Illinois Department of Natural Resources

2021 ILLINOIS COMMERCIAL FISHING INFORMATION

This information is taken from the Fish and Aquatic Life Code and Administrative Rules. It does not supersede or modify the Fish and Aquatic Life Code or Administrative Rules and is presented only as a guide, which is subject to change.  Links to the relevant Fish and Aquatic Life Code and Administrative Rules can be found at:
515 ILCS 5/Article 15. Commercial fishing
515 ILCS 5/Article 20. Licenses and permits; exemptions
Title 17 Illinois Administrative Code, Chapter 1b, Section 830. Commercial fishing and musseling in certain waters of the state

DEFINITIONS

Resident Commercial Fishermen: An individual who has actually resided in Illinois for one year immediately preceding application for a commercial fishing license and who does not claim residency for a commercial fishing license in another state or country.

Dressed: Having the head of aquatic life removed.

Bar Measure: Distance from the outside of one knot to the inside of the adjoining knot on the same thread or strand.

WATERS OPEN TO COMMERCIAL FISHING (open year round except as noted)

  1. Lake Michigan (limited entry). For further information on Lake Michigan, contact the Division of Fisheries, Lake Michigan Program (847/294-4134)
  2. Mississippi River and connected public backwaters (wholly accessible by boat), including that portion of the Kaskaskia River below the navigation lock and dam, except for:
    • Quincy Bay, including Quincy Bay Waterfowl Management Area (open under special use permit)
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge waters
  3. Illinois River and connected public backwaters (wholly accessible by boat), from Route 89 highway bridge downstream, except for:
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge waters;
    • Donnelly/DePue Fish and Wildlife Area
    • Rice Lake Complex, including all of Big Lake
    • Meredosia Lake in Cass and Morgan Counties during central zone duck season
    • Clear Lake in Mason County 7 days prior to and during central zone duck season
    • The portion of the Illinois River from the Route 89 highway bridge to Starved Rock Dam will be opened to the commercial removal of Asian carp under a limited number of restricted period special use permits
  4. Wabash River
  5. Little Wabash River
  6. Skillet Fork
  7. Embarras River, except from Route 130 in Coles County upstream to Route 16 including Lake Charleston
  8. Sangamon River from Belt Route 48 southwest of Decatur downstream to its mouth in Cass County
  9. Kaskaskia River south of Route U.S. 50 bridge to mouth in Randolph County
  10. Big Muddy River south of State Route 14 Highway bridge in Franklin County to mouth in Jackson County
  11. Cache River from Route 51 downstream to the Mississippi River via Cache Diversion Channel but not including that portion of the Cache River between the Cache Diversion Channel Levee and the Ohio River
  12. Saline River in Gallatin and Saline Counties
  13. Ohio River, expect for:
    • Olmsted Locks and Dam downstream to a line perpendicular with the end of the longest lock wall, including the circular cell portion
    • Smithland Dam downstream to a line perpendicular to the end of the outer lock wall
    • Within 50 yards of the mouth of any tributary or stream.

Commercial fishing will NOT be permitted in any stream, ditch or tributary connected to the backwaters of the aforementioned waters.  Other waters (lakes and streams) may be open to commercial fishing by special season or contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

FISH SPECIES THAT MAY BE TAKEN COMMERCIALLY

The following species of fish may be taken by licensed commercial fishermen: common carp, buffalo, freshwater drum, catfishes (includes bullheads), carpsuckers, suckers (except longnose sucker), redhorses (except river redhorse and greater redhorse), mooneye, goldeye, gar (except alligator gar), gizzard shad, minnows, goldfish, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp (white amur), black carp, paddlefish (only in waters specified below; roe harvester permit required), shovelnose sturgeon (only in waters specified below; roe harvester permit required), and bowfin (roe harvester permit required from October 1 through May 31).

