Best Fishing In Illinois – 10 Spots You Must Fish

Why Illinois is a Top Fishing Destination

If you’re really looking to scratch your angling itch it is time to start planning your exciting fishing getaway to Illinois. The landlocked state of Illinois may not come to mind as a top fishing destination so you might be asking yourself, why fish in Illinois? Illinois offers a ton of variety in terms of pleasant lakes, calm rivers, breath-taking resorts, and excellent weather conditions. There are places for beginners and expert level anglers and no matter what your experience level is, you’ll have an unforgettable fishing trip in Illinois!

The best fishing season can be both spring and fall, if you’re going ice fishing one critical fishing tip is plan for the weather, as Illinois can be prone to extreme winter storms. In summer, early mornings are the best time to fish, whereas, in spring and fall, you’ll have better luck going around dusk.

In the following article, you’ll get our thoughts on the top 10 best locations to fish in Illinois. This article will prove to be your thorough guide of what sites can offer great fish and will not disappoint you. Fasten your seat belts! Here we go.

Mississippi River Image
Mississippi River, Illinois
Lake Michigan Image
Lake Michigan, Illinois

List Of The Top 10 Places To Fish In Illinois

10 Best Rivers and Lakes To Fish In Illinois

Lake Michigan Image
Lake Michigan is one of the great lakes and is shared by US states such as Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. Lake Michigan is known to have the coldest water of all lakes in Illinois. Summers around Lake Michigan are short, lasting for just over three months starting from June to September. In July, the temperature gets as high as 82°F and is definitely the most popular time of the year to fish out on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is famous for ice fishing, fly fishing, boat fishing, and even fishing from piers. The endless amount of fishing opportunities on this lake alone make Illinois a great spot to check out on your next fishing trip. Bluegill and perch are angler’s main target through ice fishing, while trout and bass are a popular choice for fly fisherman.

Lake Michigan Fishing Tips

  • The best months for fishing Lake Michigan are mid-April to the end of June. There is a ton of fish activity around this time and it is the perfect opportunity to spend a day landing a ton of fish
  • With the size of Lake Michigan, there are a bunch of places to fish from piers, and can be a great activity with the family

Types of Fish in Lake Michigan

Lake Trout, Yellow Perch, Largemouth Bass, Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Bowfin, Smallmouth Bass

2. Rend Lake

Rend Lake is one of the largest lakes of the state of Illinois being 13 miles long and just over 3 miles long, with an average depth around 10 ft. Rend Lake is home for a significant number of amazing opportunities to land some trophy sized fish with over 37,000 acres of fishing waters! The temperature in summer ranges from 50-63°F, whereas the temperature gets as low as 16°F in the winters. 

One of the things that makes fishing Rend Lake so great, is the hard fighting fish you’ll get to try and land. There is everything from huge bass to catfish and fishing here will open to your eyes to how good the fishing is in Illinois. Since this lake is located in southern Illinois, the fish tend to grow faster in Rend Lake making it almost a sure thing to land a picture worthy fish here!

Rend Lake Fishing Tips

  • It is a good idea to consult with locals and people that know the lake before fishing here, as there is some underwater hazards around the lake that should be avoided
  • Spinner baits and other surface baits have given anglers some huge bass catches from the shores 
  • Leeches in moving water have had huge success catching some monster catfish, including in some of the creeks around Rend Lake

Types of Fish in Rend Lake

Catfish, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, White Bass

The Mississippi River is the fourth largest river in the world and it shares its boundaries with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Kentucky. The best time to go fishing in the Mississippi river is the summer months as the fish are way more active than trying to fish in the winter. 

The length along the border of Illinois is massive, at 593 miles it is impossible for us to break down one spot to fish, as there are literally an endless amount of opportunities in this river. Depending where you decide to fish on the Mississippi River, that will impact what you’re fishing for in a big way as there is a huge variety of different fish in this river. There is even the possibility of landing a massive sturgeon, although these aren’t typically fished in the Mississippi river for sport. 

Mississippi River Fishing Tips

  • In the upper sections of the river, anglers are able to troll and catch a ton of walley, especially in the spring and fall months
  • The southern section of the river in Illinois offers your best shot at landing a trophy sized catfish, as there is over 150 miles where you can typically find them
  • The northern pike are caught almost everywhere on this river, so if you’re looking for a pike you’ll have a shot no matter where you choose to drop your line

Types of Fish in the Mississippi River

Walleye, White Bass, Catfish, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike, Bluegill, Sauger

4. Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield, Illinois image

Lake Springfield is located on the southeastern edge of the city of Springfield. This lake is known for warm water fish and is a great destination for anglers with its availability for shore fishing, pier fishing, and boat fishing!

