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Illinois River

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS U.S. Geological Survey

Illinois River Fishing Guide

The slow-moving Illinois River, which twists 273 miles through the heart of the state before joining the Mississippi River 14 miles upstream from Alton, has shown an improved fishery since the late 1970s, and anglers have made fine catches of sauger and walleyes, white bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass and panfish from both the main stream and backwaters.

Forming at the junction of the Kankakee and Des Plaines Rivers in the northeastern part of the state, the Illinois and its backwaters provide some 87,000 surface acres. There are five dams on the Illinois River besides the one on the Mississippi at Alton in which pool the lower 80 miles of the Illinois is included. The depth of the river is regulated for navigation purposes by this series of locks and dams. Each section of the river between dams is called a navigation pool. The pools are given the name of the dam, which controls the water level of the pool, that is, the dam that is immediately downstream from the pool.

Illinois River Pools:

Lockport: Lockport extends from the Lockport Lock & Dam located near Lockport, Illinois, upstream to the Chicago Harbor Lock, in Chicago, Illinois.

Brandon: Brandon extends from the Brandon Lock & Dam located within Rockdale and Joliet, Illinois, upstream to the Lockport Lock & Dam located near Lockport, Illinois.

Dresden: Dresden extends from the Dresden Lock & Dam located south of Channahon, Illinois, upstream to the Brandon Lock & Dam, in Rockdale and Joliet, Illinois.

Marseilles: Marseilles extends from the Marseilles Lock located near Marseilles, Illinois, upstream to the Dresden Lock & Dam located south of Channahon, Illinois.

Starved Rock: Starved Rock extends from the Starved Rock Lock & Dam located near Utica, Illinois, upstream to the Marseilles lock located near Marseilles, Illinois.

Peoria: Peoria extends from the Peoria Lock & Dam located near Peoria, Illinois, upstream to the Starved Rock Lock & Dam located near Utica, Illinois.

La Grange: La Grange extends from the La Grange Lock & Dam located south of Beardstown, Illinois, upstream to Peoria Lock & Dam located near Peoria, Illinois.

Alton: Alton is used to describe the unimpounded portion of the Illinois River. It extends from the Mississippi River upstream to the La Grange Lock & Dam south of Beardstown, Illinois.

Fishing Forecast:

Species

Rank

Avg Wt.
(pounds)

Avg.
Length
(inches)

Fishing Tips

BLACK CRAPPIE

Very Good

N/A

N/A

BLUEGILL

Very Good

N/A

N/A

BROWN BULLHEAD

Very Good

N/A

N/A

CHANNEL CATFISH

Excellent

2 lbs

19

Fishing is at its best when the river is rising and floods the lowland timber areas, revealing new food for these fish. There is a fish consumption advisory for channel catfish from the Peoria Pool to the head waters of the Illinois River.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Good

N/A

N/A

SAUGER

Excellent

N/A

N/A

The major portion of the sauger population lies below the Starved Rock Dam and extends all the way down to the Mississippi River. Usually beginning in March or even earlier, one of the best ways to catch these tasty fish is to use a minnow on a floating jig with enough weight to keep it on the bottom.

WALLEYE

Excellent

N/A

N/A

Anglers can expect to find good numbers of walleye in the upper pools below the dams at Dresden and Marseilles. Some of the bigger walleye can be found at Starved Rock, with sampling finding fish ranging from 23 to 27 inches in length.

WHITE BASS

Excellent

N/A

N/A

WHITE CRAPPIE

Very Good

N/A

N/A

2017 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date End Date
(if different from start)
ID Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Hook/Bow
Max Boats Species Public?
April-01April-026198Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
50Sauger
Walleye
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
April-016408Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
60Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
April-026409Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
60Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
April-154401William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
50Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
April-296739Browning Landing boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
May-064514Allen Park (Ottawa) boat
bow
30Multiple SpeciesYes
May-066410Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
60Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
May-076411Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
60Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
Yes
May-206740City of Pekin Boat Ramp boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
June-04June-055995Lacon Municipal Harbor boat
hook
15Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
June-106594Havana Landing boat
bow
40Bighead Carp
Silver Carp
Yes
June-176773Meredosia Acres boat
bow
65Bighead Carp
Grass Carp
Silver Carp
Yes
June-246741Kuchies on the River boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
June-256381William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
8Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
July-08July-095176Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
10Multiple SpeciesNo
July-15July-164512Starved Rock Point Shelter East boat
bow
65Multiple SpeciesYes
July-156742City of Pekin Boat Ramp boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
July-294618Detweiller Park Marina boat
hook
25Largemouth Bass
White Bass
No
July-305469Havana Landing boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
August-056743Chillicothe City Ramp boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
August-175672Chillicothe City Ramp boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
No
September-095535William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
10Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
September-096199Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
25Channel Catfish
Hybrid Striped Bass
Sauger
Yes
September-096744Kuchies on the River boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
September-104482Chillicothe City Ramp boat
hook
12Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
September-165628Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
10Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
September-175745William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Buffalo
Yes
September-236141City of Pekin Boat Ramp boat
hook
25Crappie
Yes
September-244586William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Buffalo
Yes
October-076200Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
25Channel Catfish
Hybrid Striped Bass
Walleye
Yes
October-076481William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
50Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Yes
October-07October-086745Kuchies on the River boat
hook
50Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Flathead Catfish
Yes
October-144585William G. Stratton SP boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Buffalo
Yes
October-144740Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
19Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
October-154741Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
19Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
No
November-256201Barto Boat Landing (Spring Valley) boat
hook
50Sauger
Walleye
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
No