PROTECTED SPECIES

No aquatic life species listed as State or Federally endangered or threatened can be taken or possessed. The list is available from the Division of Natural Heritage, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702 or online at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/ESPB/Pages/default.aspx. The State-endangered river otter is occasionally taken in nets of commercial fishermen. Reporting of accidental captures should be made to the Conservation Police, to the Department of Natural Resources Endangered Species Program Manager (217/785-8290), or online at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/conservation/NaturalHeritage/Pages/ETSightingForm.aspx.

SIZE LIMITS ON FISH THAT MAY BE TAKEN COMMERCIALLY

No channel catfish, flathead catfish, blue catfish, or white catfish under 15 inches in length undressed, or under 12 inches dressed, or under 10.7 inches dressed with the first vertebrae (T bone) removed may be taken (except in the Ohio River and the Wabash River).

No channel catfish, blue catfish or flathead catfish less than 13 inches in total length may be taken from the Wabash and Ohio Rivers.  Only one channel catfish per day equal to or greater than 28 inches may be harvested from the Wabash and Ohio Rivers.  Only one blue catfish and one flathead catfish per day equal to or greater than 35 inches may be harvested from the Wabash or Ohio Rivers.

Please see REGULATIONS FOR THE COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF ROE-BEARING FISHES below for size limits of paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon.

There is no size limit on common carp, buffalo, freshwater drum, bullhead, carpsuckers, suckers, redhorses, mooneye, goldeye, gar, gizzard shad, minnows, goldfish, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp (white amur), black carp, and bowfin.

REGULATIONS FOR THE COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF ROE BEARING FISHES

Any commercial fishermen who harvests paddlefish, shovelnose sturgeon or bowfin is required to first obtain a commercial roe harvest permit (whether or not they sell or barter the roe from these fishes) in addition to a commercial fishing license. Any individual assisting with the taking of roe-bearing species who is not under direct supervision of the permittee must also obtain a roe harvest permit. All commercial fishermen engaged in harvesting roe-bearing species must:

PADDLEFISH: May not be commercially harvested except in the Ohio River, the Illinois River below Route 89, and the Mississippi River below Lock and Dam 19. Paddlefish may only be harvested from October 1 – May 31 inclusive from the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Paddlefish may only be commercially harvested from November 1 – April 30 from the Ohio River. A commercial roe harvest permit is required to commercially harvest paddlefish from any body of water.

No paddlefish less than 32 inches in length (measured from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail) may be harvested from the Ohio River. No paddlefish less than 28 inches in length (measured from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail) may be harvested from the Illinois or Mississippi Rivers.

SHOVELNOSE STURGEON: May not be commercially harvested except in the Mississippi River upstream of the Mel Price Lock and Dam in Alton, IL (excluding the area from lock and dam 19 to the State Highway 9 bridge in Niota), the Ohio River and the Wabash River.  Shovelnose sturgeon may only be commercially harvested from October 1 through May 31 from the Mississippi and Wabash River and from October 15 through May 15 from the Ohio River. A commercial roe harvest permit is required to commercially harvest shovelnose sturgeon from any body of water.

No shovelnose sturgeon less than 25 inches in length (measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail) may be harvested from the Wabash River.  No shovelnose sturgeon less than 24 inches in length (measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail) or greater than 32 inches in length (measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail) may be harvested from the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers.

BOWFIN: May be harvested year round from any water that is legally open to commercial fishing.However, a commercial roe harvest permit is required to harvest bowfin from October 1 – May 31 inclusive.

There is no size limit on bowfin.

GEAR AND USE LIMITATIONS

Hoop nets, basket traps, trot lines and dip nets may be used in all of the aforementioned waters. Except for seines, no other devices may be pulled, dragged, hauled or drawn to or near shore or to or against any backstop. Commercial devices may not be used within 300 yards above or below any spillway, fishway, lock or dam, or in such a manner as to block more than one-half of the width of any stream or watercourse.

Basket Traps: Must be constructed of wood or plastic slats and must have an unobstructed opening or openings in the rear of not less than 1-1/2 inches square. Wire traps are illegal.

Trot lines: Must have hooks spread at intervals of not less than 24 inches.  Trot, set, or throw lines may not be draw through the water to snare or snag fish.

