15 Best Fishing Spots In Illinois (Top Locations Reviewed)

PUBLISHED 12 AUGUST 2022

by Robert Ceran

If you’re looking for the best fishing spots in Illinois, it’s likely that you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the different options available to you.

In order to make things easier for you, we’ve put together this list of the top 15 fishing hotspots in Illinois.

In the following guide we’ll walk you through each of these fishing spots, and will also cover what kind of fishing each of them is best for.

Best fishing spots in Illinois

Where is the best fishing in Illinois?

The 15 best fishing locations in Illinois are:

  • Lake Michigan
  • Heidecke Lake
  • Fox Chain O’ Lakes
  • Pierce Lake
  • Shabbona Lake
  • Illinois River
  • Lake Springfield
  • Evergreen Lake
  • Lake Shelbyville
  • Clinton Lake
  • Mississippi River
  • Crab Orchard Lake
  • Devils Kitchen Lake
  • Rend Lake
  • Lake of Egypt

These 15 best places to fish are spread out over the entire state of Illinois, and they are all covered in more detail below.

Keep in mind that each of these fisheries comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, and each is particularly well suited for catching certain types of fish, so you’ll need to decide what appeals to you the most.

In order to make things easier for you, we have subdivided this list into 3 groups covering the northern, central, and southern parts of Illinois.

So no matter where you are based in Illinois, this list can help you to find fishing hotspots close to you.

Best fishing spots in northern Illinois

The 5 best fishing spots in northern Illinois are:

  • Lake Michigan
  • Heidecke Lake
  • Fox Chain O’ Lakes
  • Pierce Lake
  • Shabbona Lake

If you’re interested in checking out one of these fishing destinations, check out our detailed location profiles below.

Best fishing spots in central Illinois

The 5 best fishing spots in central  Illinois are:

  • Illinois River
  • Lake Springfield
  • Evergreen Lake
  • Lake Shelbyville
  • Clinton Lake

If you’re interested in checking out one of these fishing destinations, check out our detailed location profiles below.

Best fishing spots in southern Illinois

The 5 best fishing spots in southern  Illinois are:

  • Mississippi River
  • Crab Orchard Lake
  • Devils Kitchen Lake
  • Rend Lake
  • Lake of Egypt

If you’re interested in checking out one of these fishing destinations, check out our detailed location profiles below.

Lake Michigan

Even though Illinois only borders on Lake Michigan in the north eastern corner of the state, Lake Michigan is by far the largest fishery in Illinois.

Photo of Lake Michigan in Illinois

And since Lake Michigan is the sixth largest lake in the whole world, it offers a wealth of fishing opportunities that are usually only available at the ocean.

You can catch the following fish in Lake Michigan:

  • Chinook (king) salmon
  • Coho salmon
  • Lake trout
  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Steelhead
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Yellow Perch
  • Smelt
  • Carp
  • Channel catfish
  • Freshwater drum

Since Lake Michigan is so vast it can be challenging to find the most productive spots for fishing.

That’s why it’s usually a good idea to hire a charter boat with an experienced fishing guide who will do the heavy lifting for you.

My favorite type of fishing in Lake Michigan is without a doubt trolling for king salmon and coho salmon.

Another great strategy is to fish in the Chicago harbors, which are also top locations for ice fishing during the winter months. 

Heidecke Lake

Heidecke Lake is located close to Morris on the outskirts of Chicago, and is an old cooling reservoir used for the Collins Station Power Plant.

Photo of Heidecke Lake, Illinois

With an area of about 2000 acres, it is a relatively small lake, but holds a great head of smallmouth bass and walleyes.

You can catch the following fish in Heidecke Lake:

  • Smallmouth bass
  • Largemouth bass
  • Walleye
  • Muskellunge
  • White bass
  • Yellow bass
  • Hybrid striped bass (wiper)
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish

Walleye, wipers, and blacknose crappie are stocked in the lake. Boat fishing is unrestricted, and boat ramps are available.

Due to the high quality smallmouth fishing, the regular smallmouth bass fishing tournaments in Heidecke Lake are very popular.

Fox Chain O’ Lakes

Comprising 9 major lakes that are all interconnected by channels, the Fox Chain O’ Lakes has a combined area of almost 1000 acres and close to 500 miles of shoreline.

Photo of Fox Lake in Lake County, Illinois

Even better, it is located on the northern outskirts of Chicago, which makes it highly accessible for urban anglers looking to get out of the city.

You can catch the following fish in Fox Chain O’ Lakes:

  • Channel catfish
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Muskellunge
  • Walleye
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Northern pike
  • Flathead catfish

Since these lakes are very popular among boating enthusiasts, it’s best to steer clear of the crowd and fish here on weekdays or outside of the main season.

Alternatively, try to look for smaller coves, bays and inlets that are more peaceful.

If you don’t mind the bustle, the Fox Chain O’ Lakes provides some of the best muskie, catfish, and walleye fishing in Illinois.

Both muskie and walleyes are stocked, and muskie regularly reach sizes over 50 inches.

