Community Outreach and Resource Enhancement Program

The Illinois Urban Fishing Program, a part of the Community Outreach and Resource Enhancement Program, was initiated in Chicago in 1985. This program was implemented to teach people of all ages to fish, to provide better local fishing opportunities, and to give participants an understanding of and a greater appreciation for natural resources. Free fishing clinics are scheduled at 20 sites throughout the state. 

We at the IDNR believe that fishing is a great way for families to spend time together outdoors, and our urban fishing clinics give thousands of young people each summer a chance to experience the fun of fishing. 

In total the Urban Fishing Program, with three full-time coordinators, 20 summer interns and their volunteer network, held or sponsored a total of 1,800 fishing and non-fishing programs for nearly 89,263 participants in 2018. 

The program descriptions are listed below for both those programs taking place in the city of Chicago and those taking place in other urban areas throughout the state.

Program Objectives

The major objectives of the Illinois Urban Fishing Program include teaching children to fish, stocking sufficient numbers of catchable-sized fish to provide quality sport fishing opportunities for urban anglers, and attract and introduce citizens to the outdoors by instilling an interest and appreciation for plants and animals. These program objectives have remained the same each year.

Chicago-Based Programs:

Fishing and Aquatic Environmental Educational Programs — These programs, offered throughout the year, are held in schools, with senior groups, at day care facilities, and in parks on weekends. An important goal of this program is to get individuals interested in fishing so that they might develop it as a hobby in future years.

Fishing Clinics and Fish Stocking — This program was started in 1985 at Marquette, Gompers, and Columbus Parks and today has expanded to 13 parks througout Chicago.

Each year about 500 fishing clinics are held for more than 12,000 participants, and about  30,000 pounds of catchable-sized channel catfish and nearly 60,000 hybrid sunfish are stocked.

Fishing clinic instructors present information on fish and other aquatic life, rules and regulations for fishing, as well as basic instruction on baiting a hook, tying a knot, casting, important tactics on how to catch fish, and finally how to handle and return fish to the water. As part of each clinic, participants are provided with rods, reels, bait and tackle for 90 minutes of catch-and-release fishing.

The free Urban Fishing Program clinics are targeted toward children ages 16 and younger, but anyone interested in learning basic fishing techniques may attend. Urban Fishing clinics are presented on weekdays in the summer, usually with morning and afternoon sessions. Locations and reservation/contact phone numbers for the clinics include:

Special Event Clinics — Special Event Clinics are conducted on weekends, after school, or times when the structured clinic schedule and/or site could not be utilized. Special events also includes clinics for groups such as: special education and special recreation groups, block clubs, school groups, senior citizens, park districts, and others who have expressed an interest. Nearly, 3,000 participants take part in one of the seven special event programs each year.

Programs in Other Urban Areas Throughout Illinois:

Special Event Clinics — Special event clinics are similar to regular summer clinics, but are held on weekends, after school, or at different locations where lakes with a suitable fish population are available. Several ice fishing clinics are also held in northern Illinois. Special event clinic participants (nearly 40,000 kids and adults) are also provided with fishing oriented literature packets.

"Volunteer Instructor" and Fishing Clinics — More than 1500 structured fishing clinics are held by volunteer individuals, by employees of state or local parks, recreation department employees, and are held at sites with a lake where fishing is available.

Fishing clinic instructors present information on fish and other aquatic life, rules and regulations for fishing, as well as basic instruction on baiting a hook, tying a knot, casting, important tactics on how to catch fish, and finally how to handle and return fish to the water. As part of each clinic, participants are provided with rods, reels, bait and tackle for 90 minutes of catch-and-release fishing.

The free Urban Fishing Program clinics are targeted toward children ages 16 and younger, but anyone interested in learning basic fishing techniques can attend. Urban Fishing Program clinics are presented on weekdays, usually with morning and afternoon sessions. Locations and reservation/contact phone numbers for the clinics are below (check with the locations for local schedules):

Fishing Expos — Fishing Expos are large fishing clinics where each topic of the Program is taught at a separate station by trained instructors. After completing each instructional station, attendees then went fishing. These events are normally sponsored in part or entirely by local fishing clubs, service clubs, and/or private businesses. Expos are one-day events and are designed to accommodate between 100–500 participants.

Fishing Derbies — Fishing Derbies usually involve a larger group of anglers (40–200 people), and included fishing without the educational part of the summer clinic program. Educational sessions are not practical due to large group size, participants arriving at different times, and time constraints.

School Fishing Programs —School Fishing Programs consist of school fishing field trips, after-school fishing programs, and P.E. fishing programs. For all programs the educational portion is presented at the school or by the lake before actually fishing. With many fishing field trips and after-school programs, parents or grandparents meet the lower-grade students at the lake to help. These family-mentored angling programs are held in high esteem because it is more likely that these children and adults will go fishing again by themselves.  With P.E. programs the teachers take students fishing during their P.E. classes for several weeks near the end of the school year with fishing poles that IDNR provides for their use. Teachers who offer these fishing programs are truly enthusiastic and dedicated.  After-school rod and reel maintenance became a way of life for these teachers.

School Classroom Programs — The School Classroom Programs have been conducted in 25 locations throughout the state. Programs typically discuss lake ecosystems and related topics and then allowed students to pick up and handle live fish and other aquatic animals. Other programs included slide show fish related presentations followed by question and answer periods. Another program used is supported in part by the American Fisheries Society studied the water molecule and water habits as it flowed through a stream.

Conservation Field Day Programs — These programs consist of 15–25 minute presentations about fish and general aquatics, and are usually held outdoors at state parks for school groups that are on a field trip. Numerous groups of students participated and each group would rotate from station to station.

Illinois Urban Fishing Program Annual Reports:
Fiscal Year 2018 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report
Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report