Fishing in Illinois

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Illinois isn't widely known as a fly fishing destination, but all throughout the state, lakes, ponds, and rivers offer enough warmwater fly fishing to keep any angler busy all year long. While there aren?t any naturally reproducing trout within Illinois, over 50 bodies of water are stocked with rainbow trout each spring, and several locations feature catch and release, fly fishing only seasons.

In the far northwest corner of Illinois, the famous Driftless Area extends into the state, giving home to one of the best fly fishing streams in the state: the Apple River. The Apple River is stocked with rainbow trout every spring and is one of nine locations to feature a fly fishing only season. Although the Apple is perhaps the coldest stream in Illinois, most of the trout fishing comes to a halt by mid-June due to warm water temperatures, though excellent smallmouth bass fishing can still be had. Other trout-stocked streams of interest to fly anglers include Rock Creek, the Kanakee River, and Pine Creek, with the bulk majority of other Illinois fly fishing taking place in the state?s many lakes.

Some of the best stillwater fly fishing happens at the Chain O?lakes State Park, where anglers head out in canoes in search of rainbow trout in the spring, and bass, pike, muskie, and perch in summer and fall until the lakes freeze over in the winter. One of the state?s more productive fisheries is in the waters of Lake Michigan, where chinook, coho, pink salmon, and lake trout are the primary harvest. Fly fishing on Lake Michigan is a big water game, requiring the use of heavyweight rods, a boat, and in-depth knowledge of the water to find the fish in such an expanse, and most anglers do best by hiring either a dedicated fly fishing guide or one who is familiar with fly fishing.


IL Department of Fish & Wildlife
502 South Spring Street
Springfield, IL 62706
P: 217-782-7386

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Illinois Fishing Articles

6 Winter Flies to Never Leave Home Without

Posted on February 12, 2017

It’s winter time and if you’re like me then you’re probably daydreaming of warmer weather and being on the river. You’re also probably behind the vice tying up dozens of flies for the months ahead....

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Choosing the Proper Fly Rod

Posted on January 21, 2016

Proper fly fishing gear is essential. Along with the reel, flies and line, the most important gear is the fly rod. Fly rods may vary in length from 6 - 12 feet and come in different weights, colors,...

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Guides based in Illinois

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Trout Unlimited
By the next generation, Trout Unlimited will ensure that robust populations of native and wild coldwater fish once again thrive within their North American range, so that our children can enjoy...

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