Pierce Lake

Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park is located on the outskirts of Rockford in northern Illinois. 

Photo of Pierce Lake, Illinois

With an area of 147 acres, it is a relatively small lake that was created by flooding a former rock quarry. 

You can catch the following fish in Pierce Lake:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Walleye
  • Bluegill

Smallmouth bass, channel catfish, muskellunge, and walleye have been stocked in the lake. 

The walleye population in Pierce Lake is very strong, and this lake has one of the highest walleye harvests per acre of any lake in northern Illinois.

Shabbona Lake

Located to the west of Chicago just outside Shabbona in Dekalb County, Shabbona Lake is a medium sized reservoir with an area of 316 acres.

Photo of Shabbona Lake, Illinois

It boasts excellent fishing for channel catfish and muskellunge.

You can catch the following fish in Shabbona Lake:

  • Channel catfish
  • Muskellunge
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Hybrid striped bass
  • Walleye
  • Largemouth bass

Channel catfish, muskie, walleye, and wipers are regularly stocked, whilce largemouth and smallmouth bass are occasionally stocked.

It provides excellent muskie fishing with an average size of over 30 inches per muskie caught by anglers. 

Boating is unrestricted, and boat ramps are available.

Illinois River

The Illinois River flows more than 270 miles through Illinois before joining the Mississippi River near Alton.

Photo of Illinois River in LaSalle, Illinois

Among anglers the Illinois River  is most famous for its sauger and walleye fishing, but also offers a wide range of other species in abundant numbers.

You can catch the following fish in the Illinois River:

  • Sauger
  • Walleye
  • Saugeye
  • Black crappie
  • Bluegill
  • White bass
  • Channel catfish
  • White crappie
  • Brown bullhead
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Carp
  • Freshwater drum

The best part of the Illinois River for catching sauger starts below the Starved Rock Dam and extends all the way to the Mississippi River.

The best time of the year to catch sauger is in fall, and as an added bonus you can also catch walleye and saugeye, which occur naturally here.

Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield is a relatively large reservoir on the southeast edge of Springfield, IL that covers an area of 3900 acres with more than 50 miles of shoreline.

Photo of Lake Springfield, Illinois

Lake Springfield provides excellent fishing for catfish, with good heads of both channel and flathead catfish. In addition to catfish, bluegill and largemouth bass catches are also very good.

You can catch the following fish in Lake Springfield:

  • Flathead catfish
  • Channel catfish
  • Blue catfish
  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth bass
  • White bass

Due to the small power plant on the lower end of the lake, the water stays open even during the winter months, making open water fishing possible all year round.

The lake is located in a beautiful park area that is surrounded by urban suburbs.

Several boat ramps are available, and there are no restrictions on boat fishing. 

Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake is a manmade pond north of Bloomington, Illinois. It was built in 1970 and has a maximum depth of 50 feet.

Photo of Evergreen Lake, Illinois

It provides excellent muskie fishing, as well as holding a very good head of saugeye, which are regularly stocked.

You can catch the following fish in Evergreen Lake:

  • Muskellunge
  • Saugeye (sauger/walleye hybrid)
  • Largemouth bass
  • Crappie

Muskie were first introduced into Evergreen Lake in 1990, and the lake now regularly produces fish over 40 inches. 

Due to the turbid water, saugeye thrive in Evergreen Lake and routinely reach sizes over 5 pounds.

The Illinois state record saugeye was caught here in 2001. And just like muskies, they are regularly stocked by the local authorities.

Lake Shelbyville

Similar to most lakes in central Illinois, Lake Shelbyville is a manmade reservoir south of Decatur that covers 11,000 acres.

Photo of Lake Shelbyville, Illinois

It is most well known for its excellent crappie fishing, but also has good heads of flathead catfish, walleye, and white bass.

You can catch the following fish in Lake Shelbyville:

  • Bluegill
  • Crappie
  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Muskellunge
  • Walleye
  • Sauger
  • Striped bass
  • White bass

Walleye, muskies and sauger are regularly stocked, and the Lake Shelbyville Fish Habitat Alliance (LFSHA) has introduced numerous man made fish attractors into the lake, as well as planting aquatic vegetation in many locations. 

Lake Shelbyville hosts numerous bass fishing tournaments every year. 

Clinton Lake

Clinton lake is a reservoir constructed for cooling the Clinton nuclear power station.

Photo of Lake Clinton, Illinois

Located in DeWitt County near Bloomington and Decatur, Clinton Lake provides some of the finest crappie fishing in the whole state.

It covers about 4,900 acres and offers unrestricted boat fishing and boat ramps.

Both white and black crappie populations thrive in Clinton Lake, and it’s difficult not to catch crappie when you go there.

You can catch the following fish in Clinton Lake:

  • Black crappie
  • White crappie
  • Largemouth bass
  • Walleye
  • Hybrid striped bass
  • White bass
  • Blue catfish

Apart from the excellent crappie fishing in Lake Clinton, there are good numbers of quality largemouth bass in the lake, which regularly grow to sizes over 6 pounds. 