People prefer visiting this lake from June till September when some of the top-ranked Channel Catfish are present and biting especially well! With an average depth of 13.6 feet this isn’t a super deep lake, but the shallow and warm waters of Lake Springfield are perfect for breeding massive catfish. Anglers also talk about lake Springfield as a top fishing spot in Illinois because it offers a wide span of different fish like redear sunfish, white bass, crappie, flathead catfish, and rich species of bluegill.

Lake Springfield Fishing Tips

  • If your fishing for Channel Catfish in Lake Springfield, night crawlers combined with bottom fishing techniques are your best bet
  • Blue Catfish are best caught in Lake Springfield using stinkbait, crayfish, or shrimp along the edges of lake near submerged logs or along grassy areas
  • If you’re looking for largemouth bass in Lake Springfield, you’ll have a ton of luck with any of the following; spinners, crankbaits, crayfish, jigs, worms

Types of Fish in Lake Springfield

Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish, Fathead Catfish

5. Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville Fishing

Lake Shelbyville is another renowned reservoir situated in Illinois and is a famous lake among tourists and travelers as it offers marinas, resorts, and parks, and unreal fishing! A recreational atmosphere for the family and anglers alike give this a high rating for our best fishing spots in Illinois!

Weather is always an important factor that you must look at before booking your tickets, the temperature all over the year varies from 30°F to 89°F. Summers are warm and humid, whereas winters are chilly and wet so it all depends if you’re looking to get out on the boat or do some ice fishing! Crappie fishing is the most popular in May and June and is the time you’ll find the lake busiest with people fishing at all hours of the day and night.

Ice fishing is very famous in this location and anglers from all over the world visit Lake Shelbyville for ice fishing the Crappie and Bass. Boat fishing and fishing from piers are also a popular choice among anglers in the summer at Lake Shelbyville.

Lake Shelbyville Fishing Tips

  • If you’re looking to load up on Walleye or Crappie, using a spinner with a minnow so you’ll catch less perch and yellow bass

Types of Fish in Lake Shelbyville

White Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Bluegill, Black Crappie, Muskie

Devils Kitchen Lake Fishing

Devils Kitchen Lake is a reservoir in the south of Illinois and it covers an area of 810 acres. Devils Kitchen Lake is famous for fishing Rainbow Trout this draws anglers from all around the world to one of the best spots in Illinois for fishing trout!

The weather conditions in this lake are extreme. The winter season makes the water freeze and is easily cold enough to sustain a long ice fishing season. Ice fishing is extremely popular here and you can usually catch a ton of perch and crappie without a ton of effort. There is also a lot of shoreline and creeks around the lake that are perfect for fly fisherman looking to land some trophy sized largemouth bass!

Devils Kitchen lake is also up to 90 feet deep, so you can catch some beast rainbow trout that you’ll be able to brag about to all your friends. 

Devils Kitchen Lake Fishing Tips

  • Unlike normal, the best bass are caught in the deeper waters at Devils Kitchen lake and act similar to the rainbow trout
  • Crappies respond well to using minnows that are jigged a foot or two below surface

Types of Fish in Devils Kitchen Lake

Largemouth Bass, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, Yellow Perch

7. Lake of Egypt

Lake of Egypt Fishing Illinois

Lake of Egypt is a reservoir located on the southern side of Illinois about 5 miles south of Marion, Illinois. This is a super popular place among anglers in Illinois as there are a ton of different fishing expeditions and resorts to stay in the area!

Summers at Lake of Egypt are hot, and winters are cold and ugly with the coldest month of the year being January, with a temperature of 48°F. The best fishing months are mid-October to the end of January unless you’re looking to do some intense ice fishing and brave the winter storms!

Fly Fishing Lake of Egypt is a great opportunity to target the Nile Perch and land some of these hard fighting, monsters of the lake. If you’re looking to cruise around with the family in the boat or even fish off a pier, Lake of Egypt offers some great spots to do both of these with a high probability of catching a fish!

