Fishing Illinois: Great Lakes and Mississippi River Fishing

Early Morning Fishing on Winthrop Harbor Illinois Lake Michigan

Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, on Lake Michigan

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Illinois might be known for having the largest city in the Midwest, but outside of the city of Chicago, and even within it, there are great opportunities for different types of freshwater fishing. What should also come to mind in tandem with the great city of Chicago is the Great Lake that they have in their backyard, Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is one of the most picturesque lakes, with clear blue water and arching dunes. The cold Midwest winters bring opportunities for ice fishing as well. And you’ve got to love a state that prioritizes their fishing and allows their residents to have access to the best and most up to date information on where to fish, what to fish for, and how to do so.

The state of Illinois just does that with its own designated fishing website. This isn’t your typical Department of Natural Resources fishing page with a couple of links to regulations and blog posts from five years ago.

Quite the opposite, Illinois has a great fishing website called that has a useful directory of places to fish in each region, calendar events coming up, tips and guides, up to date regulations, and more.

It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to get fishing while in Illinois and it’s great that their DNR prioritizes it. Some of the information is dated, but the sheer amount of information located in one spot is great, and much of it still holds true today.

Now on to great places to fish in Illinois. Illinois does have one notable river, the most notable river in the United States, but outside of that, Illinois might rival Minnesota for the “Land of 1000 Lakes” title. They have some incredible lake fishing in Illinois.

Starting with the big one, Lake Michigan. In Lake Michigan, you can fish for a wide variety of fish such as salmon, bass, crappie, brown trout, walleye, northern pike, muskie, and steelhead. That’s a legendary list for freshwater fishing.

In the harbors of Lake Michigan, you can go ice fishing during the winter, with some ice fishing seasons starting as early as the beginning of November. You can catch brown trout in Burnham and perch in the mornings at Belmont and Burnham.

And when the temperatures are warm, Lake Michigan is a beautiful boating destination, and lodging, nightlife, and amazing deep-dish pizza is right onshore in Chicago. There are very few other spots where you can experience a mega-metropolis and amazing fishing right next to each other.

Another very notable lake fishing destination is Rend Lake. Rend Lake is located in southern Illinois and is most known for its channel catfish and crappie. The Army Corps of Engineers has an office located within the park boundaries and releases regular fishing reports of Rend Lake.

About every 6 months or so a new report comes out. These reports are deep investigations into the populations of the fish, where they’re located, and how to catch them. I’d recommend checking them out if you’re thinking about heading to Rend anytime soon, and if not, hopefully, detailed reports like these will keep coming.

Currently, at the time this article is being written, the crappie population is listed as being in “excellent” condition, with hotbed locations being listed as near Gun Creek, Waltonville, and near bridges and structures.kayak fisherman with big illinois pike

The list for great lakes to fish in Illinois could literally go on forever, so I’d recommend taking a look at the area you’re visiting, and I guarantee there’s amazing lake fishing nearby. In the meantime, we’ll shift to the very impressive river that runs through Illinois, you might’ve heard of it. It’s called the Mississippi River.

Like Lake Michigan, there are also ice fishing opportunities on the Mississippi in the winter. On the Mississippi, in the winter you can catch big bluegill and northern pike, and you might run into a large school of crappie if you’re lucky. Outside of the winter, in the northern part of the Mississippi River, you’ll be able to fish for sauger, walleye, northern pike, bass, crappie, and bullhead and channel catfish.

There are many dams located along the river that offer good fishing below them, and walleye and sauger like to hang around these dams and wait for food. For a very detailed write up of how to fish the many environments and topography of the Mississippi, check out this link:

Illinois has two of the most famous bodies of water in the United States located on its boundaries, it has amazing online resources with a host of information on how to fish all across the state, and the freshwater fishing is unrivaled and lasts year-round. You can’t go wrong with fishing in Illinois!