Anglers fishing in Illinois public rivers, lakes and streams are legally required to buy IL fishing licenses before engaging in fishing activities. Fishing licenses are issued by the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Whether fishing commercially or recreationally, residents and visitors to the state must meet the requirements set by the DNR prior to buying a fishing license. Novice anglers can brush up on their skills through the fishing education opportunities available through the DNR. More experienced anglers can also gain support through the many fishing organizations available in Illinois. Read on to find out more about the topics below:
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Illinois offers many fishing opportunities and fishing licenses for anglers of all skills sets. There are two categories of available fishing licenses:
Anglers younger than the age of 16 are exempt from IL fishing license requirements. To buy a state fishing license, apply through the DNR using one of two methods:
To buy a fishing license online, visit the Online License System on the DNR website. During the application process, the system will ask you to provide some identifying information such as your name, date of birth and Social Security Number. Fishing license online fees require a valid debit or credit card to complete the purchase.
To buy a fishing license in person, visit a local IL county clerk’s office or an authorized license vendor. To expedite the process, print and complete your fishing license application online prior to visiting a license vendor.
Fishing as a pastime in state waters requires a valid IL recreational fishing license. Fishing licenses can be purchased online or in person at an authorized license vendor. Recreational fishing license fees vary based on the applicant’s residency status, with state residents receiving a discount:
Note: Fees are subject to change.
All lifetime fishing license or sportsmen’s license applicants born on or after January 1, 1980, must possess a Certificate of Competency due to the IL Wildlife Code.
Anglers making a commercial profit off fishing in Illinois waters are required to obtain a commercial fishing license. IL commercial fishing licenses can be purchased online or over the phone by dialing 1-888-6-PERMIT (1-888-673-7648). Depending on the type of license, expiration dates are either on March 31 or January 31:
Commercial fishing businesses must set up a customer number with the DNR prior to getting a commercial fishing license. However, private citizens do not need a customer number to apply for a commercial fishing license.
The Department of Natural Resources offers many opportunities to learn more about fishing, whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler.
The Aquatic Illinois Trunk is an educational tool that includes a number of teaching resources concerning the biological, historical, chemical, and other properties of state waters and wildlife. Included in the trunk are books, water sampling tools, videos, and various activities for children from third grade to high school.
The IL Community Outreach and Resource Enhancement Program – formerly the Illinois Urban Fishing Program – is another educational resource aimed at teaching residents of all ages how to properly fish and preserve the surrounding wildlife. The program also works to maintain the population of fish in state waters to promote sport fishing in the community.
Fishermen who would like to improve their fishing skills can learn more about their craft from fellow anglers by joining a fishing organization in the state. Some of the most popular IL fishing organizations contain a variety of focuses:
The Illinois B.A.S.S. Nation (IBN) is a subsidiary of the larger National B.A.S.S. Nation, which supports a wide range of fishing related activities from tournaments to youth programs. Local competitions held by the B.A.S.S. Nation are an intense build-up to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic that takes place each year in various parts of the country. With a focus on wildlife conservation, the IBN helps preserve state waters to ensure anglers can continue to fish freely.
The Fox River Valley Muskies was founded in 1981 with the purpose of promoting musky fishing through youth involvement programs, fishing education resources and community outreach. With over 300 members statewide, the Fox River Valley Muskies hope to continue improving fishing conditions throughout Illinois.
The Blackhawk Bassmasters are another subsidiary of the National B.A.S.S. Nation, focused on improving the fishing knowledge of anglers throughout the state. Members are encouraged to voice their opinions and suggestions for Blackhawk Bassmasters activities during group meetings, which are held on the first Wednesday of every month.