Lake of Egypt Fishing Tips

  • The best strategy in this lake is to fish parrallel to the grassy areas to land bass, spinners work the best and jerkbait has also been known to land bass with high success rates
  • Carolina rigs with green pumpkins lures are great for bass in shallow water, and have been known to yield trophy fish without needing to go into deep water

Types of Fish in Lake of Egypt

Largemouth Bass, Striped Bass, Black Crappie, Bluegill, Channel Catfish, Nile Perch

8. Little Grassy Lake

Little Grassy Lake is a huge reservoir on the southern edge of Illinois covering an area of 1200 acres! Summers at Little Grassy Lake are warm and muggy, with July being the hottest month of the year. The best fishing months are from April to May to fish the hard fighting Northern Pike, Walleye and Sauger.

Fly fishing is excellent here when compared to ice fishing, just because of the endless shoreline and the ease of catching some nice bass hiding in the weeds. If you plan on boat fishing in Little Grassy Lake, there are a ton of amenities including numerous boat launches, and places to gas up for a day on the water. This is a top lake to fish in Illinois because year round the fishing are constantly biting, doesn’t matter if you’re fishing from the shore, on a boat, or on the ice!

Little Grassy Lake Fishing Tips

  • The best strategy in this lake is to fish parrallel to the grassy areas to land bass, spinners work the best and jerkbait has also been known to land bass with high success rates
  • Carolina rigs with green pumpkins lures are great for bass in shallow water, and have been known to yield trophy fish without needing to go into deep water

Types of Fish in Little Grassy Lake

Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish, Northern Pike, Walleye, Sauger

9. Fox Chain of Lakes

This group of lakes is situated on the northeastern side of Illinois and it constitutes 15 different lakes that are all connected by the Fox River. Why is it such a great fishing spot, because it gives you a ton of variety on different spots to fish. You can pick your spot on a dock, shoreline, or take the boat out and troll for some walleye!

Fox Chain of Lakes in Illinois is a great place for a family fishing trip, as there are tons of campgrounds and recreational activities around if they aren’t as interested in going hard catching fish. This is a really ideal location for fly fishing as well, with all the cool shoreline to wander and different waterways you can always find a great spot to drop a lure in. Be warned, being so close to Chicago this lake draws almost 30,000 visitors in the summer months.

Fox Chain of Lakes Fishing Tips

  • The ice usually thaws around March, and the best walley and crappie fishing taking place early spring with a small jig and minnow, combined with a float as the preferred tackle
  • As the water starts to warm, you can catch walleye along the shoreline in the shallower water, and during the summer they’ll like to hang out in the deeper water around 15-20 feet. 

Types of Fish in Fox Chain of Lakes

Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Northern Pike, Walleye, Bluegill, Catfish

Kankanee River Fishing

The Kankakee River is a tributary of the Illinois River and covers a massive amount of distance with a length of 133 miles. Anglers can fish this river is a bunch of different ways from wading in, shore fishing, or even launching a boat in one of the many towns along this waterway. 

So whats the main reason anglers love fishing in the Kankakee River? It is teeming with smallmouth bass to catch, and the fishing season is quite long here as there are opportunities to fish into the winter months as well! A lot of angler love to fly fish, but there is something about floating a boat down a river and catching fish all day that is really appealing and popular on the Kankakee River. This is a truly underrated fishing spot in Illinois and one that you should definitely check out if you’re in the area.

Kankanee River Fishing Tips

  • The best smallmouth bass fishing season is early in the spring or fall, with spinners, crank baits, and jigs are a great choice to increase your odds
  • If you’re looking to fish for a hard fighting pike, look for tributaries or islands that create quiet spots in the river and target these for fishing northern pike

Types of Fish in Kankanee River

Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Rock Bass, Northern Pike

Wrapping Up Our Best Fishing in Illinois Article

The first word that pops in our mind when hearing the state of Illinois is Fishing! It will never let you down by offering a wide span of fishing opportunities and amenities to its visitors. If you feel messed up by your daily grind, you can home here and blow off some steam. It not only offers fishing but swimming, sports, and all types of fun that you are looking for in one state that can do it all!

This article has covered the top 10 best locations for fishing in Illinois. These lakes and rivers will never disappoint you with the heavy load of fish that are carrying in their depths. Trout, Crappie, Bass, Catfish, and Yellow Perch are found abundantly. Make sure to visit these lakes and have the best fishing experience of your life.