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FOX CHAIN O LAKES


Lake Information

County: Lake

Acreage: 7110

Recreational Amenities

Boat Fishing? Unrestricted

Boat Ramps? Yes

Boat Rental? Yes

Skiing? Yes

Swimming? Yes

Picnicking? Yes

Camping? Yes

Grass Lake Fox Lake Pistakee Lake Lake Catherine Channel Lake Bluff Lake Lake Marie Petite Lake


 Click on area names for a more detailed map.
  Bluff Lake, Lake Catherine, Channel Lake, Fox Lake, Grass Lake,
  Lake Marie, Nippersink Lake, Petite Lake, Pistakee Lake

Maps are not intended for navigation.


There are zebra mussels in this lake.


Fish Stocking

Year

Species

Size

Count

2021

Largemouth Bass

Advanced Fingerling 4 - 7"

25157

2021

Muskellunge

Adult

3633

2021

Walleye

Fingerling 1 - 3"

336950

2021

Walleye

Fry

2242000


Additional information for stocking on FOX CHAIN O LAKES


Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

Click here for a list of all reports.

Species

Rank

Fish Status

BLUEGILL

Very Good

In 2021, 55% of the bluegill collected (n = 966) were longer than 6”. Fish ranged from 1.2” to 8.7” and topped the scale at 0.47 lbs.; 25% of the bluegill collected were over 7” long and 3.3% exceeded 8” long. Bluegills are a bread and butter species in the Chain — if anglers aren’t targeting the big predators they’re probably catching bluegills!

CHANNEL CATFISH

Excellent

This species is maintained through natural reproduction and are common in river systems. Since the Chain is part of a river system these fish are a significant predator, relatively abundant and caught by a lot of fishermen. Channel catfish ranged in size from 10” to 28” long and weighed up to 9.5 lbs. In 2021, 72% of the channel catfish collected exceeded 18” in length, 39% were over 22” long and 16% were over 24” long.

CRAPPIE

Excellent

Both black crappie (n=84) and white crappie (n=63) catches increased since 2015 but fish measured about the same, between 2” and 18” long and weighed up to 2.1 lbs.; 43% of black crappie and 61% of white crappie exceeded 9”, and 1.3% of black crappie and 21% of white crappie exceeded 11” long. Crappie fishing remains popular in the Chain, especially in the spring: Fish beyond 16” are possible!

FLATHEAD CATFISH

Fair

Flathead catfish are present up and down the entire Fox River/Fox Chain O’ Lakes system but are more common the further you go below the McHenry Dam and all the way south to Dayton. Site Regulation: 3 fish daily limit; one fish greater than 28" and 2 fish less than 28".

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Good

In 2021, bass were collected at a rate of 41.2 fish/hr., this is slightly above the long-term average of 21.8 fish/hr. Fish measured from 2.5” to 20” long and weighed up to 4.4 lbs.; 50% of the bass collected were over 12” long and sexually mature, 24% exceeded 14 inches (legal size), 17% were over 15” long, 10% were over 16” long, and 1% were over 18”. The population appears to be well balanced and supports our goals to provide predation on panfish species and maximize bass angling opportunities.

MUSKELLUNGE

Very Good

Muskie are managed for high catch rates and the longevity of the stocking program has allowed females to grow LARGE! The average muskie is 36” long but fish up to 51” are reported by anglers almost annually. In the Chain, it takes at least 12 years for a muskie to reach 48” (legal length) and about 15 years to reach 51”+. Male muskie occasionally grow beyond 40” long but females easily grow through that size and are the biggest muskie in a system. Muskie are surveyed each year, in spring nets, to track tagged fish and growth. Females weighing over 30 lbs. are regularly collected with our largest fish ever weighing 36.2 lbs. (in 2007!). There are some really nice fish in the Chain!! The American Fisheries Society values muskie at $50/lb. so have the right gear and practice good handling techniques. To put it in perspective: A 20 lb. muskie is valued at $ 1000, a 48” fish weighing thirty pounds or more would be valued at over $2400! Site Regulation: 1 fish daily limit, 48" minimum length.

NORTHERN PIKE

Improving

Northern pike are present in the system and are maintained through natural reproduction. Site Regulation: 3 fish daily limit, 24" minimum length.

SMALLMOUTH BASS

Fair

Smallmouth bass make up about 10% of the total bass catch. They maintain themselves with natural reproduction. Fish up to 18" are collected during surveys. Site Regulation: Daily limit of 3 fish; smallmouth must be released immediately between April 1 to June 15 (no possession).

WALLEYE

Very Good

The Chain O Lakes is a brood source for the State Hatchery System, so it is managed to produce large walleye! During the biennial fall survey (2021), walleye were collected at a rate of 13.3 fish/hr. compared to 19 fish/hr. in 2017 and 16 fish/hr. in 2015. Fish ranged from 7” to 27” long and weighed up to 7.5 lbs. In spring 10+ lb. fish are collected. In 2016, a 12.5+ lb. female was collected. All brood fish were returned to Lake Marie after being processed at La Salle Fish Hatchery! Fall sample data (2021), (n=186) had 94% of the walleye >14”, 48% were >18”, 11% were >24”. The protective slot regulation keeps females with high egg quality in the system and promotes harvest of smaller male fish.

