Illinois - Starved Rock, Marseilles, Dresden

Location: The Starved Rock Pool of the Illinois River extends from the Starved Rock Lock and Dam near Utica at mile 231 to the tailwater of the Marseilles Lock and Dam at mile 247. The Marseilles Pool of the Illinois River extends from mile 247 to the tailwater of the Dresden Island Lock and Dam at mile 271.5. LaSalle and Grundy counties border this reach.

Description: Dresden/Marseilles: From its beginning where the Des Plaines and Kankakee Rivers enter to Ottawa, the Dresden and Marseilles Dams, Sheehan Island and Covel Creek south of Ottawa and Ballard Island north of Marseilles are considered the best fishing spots. There are ramps available at Ottawa, Wm. G. Stratton State Park at Morris and Illini State Park near Marseilles. The latter also provides campgrounds with electrical hookups.

Starved Rock: The Marseilles and Starved Rock pools have a bedrock bottom, but in the pools below Starved Rock Lock and Dam the bottom is mud, sand or gravel. The Starved Rock pool is characterized by ledges of St. Peter's sandstone, but the rest of the river has low, muddy banks.

One of the best fishing stretches of the river runs from Starved Rock at Utica to Henry. Starved Rock State Park is a historic landmark and provides ramps and adequate parking area. Camping also is available, and many anglers utilize the sea walls and other banks in the area and catch a variety of fish. Starved Rock State Park also provides accommodations at its lodge: 815-667-4726.

Status of the Sport Fishery: When the first European settlers arrived the Illinois River supported one of the most productive freshwater fisheries in the world. The reversal of the Chicago River in the early 20th century brought an influx of pollution that tainted the river all the way to Peoria. Water quality has rebounded dramatically since institution of the Clean Water Act in 1977 and the fish community has rebounded as well. Diversion of water from Lake Michigan into the Illinois River, levee construction and isolation of the floodplain, changes in land use and construction of locks and dams has resulted in aquatic habitat degradation. Additionally, Asian carp and other exotic species have invaded the river. Despite these negative impacts, a diverse fish community remains in the Illinois River evidenced by the collection of 57 native fish species during annual electrofishing surveys in 2020. Starved Rock State Park at (815)667-4726; Illini State Park at (815)795-2448; IDNR Fisheries at (618)468-2851

River Access: The Starved Rock Pool is wide with slower velocities at the lower end and swift waters upstream to, and including the Marseilles Pool. Public lands bordering the pools include Starved Rock State Park, Buffalo Rock State Park, Illini State Park, Gebhard Woods State Park, Heidecke Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, and Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area. Of these sites boat access to the river is available at Starved Rock and Illini State parks. Public boat access is also available at South Ottawa and Morris. Public boat access areas also offer good bank fishing opportunities.

Additional Information: There is a 12 inch minimum length limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass in the Marseilles Pool, where the daily creel limit is 6 fish (only 3 of which can be smallmouth bass). The Starved Rock Pool has an 18 minimum length limit with a one fish daily creel limit for bass and a 10 fish daily creel limit for white, black or hybrid crappie. The statewide regulations are in effect in both pools for walleye, sauger and hybrids. The minimum length limit is 14 inches with a 6 fish (singly or collectively) daily creel limit. Bowfishing is not permitted in this reach.

Contact Information:
Starved Rock State Park
815-667-4726

Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

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Species

Rank

Fish Status

CHANNEL CATFISH

Very Good

Channel catfish are very abundant in the upper Illinois River. Catch rates of channel catfish in 2021 were average compared to the past ten years. Past hoop net surveys in the Starved Rock Pool targeting spawning adults yielded mostly 16 to 24 inch fish. Notable habitats for channel catfish are main channel border (area between the navigation channel and the river bank), and side channels with current. The Marseilles and Dresden dam tailwaters are notable channel catfish areas. There remains a do-not-eat contaminant advisory on all channel catfish in the Marseilles Pool and no more than 1 meal/month advisory for all channel catfish in the Starved Rock pool due to PCB detection in the flesh. PCB contamination in fish is a remnant of past pollution that is declining. Advisories are developed to protect infants, children, and women of child bearing age and may be overprotective to adult men and women over child bearing age. Trim the fat, particularly around the belly, and allow fat to drip off the fish when cooking to minimize exposure to PCBs.

CRAPPIE

Average

Both black crappie and white crappie are found in the upper Illinois River. Catch rates for both species were low in the Starved Rock Pool, but black crappie catch rates in 2021 were the highest observed in the last ten years in the Marseilles Pool. Black crappie are stocked by IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually in the upper Illinois River to supplement the population. Backwaters, side channels and main channel border areas with submerged brush are the best locations for crappie.

FLATHEAD CATFISH

Very Good

Flathead catfish provide a chance to catch a big fish in the upper Illinois River. Flatheads between 28 - 36 inches made up more than half of past hoop net catches in this reach. Trophy-sized fish exceeding 36 inches and 25 pounds made up nearly one-third of the catch. Fish the deep holes and main channel border near current breaks for trophy flathead catfish.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Excellent

Largemouth bass catch rates were the second highest observed in the last ten years in each pool. The Marseilles Pool largemouth bass catch rate was also the highest out of all pools sampled in 2021 with 31 bass/hour of electrofishing collected.

SAUGER

Good

Some of the best sauger and walleye fishing is downstream of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam, but they may be caught in deep waters of the upper pools during the day or in the shallows at night. Few sauger or walleye are collected during day-time electrofishing surveys. The IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually stocks sauger fry in the Peoria Pool and upper pools of the Illinois River.

SMALLMOUTH BASS

Excellent

The Starved Rock Pool showed the highest smallmouth bass catch rates in any pool sampled in the last ten years with 65 bass/hour of electrofishing collected! The IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually stocks smallmouth bass in the upper Illinois River to supplement the population. Like channel catfish, a contaminant advisory recommendation has been issued to limit consumption of all sizes of smallmouth bass from the Marseilles Dam upstream to one meal per week. This does not apply to the Starved Rock Pool or to largemouth bass in either pool.

WALLEYE

Good

Some of the best sauger and walleye fishing is downstream of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam, but they may be caught in deep waters of the upper pools during the day or in the shallows at night. Few sauger or walleye are collected during day-time electrofishing surveys. The IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually stocks sauger fry in the Peoria Pool and upper pools of the Illinois River.

WHITE BASS

Fair

The white bass is a schooling species that may be best found in open waters with slower velocities upstream of the Starved Rock Dam. Few white bass were collected in the 2021 electrofishing survey due to poor sampling conditions. There is a one-meal-per-month contaminant advisory on white bass in both the Starved Rock and Marseilles pools.