Hoop Nets: Must have a mesh not less than one inch bar measurement and attached wings and leads must not be smaller than number 9 twine.

Dip Nets: Must have a mesh size not less than 1-1/2 inches bar measurement and must not be more than 15 feet square or in diameter.

Trammel and Gill Nets: Trammel nets must have mesh of not less than 2 inches bar measurement (except in the Ohio River where trammel nets must have a mesh of not less than 4 inches bar measurement), gill nets not less than 4 inches.  Neither shall be less than 100 feet in length. It is unlawful to use trammel or gill nets except in the Ohio River, Mississippi River and the Illinois River from its mouth up to Illinois highway Route 89, including adjacent backwaters, but not above the mouth of any stream, ditch, or tributary connected to such backwaters. All trammel and gill nets set shall be under immediate supervision of the operator or his employee except from May 1 to September 30, or except when nets are set under ice, or from sunset to sunrise.

Trammel nets and gill nets may be used in additional waters where authorized by contract from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Seines: Seines up to 100 yards in length may have a minimum mesh size of 1-1/2 inches bar measurement; in seines over 100 yards in length, the mesh size shall not be less than 2 inches bar measurement, except that all seines over 100 yards in length may have a section not exceeding 300 feet of 1-1/2 inch bar measurement.No seine shall be more than 1500 yards long.  If seines are more than 200 yards long, they must be operated with a backstop of vertical slats not less than 1-1/4 inches apart or with 3 inch bar measurement netting or of chicken wire or metallic cloths with mesh of not less than 1-1/2 inches square and shall be operated in not less than two feet of water.

Seines may be used only in the Ohio River, Illinois River, Mississippi River (except seining will not be permitted in Boston Bay and its connected backwaters above the mouth of Boston Bay in Mercer County) and Wabash River, except where authorized by contract from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Commercial devices may not be used within 300 yards above or below any spillway, fishway, lock or dam, or in such a manner as to block more than one-half of the width of any stream or watercourse.

Live boxes and nets: Must be plainly labeled with the owner's name and address.

OPERATION AND DISTURBANCE OF GEAR

It is illegal to loan licenses for operation of commercial fishing gear.  One may not disturb the licensed equipment of another person without that person's consent.

DISPLAY OF TAGS:

All gear must be tagged with a current year’s Gear Tag and the owner's name and address as follows:

Seines: Tag or tags shall be attached to the brail or to the leader line adjoining the brail on either end of the seine.

All nets: Tag shall be attached to the rear hoop, tail line, or on the tail pole.

Other devices: Tag shall be in such a position as to be exposed to public view.

CHECKING GEAR

Commercial fishing devices must be checked and emptied of catch at the following time intervals:

  1. Hoop nets and basket traps must be attended at least once every 72 hours during open water conditions. During ice cover conditions, hoop nets and traps must be attended at least once every 20 days.
  2. Trammel and gill nets must be under the immediate supervision of the operator at all times from October 1 to April 30 during open water conditions and daylight hours and at least every 24 hours during May 1 to September 30. When operating and taking or possessing roe-bearing species, nets must be attended from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During ice cover conditions, trammel and gill nets must be attended at least every 96 hours.
    • Immediate supervision is defined as the operator (the licensee or his or her employee) being on the waters where the nets are set to be readily available to identify the nets to law enforcement officers
  3. Trotlines and other hook and line devices must be checked at least every 24 hours.
  4. Seines and trammel or gill nets fished by driving or drifting must be constantly attended.
  5. Commercial gear containing dead or moribund fish as a result of failure to check gear and empty catch shall be considered an illegal device.

NETTING UNDER THE ICE

Holes shall be marked so as to be clearly visible. Trammel nets shall be set not less than 100 yards from any natural opening in the ice.

IMPORTED FISH

Fishes imported into Illinois must be in containers labeled as to the state and county of origin and must bear the name and address of the transporter.

COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF MUSSELS

All commercial musselors shall have a commercial mussel license. All individuals assisting a licensed commercial musselor in taking mussels must also have a commercial mussel license. Mussels may be taken from sunrise to sunset only by means of crowfoot bars or hand picking. Brail or crowfoot bars must be 20 feet or less in length.  No more than 3 bars may be possessed in each boat.

The following species of mussels may be taken by licensed commercial musselers: washboard (Megalonaias nervosa) (Ohio River Only) not less than 4.0 inches, threeridge (Amblema plicata) not less than 3.0 inches, mapleleaf (Quadrula quadrula) not less than 2.75 inches, and Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) of any size. All mussels taken shall be not less than 2 1/2 inches on the shortest line from the center of the hinge side and at a right angle across the shell to the outer edge. Mussels smaller than the legal size and all other species of mussels must be immediately returned to the mussel bed or location from which they were taken.

It is illegal to possess mussel shell more than 15 days after the close of the season without a mussel dealer license.

WATERS OPEN TO COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF MUSSELS AND SEASONS

  1. Mississippi River and backwaters, April 1 to August 31 inclusive, except for the following areas:
    • all of the area directly above Lock and Dam 12 (RM 556.7) from the center of the navigation channel east to the Illinois shoreline and northward to a line extending from RM 558.4 to the Blanding's Landing boat ramp, including but not limited to all of the area contained within the designated U.S. Military Reservation area
    • all of the waters contained within Sylvan Slough from the Interstate 74 highway bridge (RM 485.8) west to the lower tip of Arsenal Island (RM 482.6);
    • all of the area north of and perpendicular to the center line of the navigation channel to the Illinois shoreline lying between RM 433.0 (New Boston Boat Launching Ramp) to RM 433.8 (lower tip of the first upstream island along the Illinois shoreline)
    • Pontoosuc Bay contained within and described as that area from the center of the main navigation channel and perpendicular to the Illinois shoreline located between RM 388.0 (Pontoosuc light and daymark) and RM 390.2 (Dallas City boat access area)
    • all of the area southward of the center of the navigation channel and perpendicular to the Illinois shoreline on a line from the Des Moines River daymark (Iowa side) and the Des Moines River lighted buoy (Illinois side), both of which are at RM 361.7, to Lock and Dam 19 (RM 364.5) including any slough channels of the Mud Island area along the Illinois side
    • All of the area east of the center of navigation channel and perpendicular to the Illinois shoreline between RM 314.0 (Whitney light and daymark) and RM 316.0 (Hadley Island Goale light and daymark)
    • all of the area east of the center of navigation channel and perpendicular to the Illinois shoreline between River Mile 238.4 (Hasting's Landing light and daymark) and River Mile 246.8 (Turner Landing light and daymark)
    • Mark Twain U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge Waters.
  2. Ohio River and backwaters, April 1 to September 30 inclusive
  3. Illinois River, from the LaGrange Lock and Dam downstream to the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers at Grafton, from July 15 through August 31 inclusive
  4. Wabash River

Commercial musseling will NOT be permitted in any stream, ditch or tributary connected to the backwaters of the aforementioned waters.  Other waters (lakes and streams) may be open to commercial musseling by special season or contract with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF CRAYFISH

The only legal crayfish species commercial fishermen can sell alive for food or bait are the four species listed on the Aquatic Life Approved Species List: White River, Papershell, Northern and Devil Crayfish (www.ifishillinois.org/programs/aquaculture/aquatic_approved_species.pdf). Seines are the only commercial devices legal to use to commercially harvest crayfish in waters open to the commercial harvest of crayfish. Seines cannot exceed 20 feet in length or 6 feet in depth with a bag not more than 6 feet in height with a mesh no greater than ½ inch bar measurement. Commercial fisherman can use live crayfish taken as bait only on the same body of water where they were legally caught.

WATERS OPEN TO COMMERCIAL HARVEST OF CRAYFISH

The Illinois River and adjacent backwaters from the Route 89 highway bridge downstream are open to commercial harvest of crayfish, except for:

RECORDS MAINTAINED BY COMMERCIAL FISHERMEN

Commercial Fisherman shall keep an accurate record throughout the year of their catch and commercial fishing activities showing the species and number of pounds taken, type of gear used and location taken. Additional information for roe harvest include: type of processing, weight in pounds, and price per pound. This information shall be open for inspection by the Department of Natural Resources at all times and shall be submitted to DNR on official forms as requested by the Department.  Failure to submit such required reports is a violation of Illinois Law and shall be grounds for the Department to refuse to issue a license for the following year. Annual reports are due on the 31st of January, whereas monthly reports (special use permits and roe harvest) are due by the 5th of each month.

SUSPENSIONS

Effective July 1, 2007 Illinois entered the Interstate violators compact. This means that if your commercial fishing privileges are suspended in Illinois, they may also be suspended by other compact member states. Pursuant to 515 ILCS 5/20-105(e), which was adopted in August of 1999, if your commercial fishing privileges are suspended by any other state, federal agency or province of Canada they are also suspended in Illinois.  For more information on suspensions, visit: www.idnr.state.il.us/law3/ or call the Office of Law Enforcement at 217/782-6431.

CONSENT OF LANDOWNERS

Commercial fishermen are responsible for obtaining permission to fish from the landowner(s) of the aforementioned waters.

SALE OF AQUATIC LIFE

Licensed commercial fishermen may sell commercial species of fish legally taken by themselves in commercial fishing devices to a resident licensed wholesale aquatic life dealer without additional licenses.

REQUIRED RECORDS FOR AQUATIC LIFE DEALERS

All aquatic life dealers engaged in the buying, selling, or shipping of aquatic life in the State shall maintain the minimum records containing the following: name and address of buyer and seller; date of transaction; species and quantity to the nearest pound or number of whole species; and license of permit number of buyer or seller if applicable.  The records shall be made immediately available to authorized employees of the Department of Natural Resources upon request.

REQUIRED RECEIPTS FOR AQUATIC LIFE DEALERS

Aquatic Life Dealers shall issue a numbered receipt to the person the aquatic life is purchased or received from listing the number of pounds and kinds of aquatic life, the date of purchase, the price paid per pound for each species, the name and address of the person the aquatic life was received from, the appropriate license number of the seller, and the origin of the aquatic life.

A duplicate copy of the receipt shall be given to the person the aquatic life was received from. The original copy of the receipt shall be maintained by the aquatic life dealer for a minimum of two years from the date of the transaction. All receipts, reports, and records shall be open for inspection by any law enforcement officer upon request.

SHIPMENT OF AQUATIC LIFE: LABELS AND TAGS

Any person shipping or transporting aquatic life shall attach to every container a tag showing the different varieties of aquatic life contained within, the pounds of each variety, the name and place of business of the consignor and of the consignee, and the number and type of license.

CURRENT LICENSE FEES

All commercial fishermen shall have a Commercial Fishing License.  Persons assisting a commercial fisherman must also have a commercial fishing license unless those persons are under direct supervision of and aboard the same watercraft as the licensed commercial fisherman.  All commercial fishermen will be required to purchase a recreational fishing license in addition to their commercial fishing license. Additionally, any person assisting a commercial fisherman will be required to purchase a recreational fishing license.

All commercial fishing licenses expire on March 31st of each year.

To view the most up-to-date license pricing, list of vendors capable of issuing various licenses and device tags, or to order licenses online, please visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/LPR/Pages/CommercialLicensesFees.aspx

Information regarding commercial fishing can be obtained by contacting the commercial fisheries biologist:
Sara Tripp
Commercial Fishing Program
918 Union Street
Alton, IL 62002
Phone: (618) 444-3078
Email: sara.tripp@illinois.gov

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources receives Federal financial assistance and therefore must comply with federal anti-discrimination laws. In compliance with the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois Constitution, Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, and the U.S. Constitution, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age or disability. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility, please contact the Equal Opportunity Officer, Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702, (217) 782-7616, or the Office of Human Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. 20240. Department of Natural Resources information is available to the hearing impaired by calling IDNR's Telecommunications Device for the Deaf: (217) 782-9175. he Ameritech Relay Number is (800) 526-0844.