The State of Illinois has some of the best fishing grounds across the whole country. It boasts of more than a million acres of water in the form of lakes, crystal-clear small lakes, rivers, and ponds. Lake Michigan is famous for trolling salmon, whereas Cedar Lake has the best bass fisheries in terms of numbers. Bank fishing along the shores of Johnson Lake or Illinois River presents the opportunity to catch some largemouth bass, spotted bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, carp, and even channel catfish. But first, an I.L. fishing license is required.

The cost of a fishing license depends on its type, with options based on your residence and if you are a veteran or a senior citizen. You don't have to troop to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices to buy a fishing license as you can purchase through its website. It is also possible to buy one from hunting and fishing equipment traders who are approved, license vendors.

After procuring the I.L. fishing license, you may now plan your fishing trip. But before you do, make sure you have read the applicable fishing laws and regulations in the place you wish to fish. There are Federal, State, and Local fishing rules that anglers are required to adhere to conserve and preserve fish populations for future generations.

The conservation of the fish population is a significant concern. You must keep in mind that what you do now in terms of preserving and conserving the fish population will affect the future. You must understand and follow the fishing laws in your area, consistently practice catch and release whenever possible to prosper the fish population.

Getting your Illinois Fishing License

To acquire an Illinois Fishing License, you can visit the DNR Direct License or the vendors' website. To see the list of vendors, click on this website https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/LPR/Pages/default.aspx

For the process of purchasing an Illinois License Online follow the steps below: 

  • Step One: Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Website
  • Step Two: Check yes or no when being asked if you are a legal resident of Illinois, then check to continue. When prompted to type your IDNR Customer number or driver's license/I.D. number, social security number, and date of birth.
  • Step Three: Follow the remaining steps, such as entering your address, personal attribute information such as height, weight, hair color, eye color, and contact information. 

You may also call 1-888-673-7648 for the Department of Natural Resources. 

Types of Illinois Fishing Licenses and Costs

Below are the types of licenses and costs for the State of Illinois. 

License Type


Resident sport fishing, annual


Resident Sport Fish, 65 and older


Resident and non-resident sport fishing (24 hours)


Non-resident sport fishing (10 days)


Non-resident sport fishing (annual)


Sportsmans License (combined hunting and fishing licenses)


Senior Sportsman's License (combined hunting and fishing licenses)


Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp (licensed anglers only)


Inland Trout Stamp (all waters except Lake Michigan; licensed anglers only)


Resident lifetime sport fishing


Resident lifetime combined (hunting and fishing) 


Who needs an Illinois Fishing License?

All individuals who are 16 and over are required to have a fishing license. All youth who are below 16 may fish without a license. 

Do kids under 16 need to purchase a trout stamp to catch trout? 

Children who are under 16 do not need a trout stamp to fish for trout. Individuals exempt from fishing licenses aren't required to have a trout stamp. 

Do non-resident children need a fishing license? 

Non-resident children may fish without a fishing license. 

Are the licenses for seniors free?

Seniors are awarded a reduced rate for all fishing and sports licenses. Once the individual has turned 75, their fee is reduced to a super senior license. The price for this is only $1 plus a $.50 handling fee. 

Do people with a disability qualify for free fishing licenses? 

To acquire a free license, an individual must demonstrate proof of disability with the following forms of identification:

  1. A State disabled person I.D. Card is an I.D. card that is available from the Secretary of State through the driver's license examining station. The I.D. card must show a Class 2 or Class 2A disability and only applies to Illinois residents. 
  2. Veterans disability card is a disability card that is available from the Illinois Department of Veteran's Affairs Office. Veterans who are at least 10% disabled with service-related disabilities or in receipt of total disability pensions may fish with sport fishing devices during those periods of the year, where it is unlawful to do so without the need for a license. This card applies to both Illinois residents and non-residents. 

Please note that there isn't any Illinois disability permit needed, have the disability card above for permission to fish. 

Do military individuals need to purchase fishing licenses? 

Individuals on active duty who are classified as residents and thus may fish without a license while on leave. Individuals who are on active duty with the Armed Services who entered service as an Illinois resident may also fish without a permit during the leave. 

Do I need a fishing license to take my children and grandchildren fishing? 

If you plan to join your children, you'll need a fishing license because you are over the age of 16. If your children are all under 16, they may fish without a license and under your supervision. 24-hour licenses for adults are $5.50.

