE boat ramps available at Chain O Lakes State Park; private (for fee) launches are available throughout the system. Concessions are available at Chain O Lakes State Park and the McHenry Dam, offering fishing boat and motor rental, canoe/kayak rentals, live bait, tackle, ice, food, and soft drinks. Boat rentals, restaurants, bait/tackle and guide services are available via private vendors throughout the system. Fish cleaning facilities are NOT available in State Parks or at the McHenry Dam.

History and Status of the Sport Fishery: The Division of Fisheries has been actively monitoring the status of Fox Chain O' Lakes fishery for over 60 years (1954 to present). We usually collect between 35 and 40 fish species during our biennial fish surveys. Three fish species have voluntarily become established in the Fox Chain O' Lakes; yellow bass (1973, with a significant die-off in 1995 and 1997), freshwater drum (1992) and gizzard shad (2007).

The Fox Chain is annually stocked with 243,000 2” walleye fingerlings, 2 million walleye fry, and around 3000 muskie fingerlings between State and Club Donations. 34,000 4” – 6” largemouth bass fingerlings are stocked every other year. Natural reproduction maintains all other species, including northern pike.

Additional Lake Information: The Fox Waterway Agency requires an annual user fee/sticker for watercraft utilizing the Fox Chain O' Lakes and the Fox River from the Illinois state line to Algonquin Dam. Please contact them for their annual fee schedule and an application.

Trot line fishing is permitted.

The State owns management jurisdiction for the Chain O Lakes and allows homeowners to treat vegetation in front of their homes by hiring a Licensed Commercial Applicator and obtaining a Letter of Permission (LOP) from the Division of Fisheries.

Contact Information:
Chain O Lakes State Park
IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Frank Jakubicek 815-675-2319
Fox Waterway Agency: 847-587-8540

There were 61 tournaments held on the Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2018.

Species Total Fish Caught
Common Carp 160
Largemouth Bass 3190
Muskellunge 52
Smallmouth Bass 39

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on the Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2018 tournaments:

1     6.12 lbs
2     5.85 lbs
3     5.64 lbs
4     5.64 lbs
5     5.32 lbs

Top 5 Bag Weights of Largemouth Bass caught on Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2018 tournaments:

1     456.94 lbs
2     434.57 lbs
3     397.55 lbs
4     340.74 lbs
5     333.39 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 ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Max Boats Species Youth? Open to Public?
September-2111447ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
25Largemouth Bass
September-2213185ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
September-2513082ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
September-2813636ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
20Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
September-2911228ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
October-0611445ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
25Largemouth Bass
October-0613186ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
70Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
October-1213618ApprovedMaple Grove (Main State Park Ramps) boat
15Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
October-1311229ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
October-1912281ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
75Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass