Illinois - La Grange Pools

Location: La Grange: The La Grange Pool of the Illinois River extends from the La Grange Lock and Dam at mile 80.2 to the tailwater of the Peoria Lock and Dam at mile 157.7 Brown, Cass, Schuyler, Mason, Fulton, Tazewell and Peoria counties border this reach.

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 an extremely productive freshwater fishery. 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 the 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. In addition, Asian carp and other exotic species have recently invaded the river. Although the lower river continues to face negative human impacts, excellent fishing opportunities remain for native game fishes. The Illinois River continues to support a diverse fish community evidenced by collection of 57 native fish species during annual electrofishing surveys in 2020.

River Access: The La Grange Pool is characterized by slow to moderate water velocities and soft substrates of sand and mud. The large number of backwater lakes and sloughs made this reach historically one of the most biologically productive river reaches in the world for waterfowl and fish. Backwaters managed for fishing by IDNR include state fish and wildlife areas at Anderson Lake, Spring Lake, Rice Lake, and Banner Marsh as well as the restored Thompson and Flag lakes at the Emiquon Preserve. Bath Chute, a river side channel, has excellent panfish and largemouth bass populations and is accessible by a public boat ramp in Bath. Boat access to the LaGrange Pool is also available at LaGrange Lock and Dam, Beardstown, Browning, Havana, Liverpool, Kingston Mines and Pekin. A ramp about 3 miles south of Bartonville on Mendenhall Road off of Rt. 24 provides the easiest access to the Peoria Lock and Dam tailwater. A 3-mile run gets you access to excellent white bass fishing, along with concentrations of sauger, largemouth and smallmouth bass and catfish. Public boat access areas also 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 total with no more than three smallmouth bass. The minimum length limit for walleye, sauger and hybrids is 14 inches, with a six 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 or ifishillinois.org.

Contact Information:

Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

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Species

Rank

Fish Status

BLUE CATFISH

Good

No blue catfish were collected in 2021, but densities are increasing adding another potential trophy catfish species to the pool.

CHANNEL CATFISH

Excellent

Channel catfish are one of the primary game fish of the La Grange Pool and they are abundant throughout the reach. Fish over 24 inches weighing 7 to 10 pounds are common. Notable areas for channel catfish are main channel border (area between the navigation channel and the river bank) and side channels with current and structure. The La Grange Pool showed the highest number of channel catfish collected compared to any other pool during the 2021 fish community surveys with sizes ranging up to 21 inches and 3.5 pounds. There remains a one-meal-per-week contaminant advisory on channel catfish over 16 inches in the lower Illinois River due to low level PCB detection in the flesh. PCB contamination in fish is a remnant of past pollution that is declining. These 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 common in the La Grange Pool, though black crappie are usually more abundant. Crappie collections in 2021 were poor, but 2020 surveys showed high catch rates of crappie. Backwaters, side channels and main channel border areas with submerged brush are the best locations for crappie fishing. The numerous backwater lakes of the La Grange Pool have historically been excellent crappie waters.

FLATHEAD CATFISH

Excellent

Flathead catfish are quite common in the La Grange Pool and trophy-sized fish exceeding 36 inches and 30 pounds can be found. The 2021 fish community survey resulted in 13 flathead catfish ranging from 4-17 inches weighing up to 2 lbs. No large flatheads were collected in our 2021 La Grange Pool surveys, but several younger year classes were collected.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Excellent

Largemouth bass are prevalent throughout the La Grange Pool. Like other sunfish species, they have reproductive spikes during big flood years. We collected 28 largemouth bass ranging from 4-15 inches weighing up to 2 pounds. Largemouth bass catch rates have increased in the La Grange Pool over the last ten years. Forty percent of largemouth bass collected in 2021 measured over the 12 inch minimum length limit. The daily catch limit is six bass and no more than three smallmouth bass.

SAUGER

Good

Sauger and, to a lesser degree, walleye are most abundant in our surveys below the Peoria Lock and Dam in the LaGrange Pool. They are typically found in deep waters during the day, but search for food in the shallows at night, therefor our daytime electrofishing surveys are not ideal to assess sauger or walleye populations. The 2021 La Grange Pool surveys resulted in only two fish collected that measured 16 and 18 inches.

SMALLMOUTH BASS

Good

Smallmouth bass are collected in lower numbers in the La Grange Pool compared to largemouth bass, but the 2021 annual fish survey showed the highest catch rate of Smallmouth bass in the last ten years with a catch rate of 4/hour electrofishing.

WALLEYE

Fair

Sauger and, to a lesser degree, walleye are most abundant in our surveys below the Peoria Lock and Dam in the LaGrange Pool. They are typically found in deep waters during the day, but search for food in the shallows at night, therefor our daytime electrofishing surveys are not ideal to assess sauger or walleye populations. The 2021 La Grange Pool surveys resulted in only two fish collected that measured 16 and 18 inches.

WHITE BASS

Good

The white bass is a schooling species that is present throughout the main channel of the LaGrange Pool. White bass can be found pool wide congregated at outflows and following schools of shad. The La Grange Pool showed the second highest catch rate of white bass in 2021 compared to other pools and was comprised of several year classes. IDNR Biologists have been receiving an increase in calls from anglers catching hybrid striped bass (white bass x striped bass). There is no creel limit on white or hybrid striped bass measuring less than 17 inches, however white or hybrid striped bass measuring 17 inches or greater have a 3 fish/day creel limit on the Illinois River.