Location: The Fox Chain O' Lakes is located 50 miles northwest of Chicago off Illinois Route 173 and U.S. Route 12 near the cities of Antioch, Fox Lake, and McHenry.

Description: The Fox Chain O' Lakes are unique from other major bodies of water in the state in that they were formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. Composed of 9 major lakes interconnected by channels, the Fox Chain O' Lakes is classified as a public navigable waterway managed under the authority of the Department of Natural Resources and the Fox Waterway Agency to provide a variety of water oriented recreational activities. There is a total of 7110.0 acres above the Stratton Dam and 1100 acres between the Algonquin and Stratton dams. Lake Catherine: 149.5 acres; Channel Lake: 348.5 acres; Lake Marie: 585.0 acres; Bluff Lake: 92.4 acres; Grass Lake: 1451.4 acres; Petite Lake: 234.5 acres; Fox/Nippersink Lake: 2376.8 acres; Pistakee Lake: 1715.7 acres.

There are state-owned FREE boat ramps available at Chain O Lakes State Park; private (for fee) launches are available throughout the system. Concessions are available at Chain O Lakes State Park and the McHenry Dam, offering fishing boat and motor rental, canoe/kayak rentals, live bait, tackle, ice, food, and soft drinks. Boat rentals, restaurants, bait/tackle and guide services are available via private vendors throughout the system. Fish cleaning facilities are NOT available in State Parks or at the McHenry Dam.

History and Status of the Sport Fishery: The Division of Fisheries has been actively monitoring the status of Fox Chain O' Lakes fishery for over 60 years (1954 to present). We usually collect between 35 and 40 fish species during our biennial fish surveys. Three fish species have voluntarily become established in the Fox Chain O' Lakes; yellow bass (1973, with a significant die-off in 1995 and 1997), freshwater drum (1992) and gizzard shad (2007).

The Fox Chain was stocked with 336,950 2” walleye fingerlings, 2,242,000 walleye fry, 3633 muskie fingerlings between State and Club Donations and 25,157 4” to 6” largemouth bass fingerlings in 2021. Natural reproduction maintains all other species including northern pike, channel catfish, crappie, bluegill and white and yellow bass.

Additional Lake Information: The Fox Waterway Agency requires an annual user fee/sticker for watercraft utilizing the Fox Chain O' Lakes and the Fox River from the Illinois state line to Algonquin Dam. Please contact them for their annual fee schedule and an application.

Trot line fishing is permitted.

The State owns management jurisdiction for the Chain O Lakes and allows homeowners to treat vegetation in front of their homes by hiring a Licensed Commercial Applicator and obtaining a Letter of Permission (LOP) from the Division of Fisheries.

Site Regulations:
Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass: 6 fish daily limit, 14" minimum length limit
(Note: No more than 3 fish can be Smallmouth Bass; Smallmouth must be released immediately between April 1 to June 15, no possession)
Walleye: 4 fish daily creel limit, 14" to 18" (18" to 24" protected slot limit, no possession) only 1 fish can be >24"
Muskie: 1 fish daily limit; 48" minimum length limit
Northern Pike: 3 fish daily limit; 24" minimum length limit
Flathead catfish: 3 fish daily limit, 1 fish > 28" and 2 fish < 28"

Contact Information:
Chain O Lakes State Park
847-587-5512
IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Andy Plauck

There were 51 tournaments held on the Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2021.

Species Total Fish Caught
Channel Catfish 5
Common Carp 120
Crappie 10
Freshwater Drum 1
Largemouth Bass 3710
Muskellunge 3
Smallmouth Bass 39
Walleye 875
White Bass 2
Yellow Perch 12

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on the Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2021 tournaments:

1     5.61 lbs
2     5.51 lbs
3     5.25 lbs
4     5.13 lbs
5     5.05 lbs

Top 5 Total Tournament Weight of Largemouth Bass caught on Fox Chain O'Lakes in 2021 tournaments:

1     347.46 lbs
2     342.00 lbs
3     338.00 lbs
4     337.81 lbs
5     318.00 lbs


Interested in participating in one of these public tournaments? Contact us with tournament ID for more information.

2022 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Hook/Bow
Max Boats Species Youth? Open to Public?
July-1020923ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
July-1321225ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
July-1321565ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
July-1720737ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
75Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoNo
July-2021226ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
July-2021566ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
July-2322167ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
70Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
July-2721227ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
July-2721567ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
July-3120924ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-0121163ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-0321228ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
August-0321568ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-1021229ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
August-1021569ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-1320925ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-1721230ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
August-1721570ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-2421231ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
August-2421571ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-2820926ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
August-3121232ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
August-3121572ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
September-0721233ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
September-0721573ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
September-1021234ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
NoNo
September-1120739ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
75Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoNo
September-1121517ApprovedHalings Ramp boat
hook
50Sauger
Walleye
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
NoYes
September-1421575ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
September-1820927ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
September-2421518ApprovedHalings Ramp boat
hook
50Sauger
Walleye
Walleye/Sauger Hybrid
NoYes
September-2821576ApprovedWatt's Marine boat
hook
30Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
October-0120928ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
October-0220929ApprovedMuskee Tales boat
hook
60Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoYes
October-0222247ApprovedMaple Grove (Main State Park Ramps) boat
hook
75Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
YesNo
October-0920741ApprovedPort of Blarney boat
hook
75Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
NoNo