Best Illinois Fishing Spots For Muskie – Where to Catch Them In 2024

Do you think Illinois isn’t a prime spot for fishing muskies? Think again! You don’t have to travel to Missouri or Wisconsin to find the best spots for fishing muskies. Some of the best spots to fish muskie are right here in Illinois. Not only are they in Illinois, they are all over Illinois! North, South, East, West & Central – all parts of Illinois have prime spots to fish muskie.

Below are some spots worth visiting when chasing this elusive fish of 10,000 casts. With a million and a half acres of water, you can find anything from the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan to many great river systems, to crystal-clear small lakes and ponds.

Northern Illinois

With a million and a half acres of water, you can find anything from the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan to many great river systems, to crystal-clear small lakes and ponds.

1. Shabbona Lake – “Muskie Capitol”

Amazing fishing, fun hiking and tons of nature!

Shabbona Lake, located in Shabbona State Park, is often referred to as the “Muskie Capitol” of Illinois. This lake, west of Chicago off US 30, covers over 1,500 acres and has a rich history of producing trophy muskies. Anglers can expect to catch muskies exceeding 40 inches in length.

The most catch worthy Illinois Fishing Spots For Muskie-min (1)

Shabbona Lake offers a variety of recreational activities, making it a perfect spot for a family outing. Beyond fishing, the state park provides opportunities for camping, hiking, and picnicking.

Plenty of parking space, park is free to enter. Toilets were open.  Also, there is excellent food at Poaknoes by the bait shop and great boat, kayak and pontoon rentals.

2. Fox Chain-O-Lakes

Fox Chain-O-Lakes, about an hour from Chicago’s Loop, is another top muskie fishing spot in Illinois. This interconnected lake system covers over 7,000 acres, with Fox Lake being a notable part. In recent years, Fox Lake has seen muskie catches of 50 inches or more, making it a hotspot for city dwellers seeking big catches.

The state park offers various recreational activities, including picnicking and camping, making it a great destination for a full day or weekend trip.

Central Illinois

1. Evergreen Lake

Evergreen Lake, located just north of Bloomington/Normal near Kappa, is a prime spot for muskie fishing. The lake covers approximately 925 acres and has been stocked with muskie since 1990. Hundreds of muskies are added annually, with some years seeing nearly 1,000 new additions. State fish samples regularly find muskies ranging from 30 to over 40 inches in length.

The lake’s proximity to Central Illinois makes it a convenient location for many residents. Besides fishing, you can camp at Comlara County Park, which surrounds Evergreen Lake. Comlara County Park offers 137 campsites, a swimming beach, and showers.

Believe me, this makes it a great spot for fishing muskies.

2. Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville, located in Central Illinois near Decatur, covers 11,000 acres and has become a premier destination for muskie fishing. There are a lot of things to do there, and they also hold fishing tournaments there as well.

The lake’s diverse habitats, including flooded timber and submerged structures, create ideal conditions for muskies. In recent years, anglers have reported catching muskies over 50 inches.

 

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Lake Shelbyville also offers excellent facilities for anglers, including multiple boat launches and public parks, making it a convenient and attractive location for fishing trips. Plenty of excellent places to fish with many fish attractors in place as well.

It gets busy sometimes but it’s a great lake!

3. Otter Lake

Otter-Lake

Otter Lake is located in central Illinois, specifically in Macoupin County, which is southwest of Springfield. Otter is the better of the two to me, Otter has big musky’s and big strippers. There is very little info on the lake on the Internet, but it’s a reservoir lake like Shab.

Otter is near Carlinville, it’s about three and a half hours south of Crystal Lake. You will drive past evergreen on your way down, may want to stop and check that one out also.


Generally, This lake is highly recommended, with a reputation for big muskies and stripers. It’s a reservoir lake, similar to Shabbona. There’s a motor restriction of 160 HP or 40 mph. You can buy a fishing sticker across the street from the launch.

The lake hours are normal, and there’s a nice concrete launch ramp and parking lot. However, the store that sells daily permits doesn’t open until sunrise or later in the fall and winter.

Find more about Otter Lake Fish Cribs.

Western Illinois

Banner Marsh

  • Address: 19721 US-24, Canton, IL 61520, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours
  • Phone: +1 309-647-9184
  • Area: 4,363 acres (1,766 ha)

Banner Marsh, located in Canton, just south of Peoria off Route 24, offers over 4,000 acres of water for fishing. This location is known for its diverse water bodies, including large lakes, marshes, and small ponds. Muskies, typically stocked tri-annually, can reach up to 40 inches here.

Banner Marsh is a versatile spot, perfect for anglers who enjoy fishing in different types of water environments. Its proximity to Peoria also allows for a convenient trip to Bass Pro Shops before heading out to fish.

Fishing seems to be a bit better in 2024 than last year. It’s still early in the year though. The roads are absolutely terrible and full of massive potholes, but if you’re willing to brave it you can catch some large fish (Find Best Techniques for Holding Large Catfish)

Southern Illinois

From my experience, KinKaid Lake is the only one I had succsess for years in fishing.