Illinois Fishing License Renewal

The license will expire on March 31 of each year. Following the State's fishing laws, you can purchase new fishing licenses starting from March 1 of that year and expires on March 31 of the following year. (ex. - licenses bought on March 1 of 2019 will expire on March 31 of 2020) 

How do I replace a lost fishing license in Illinois? 

To reclaim your fishing license, you may replace your old one with the following methods: 

  • Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website to reprint your license with no charge at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/LPR/Pages/ReprintOnlineLicense.aspx. Please note that vendor transactions may charge a fee. 
  • Head to the regional offices, Chicago office, Springfield public service area to replace your licenses, permits, and stamps for $3. 
  • Also, may head to Vendors to issue a replacement with a DNR Direct Terminal for $3 with an additional small transaction fee. 

Do I need a physical copy of your fishing license, or may you have it electronically on your mobile device? 

For the fishing license alone, you need to have the physical copy in hand to fish. However, for the Sportsman Hunting and Fishing Combination License, you can show the license on your phone to fish. 

Do I need a fishing license to fish on any subdivision's private lake?

Club lakes, organizational lakes, or lake developments mean you still need your fishing license. If you live in a private subdivision lake, you are not the landowner and are not exempt from having a fishing license. 

Do I need a fishing license to fish my private pond located on my property?

No owners of property may fish on their land without a license. 

What should I do if I caught a tagged fish?

If anglers catch a tagged fish, it is upon the law to report the following information to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources:

  • Tag number and color
  • Date of capture
  • Length of fish 
  • The location where the fish was caught

Is it legal to use bluegill as bait?

Yes. There is nothing in the Illinois Fish Code that prohibits the use of legally taken bluegill or sunfish as bait for another species of fish. 

Is it legal to use goldfish as bait?

Yes. There is nothing in the administrative rules or statutes that disallows the use of goldfish as bait. 

Illinois Fish Size and Limits 

In this article, we'll cover the general limits. But for a detailed and full description of all of your fishing regulations, please refer to the Illinois Natural Resource Department regulations guide at https://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/2016_Fishing_Guide.pdf.

For Illinois, there is no nationwide limit for white and black crappies, bluegill, and redear sunfish. For fish such as striped bass, white bass, and yellow bass, the maximum length you are allowed to catch is 17 inches. Anything over is unlawful. The bag limit or harvest limit for these fish is three a day. If you're on the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa or Illinois and Missouri, the daily limit is 25 to 30. 

With species such as the largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, the daily bag limit is limited to 6 only. With streams not including the Mississippi and Ohio River, the threshold for smallmouth bass is 3. Check the fishing guide to see specific closed seasons in your local river. Some rivers and tributaries have the policy to catch and release from April 1 to June 15. For trout and salmon, you are unable to keep more than 5 per day. Paddlefish have a limit of 2. Species such as the walleye, sauger, and saugeye have a limit of 6 per day and must be measured at a minimum of 14 inches long. 

Techniques and Equipment Regulations

For methods and equipment, there are specific guidelines and limitations to follow. For example, culling is illegal in Illinois. Only in tournaments, you might be able to cull with a catch and release rule. Snagging and bowfishing have strict guidelines, so refer to the Illinois fishing guideline for more details. Ice fishing is allowed; however, no more than three poles with two hooks for each line. Harvesting bullfrogs are permitted but not using a hook and line or bow and arrow. 

Best Spots to Fish in Illinois 

If you're looking for the most beautiful and most abundant spots to catch your trophy fish, then we've got you covered. Lake Michigan is by far the largest body of water for Illinois residents. Anglers can catch trout, brown trout, coho salmon, king salmon, and even steelheads. If you're looking to camp, there is an Illinois Beach State Park that runs 6.5 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan. 

If you enjoy calmer waters and lots of fishing opportunities for both beginner and advanced anglers, we recommend checking out the Lake of Egypt located near Marion. This is the southern tip of the State with a large body of water filled with the best crappie and bass in the State. You'll also be able to go on boat and camp fishing nearby at the Buck Ridge Campground. 

For the individuals looking for an offshore close proximity fishing, you may want to look into Clinton Lake located in the southern region of Illinois. This long 7.5-mile lake offers incredible populations of fish and includes the largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, striped bass, white bass, and catfish. The average depth is only 15 feet, so many of the fish are close, and you'll be able to see them. No fishing for hours waiting to see who bites! This water area has a Clinton Lake State Recreation Area nearby for campers with over 300 campsites for your trip.