Illinois - Peoria

Location: The Peoria Pool of the Illinois River extends from the Peoria Lock and Dam at mile 157.7 to the tailwaters of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam at mile 231. Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau and LaSalle counties border this reach. There are at least a half dozen launch sites along this stretch. Camping is available at both the Woodford and Marshall County Conservation areas, which also provide bank fishing opportunities at "ditches" near the campgrounds.

Description: The Illinois River is formed at the confluence of the Des Plaines and Kankakee rivers near Channahon in northeastern Illinois. It flows southwest for 273 miles across the state to enter the Mississippi River at Grafton. There are five dams along the Illinois forming pooled reaches named (upstream to downstream) the Dresden Pool, Marseilles Pool, Starved Rock Pool, Peoria Pool and La Grange Pool. The downstream reach is called the Alton Pool because it is influenced by Mel Price Lock and Dam on the Mississippi River at Alton.

Status of the Sport Fishery: When the first European settlers arrived the Illinois River supported one of the most productive freshwater fisheries in the world. The reversal of the Chicago River in the early 20th century brought an influx of pollution that tainted the river all the way to Peoria. Water quality has rebounded dramatically since institution of the Clean Water Act in 1977 and the fish community has rebounded as well. Diversion of water from Lake Michigan into the Illinois River, levee construction and isolation of the floodplain, changes in land use and construction of locks and dams has resulted in aquatic habitat degradation. Additionally, Asian carp and other exotic species have invaded the river. Despite these negative impacts, there remains a diverse fish community in the Illinois River evidenced by the collection of 57 native fish species during annual electrofishing surveys in 2020.

River Access: The Peoria Pool ranges from slow water velocities and soft substrates of Peoria Lake at the downstream end to swift flows and course substrates upstream from the great bend to the Starved Rock Lock and Dam tailwaters. Public lands bordering the pool include Woodford County Conservation Area, Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area, Lake DePue State Fish and Wildlife Area, Fox Run Conservation Area, and Starved Rock State Park. Boat access to the Peoria Pool is available at the Peoria Dam, Downtown Peoria, East Peoria, Detweiller Park, Woodford County Conservation Area, Chillicothe, Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area (Marshall, Spring Branch and Sparland units), Lacon, Henry, Hennepin, Spring Valley, Peru, LaSalle, and Starved Rock State Park. Public lands and boat access areas offer good bank fishing opportunities.

Additional Information: There is a 12 inch minimum length limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass. The daily catch limit is six bass and no more than three smallmouth bass. Statewide regulations are in effect for all other species. The statewide minimum length limit for walleye, sauger and hybrids is 14 inches, with a 6 fish daily creel limit. Bowfishing is allowed in the river and connected waters wholly accessible by boat, with some exceptions as listed in the Illinois Fishing Information booklet.

Contact Information:

Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

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Species

Rank

Fish Status

BLUEGILL

Excellent

Bluegill and other sunfish catch rates were high in the Peoria Pool and were the highest out of all Illinois River pools surveyed in 2021. Sunfish catch rates also show in increasing trend over the last ten years in the Peoria Pool. Many bluegill collected were of harvestable size between 6-8.3” and provide an excellent fishing opportunity for anglers of all ages. Anglers can catch bluegill in the warmer months of the year using worms, crickets, or night crawlers along structured shorelines, such as rip-rap.

CHANNEL CATFISH

Excellent

Channel catfish are one of the primary game fish of the Illinois River. They are very abundant in the 16 - 24 inch size range and fish over 24 inches weighing 7 - 10 pounds are common. Several year classes of channel catfish were collected in the 2021 Peoria Pool fish community survey measuring up to 24 inches and 5.4 pounds. The 2021 survey showed the highest catch rate of channel catfish in the Peoria Pool over the last 10 years (14/hour of electrofishing). Notable habitats for channel catfish are main channel border (area between the navigation channel and the river bank) and side channels with current. The Chillicothe, Lacon and Henry areas and the Peoria Narrows are notable channel catfish reaches. There remains a do-not-eat contaminant advisory on channel catfish over 18 inches in the Peoria Pool due to PCB detection in the flesh. PCB contamination in fish is a remnant of past pollution that is declining. The advisory recommends no more than 6 meals/year for channel catfish 12 - 16 inches and 1 meal per week for those under 12 inches. Advisories are developed to protect infants, children, and women of child bearing age and may be overprotective to adult men and women over child bearing age. Trim the fat, particularly around the belly, and allow fat to drip off the fish when cooking to minimize exposure to PCBs.

CRAPPIE

Good

Both black crappie and white crappie are present in the Peoria Pool, but black crappie are more abundant. Crappie catch rates were above average in 2021 with a catch rate of 5/hour electrofishing. Catch rates of black crappie in the Peoria Pool have increased over the last ten years. Backwaters, side channels and main channel border areas with submerged brush are the best locations to fish for crappie.

FLATHEAD CATFISH

Very Good

Flathead catfish are abundant in the Peoria Pool and trophy-sized fish exceeding 36 inches and 30 pounds can be found. Flatheads between 28 and 36 inches are not uncommon. The 2021 Peoria Pool fish community survey resulted in few flathead catfish catches and is likely due to poor sampling conditions. Fish the deep holes, main channel border near current breaks, and woody debris piles or other structure for flatheads.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Excellent

Largemouth bass are prevalent throughout the Peoria Pool. Like other members of the sunfish family, they have reproductive spikes during big flood years. The Peoria Pool showed the second highest catch rate of largemouth bass compared to all other pools in the 2021 fish community surveys with over 18 bass collected per hour. Largemouth bass ranged in size from 2.8 – 14 inches weighing up to 1.6 pounds. There is a 12 inch minimum length limit and 6 fish per day creel limit on largemouth bass to allow for bass to spawn once or twice prior to being harvested. Like channel catfish, a contaminant advisory recommendation has been issued to limit consumption of all sizes of largemouth bass to one meal per week. Side channels, shallow water with structure, marinas and rip-rap are the places to fish for river bass in the Peoria Pool.

SAUGER

Excellent

Sauger and walleye are most dense in the upper end of the Peoria Pool, with sauger being more abundant. The Illinois sauger fishery is a world class fishery bringing anglers from all over the country to fish the national Masters Walleye Circuit in Spring Valley. The IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually stock sauger fry in the Peoria Pool and upper pools of the Illinois River to supplement the population. Sauger and walleye are typically found in deep waters during the day, but search for food in the shallows of the main channel border at night. This behavior results in poor day-time electrofishing catch rates of adult sauger and walleye. Only 7 sauger were collected in the 2021 Peoria Pool fish community survey. The largest sauger collected measured 16 inches and weighed 1.2 pounds.

WALLEYE

Excellent

Sauger and walleye are most dense in the upper end of the Peoria Pool, with sauger being more abundant. The Illinois sauger fishery is a world class fishery bringing anglers from all over the country to fish the national Masters Walleye Circuit in Spring Valley. The IDNR – Division of Fisheries State Hatcheries annually stock sauger fry in the Peoria Pool and upper pools of the Illinois River to supplement the population. Sauger and walleye are typically found in deep waters during the day, but search for food in the shallows of the main channel border at night. This behavior results in poor day-time electrofishing catch rates of adult sauger and walleye. Only 7 sauger were collected in the 2021 Peoria Pool fish community survey. The largest sauger collected measured 16 inches and weighed 1.2 pounds.