Blue catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, wipers, and walleye are stocked regularly. 

Mississippi River

The Mississippi is one of the longest rivers in the whole of North America, and runs along the boundary between Illinois and two other states: Iowa and Missouri.

Photo of Mississippi River in Illinois

So technically you can fish in the Mississippi in all parts of Illinois, but we chose to include it with the Illinois fishing hot spots in the south.

You can catch the following fish in the Mississippi:

  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish
  • Blue catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Crappie
  • Walleye
  • Sauger
  • Bluegill
  • Yellow perch
  • Northern Pike

In addition to walleye and sauger, you can also catch saugeye here. Saugeye are walleye sauger hybrids that occur naturally in the Mississippi.

The Mississippi is most famous for its catfish, with three different catfish species found in the river. Out of these, blue catfish reach huge sizes of more than 100 pounds in this river.

Crab Orchard Lake

Located near Marion in southern Illinois, Crab Orchard Lake is a 7,000 acre artificial lake that is regularly stocked with largemouth bass. 

Photo of Crab Orchard Lake, Illinois

You can can catch the following fish in Crab Orchard Lake:

  • Channel catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth bass
  • White bass
  • Bluegill

The fishing for channel catfish and crappie is outstanding in this lake, but it also holds a good head of largemouth bass, and regularly produces fish over 5 pounds. 

Boating is allowed on the lake, and there is a daily bag limit for Largemouth bass of 3 fish, which must be over 16 inches in length. 

Devils Kitchen Lake

Located just south of Crab Orchard Lake, and close to Carbondale in southern Illinois, Devils Kitchen Lake is a relatively small lake of 800 acres, but is well known for its abundant population of largemouth bass.  

Photo of Devils Kitchen Lake

You can catch the following fish in Devils Kitchen Lake:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Redear sunfish
  • Bluegill
  • Yellow perch

Both rainbow trout and yellow perch are stocked in Devils Kitchen Lake, and trout fishing here is very popular, since there is no closed season, and the daily creel limit is 5 fish.

Most largemouth bass in the lake are relatively small, and anglers are encouraged to harvest small bass in order to increase the average size of the bass populations.

Rend Lake

Rend Lake is a large man-made reservoir near Mt Vernon and Benton in southern Illinois. The lake is most famous for its catfish, and catfish noodling is very popular here.

Photo of Rend Lake, Illinois

You can catch the follow fish in Rend Lake:

  • Channel catfish
  • Flathead catfish
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • White bass
  • Hybrid white/striped bass (wipers)
  • Largemouth bass

Fish stocking efforts in Rend Lake include regular introduction of wipers and largemouth bass. 

But by far the best results are obtained by catfish and panfish anglers, although the head of white bass is also very good.

Lake of Egypt

Located near Goreville in Johnson County, southern Illinois, Lake of Egypt is a large reservoir with many bays and inlets. It offers some of the best crappie and largemouth bass fishing in Illinois.

Photo of Lake of Egypt, Illinois

You can catch the following fish in Lake of Egypt:

  • Crappie
  • Largemouth bass
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Channel catfish

Lake of Egypt is well known for its bass fishing tournaments, which are usually held in September and October.

The largest total tournament weight of largemouth bass caught in Lake Egypt was over 200 pound. 

And while the average size of bass is relatively small, you can expect to catch large daily bags. Boating is allowed, and there are several boat ramps.

Where is the best bass fishing in Illinois?

The top 5 fishing spots for catching bass in Illinois are: 

  • Clinton Lake
  • Lake Springfield
  • Crab Orchard Lake
  • Devils Kitchen Lake
  • Lake of Egypt

While there are many good bass fishing locations in Illinois, the five listed above are exceptional, and always worth checking out.

If you’re specifically interested in smallmouth bass, then Heidecke Lake is the place for you. Also, Lake Shelbyville is worth mentioning if you are looking for a good white bass fishing spot. 

Where is the best crappie fishing in Illinois?

The top 5 fishing spots for catching crappie in Illinois are: 

  • Clinton Lake
  • Lake Shelbyville
  • Fox Chain O’ Lakes
  • Crab Orchard Lake
  • Lake of Egypt

There are many other good crappie fishing spots in Illinois, but these 5 offer exceptionally good crappie fishing. 

It’s worth mentioning that Clinton Lake boasts a good head of both black and white crappie, and it’s not uncommon to catch slab crappie of both species on a single fishing trip.

Where is the best walleye fishing in Illinois?

The top 5 fishing spots for catching walleye in Illinois are: 

  • Heidecke Lake
  • Fox Chain O’ Lakes
  • Pierce Lake
  • Lake Shelbyville
  • Illinois River

Keep in mind that there are many other good walleye fisheries in Illinois, but these 5 locations have exceptionally good walleye fishing. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the Illinois River is one of the best places to catch sauger, while Evergreen Lake is home to some of the best saugeye fishing in the state.