Kinkaid Lake – The Best Southern Illinois Fishing Spots

Kinkaid Lake, a very clean lake, located in Southern Illinois within the Shawnee National Forest, is known for producing muskies over 50 inches. The lake spans over 2,700 acres and is a popular spot for both anglers and recreational boaters. Due to its popularity, early morning and late evening fishing are recommended to avoid the busiest times.

The scenic beauty of the Shawnee National Forest adds to the appeal of Kinkaid Lake, making it a perfect spot for those who appreciate nature as much as fishing.

I recommend putting the boat in at one end, driving around, and fishing all the way down to the marina… If you are lucky, you can catch a big musky (or some other types of fish).

And after – good news: The marina Cafe has great food!

*** Note: Ownership has been inconsistent over the last few years at the marina. So bring your own supplies.

Top 5 Best Illinois Fishing Rivers

5. Cache River

The Cache River, located at the southern tip of Illinois, is an excellent spot for muskie fishing. The upper reach flows through the hills of the Ozark plateau, while the lower Cache flows through a flatter coastal plain. The Cache River State Natural Area features massive cypress trees and rich wetlands, providing a unique fishing environment.

The Kesha River is absolutely beautiful and mysterious if you have time to venture through it. Find an area where you can canoe and enjoy a day immersed in the green water.

Also, as the locals say, the muskies here are big and plentiful.

4. Chicago and Calumet Rivers

The Chicago and Calumet Rivers in the Lake Michigan Basin offer urban muskie fishing opportunities. These waterways have seen significant improvements in water quality, making them viable for fishing. The Chicago River system, including the North Branch and Calumet River, provides ample access points for bank fishing and boating.

Muskie fishing is particularly good in areas with woody debris, rocky shorelines, and near bridges. The ongoing habitat improvements and fish stocking efforts have enhanced the muskie population in these urban rivers.

3. Des Plaines River

The Des Plaines River, the longest stream within the Chicago region, flows for 105 miles in Illinois. It offers excellent fishing opportunities for muskie, especially in areas with a combination of rock and silt bottoms. The river is easily accessible for shore fishing, canoeing, and wading.

des plaines river illinois - best fishing spots

The diverse habitats along the Des Plaines River support a healthy muskie population. Anglers can target muskie in deeper pools and near structures, making it a productive river for fishing.

Creepy fact: Few know but this lake was used by the serial killer John W Gacy to dump his victims): a very unfortunate fact that remained in the memory of the relatives.

2. Embarras River

The Embarras River, a tributary of the Wabash River, flows through east-central Illinois. This 195-mile river offers diverse habitats, including sandbars, gravel bars, and riffles. The middle section of the Embarras River is particularly notable for its high species count and excellent fishing spots.

The river’s varied environments provide ideal conditions for muskie fishing. Anglers can enjoy targeting muskies in the river’s rich and diverse habitats.

Except fishing, if you are lucky you can see eagles here.

1. Illinois Fishing Spot No. 1 – Fox River

The Fox River is known for its diverse sport fishery, including muskie. Anglers can target muskie in areas with woody debris, rocky shorelines, and near dams. The river’s accessibility and abundant fishing spots make it a prime location for muskie fishing.

The Fox River is an absolute gem, winding its way through the heart of the valley. It’s not just a river; it’s a thriving ecosystem, teeming with life and energy. It’s like nature’s very own playground, a haven for fish enthusiasts and adventure-seekers alike.

Imagine casting your line into the crystal-clear waters, home to a dazzling array of game fish. From the feisty smallmouth and largemouth bass to the vibrant yellow bass, and the elusive Walleye, bluegill, pike, and musky, there’s a challenge for every angler. And let’s not forget the abundance of baitfish, the lifeblood that sustains this aquatic community.

 

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But the Fox River isn’t just about fish. It’s a sanctuary for countless critters and birds, each contributing to the rich tapestry of this water ecosystem. Whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, wading, or boating, every journey on the river is a new adventure, a chance to connect with nature in a profound way.

Starting from St. Charles and moving north, you’ll find parks dotted along the river, each one a gateway to this natural wonderland. And the best part? You can rent all the gear you need right there in the towns.

Just remember to stay safe. The river can be unpredictable, especially near the dams. Keep an eye out for the buoys; they’re your warning sign that you’re approaching a dam.

So, grab your gear, embrace the spirit of adventure, and let the Fox River work its magic on you. Trust me; it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Conclusion

Illinois boasts some of the best muskie fishing spots in the Midwest. Lake Shelbyville and Evergreen Lake offer prime chances for landing trophy muskies. Unique experiences await at each location, from quick city getaways to serene southern retreats. The Cache, Des Plaines, Embarras, and Fox Rivers add to the excitement with diverse, productive fishing environments.

With well-stocked lakes and thriving river ecosystems, Illinois is a top destination for muskie enthusiasts. Pack your gear, hit the water, and experience the thrill of muskie fishing in Illinois.