10 Largest Illinois Lakes for Fishing – Top Spots for Anglers 2024

Whether you’re experienced or new to fishing, Illinois has a lot to offer. The state is home to many great fishing spots, each with its own variety of fish and amenities.

In this guide, we’ll cover the top 10 fishing lakes in Illinois.

You’ll find practical information on where to fish, what species you can expect, and what facilities are available at each lake.

So, get your gear ready and let’s get into the best fishing spots Illinois has to offer!

Complete List

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Shelbyville
  • Rend Lake
  • Lake Springfield
  • Clinton Lake
  • Devil’s Kitchen Lake
  • Lake Carroll
  • Lake Lou Yaeger
  • Lake of Egypt
  • Shabbona Lake

1. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Fishing

The best seasons for fishing here are spring and fall, thanks to the favorable water temperatures.

Popular fishing spots include the lake’s shoreline, piers, and breakwaters. Shoreline fishing is particularly productive in the early morning or late evening. During these times, fish are more active and easier to catch.

Species and Habitat

Lake Michigan is home to a rich variety of fish. Some notable species include:

  • Salmon (Chinook and Coho)
  • Steelhead (Rainbow Trout)
  • Lake Trout
  • Yellow Perch
  • Smallmouth Bass

The lake’s habitat varies from shallow sandy areas to deep rocky zones. Each type of habitat supports different species, making Lake Michigan a versatile fishing destination.

Additionally, the discovery of Lake Michigan’s Stonehenge adds a fascinating historical dimension to the lake.

The deeper waters are prime for salmon and lake trout, while the more shallower regions are better for catching perch and bass.

Boating and Access Points

There are numerous marinas and boat ramps along the Illinois shoreline for easy access.

Some recommended access points are:

  • Chicago’s Navy Pier
  • Burnham Harbor
  • Waukegan Harbor

2. Lake Shelbyville

Lake Shelbyville Fishing

The lake hosts numerous fishing tournaments, including those for bass, crappie, and muskellunge.

Known for its abundant fish population, the lake guarantees an exciting fishing experience. Anglers frequently report successful catches of largemouth bass ranging from 4 to 7 pounds.

Public fishing areas and boat access points make it convenient for you to find the perfect spot.

Species You Will Find

You will find a rich diversity of fish in Lake Shelbyville. Popular species include largemouth bass, crappie, and muskellunge.

The lake’s waters also support healthy populations of catfish, white bass, and walleye.

Largemouth bass tend to thrive near submerged structures, while crappie are often found in deeper waters, especially in the spring and fall.

Muskellunge, a favorite among trophy fish hunters, are also common. The variety ensures that anglers of all preferences can find their desired catch.

Lake Facilities and Marinas

There are numerous public boat launches, some of which require a small fee. The lake area includes multiple marinas equipped with boat rentals, bait shops, and fishing supplies.

Camping and picnicking sites are available for those looking to extend their stay.

Well-maintained trails and scenic areas make it a picturesque spot for outdoor activities beyond fishing.

3. Rend Lake

Rend Lake, Illinois Fishing

Rend Lake, the second-largest inland lake in Illinois, stretches over 18,900 acres and is 13 miles long.

Formed by damming the Big Muddy River and Casey Fork in 1973, this lake features 162 miles of shoreline, a maximum depth of 35 feet, and an average depth of 10 feet.

Fishing Opportunities

Rend Lake is well-known for its excellent crappie and channel catfish populations. You can also find largemouth bass, bluegill, and hybrid striped bass here. Flathead catfish have generated significant interest among anglers.

Recommended Gear

  • Largemouth Bass: Use plastic worms, jigs, and crankbaits. Recommended tackle includes a medium-heavy rod and a 10-15 lb line.
  • Crappie: Opt for minnows and small jigs.
  • Channel Catfish: Use stink baits, chicken liver, or nightcrawlers.

Additional Activities

Apart from fishing, Rend Lake offers opportunities for boating, swimming, and bird-watching.

The surrounding area is perfect for hiking and picnicking, providing a well-rounded outdoor experience.

4. Lake Springfield

Lake Springfield Fishing

Lake Springfield, a reservoir spanning 4,200 acres, offers a rich variety of fish species and excellent fishing opportunities.

Its public access points and boat launches are designed to support both recreational and avid anglers.

Lake Springfield is known as a prime location for fishing due to its well-maintained ecosystem and strategic fish stocking efforts.

The lake is particularly famous for its catfish population, making it a favorite among anglers.

Whether you prefer shore fishing or taking a boat out, you’ll find numerous spots that cater to different fishing techniques.

Species and Techniques

Lake Springfield is home to a diverse range of fish species.

You can catch blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, walleye, bluegill, and white bass.

Effective techniques include using crayfish, shrimp, large shad, or stinkbait for catfish around submerged logs and deadfalls.

For bass and crappie, consider using artificial lures or live bait near structures and drop-offs.

Public Access and Boat Launches

There are multiple public boat launches around the lake, making it easy to get your boat in the water quickly.

The lake includes eight public parks and over 735 residential sites along its 57 miles of shoreline. If you prefer shore fishing, there are numerous spots available in public parks.

For boating, docks and ramps are maintained in top condition to ensure safe and convenient access. Check local regulations and permits required for boat use to ensure compliance.

5. Clinton Lake

Clinton Lake Fishing

Clinton Lake, located in DeWitt County, Illinois, is a 4,895-acre reservoir renowned for its fishing opportunities.

Constructed as a cooling reservoir for the Clinton Nuclear Power Station, it boasts diverse fish species and excellent public facilities.

Best Fishing Spots on Clinton Lake

Clinton Lake offers various prime fishing locations:

  • The Spillway Access Area has a fishing pier ideal for bank fishing.
  •  Mascoutin and West Side Access Areas provide accessible boat launches.
  • For those targeting larger catches, try areas near Valley Mill and the De Witt Bridge due to deeper waters.
  • Additionally, the vast stretches of shallow waters around the North Fork and South Fork are popular among anglers.

Common Fish Species

Clinton Lake hosts a variety of fish species:

  • Blue catfish are prominent, with some reaching impressive sizes like the 33 lb catch reported recently.
  • Bass and crappie are favorites among local anglers
  • While the lake also supports populations of white basshybrid stripers, and walleye.

Walleye in Clinton Lake can grow to significant sizes, with mature females producing between 60,000 to 420,000 eggs, depending on their length.

Regulations and Safety

Fishing at Clinton Lake is subject to several regulations. It is important to familiarize yourself with catch and size limits for different fish species.

Walleye, for instance, must often measure 18 inches or more to be kept.

Additionally, note that no wake zones are in effect from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise to ensure safety.

Always wear a life jacket and observe boating safety practices when fishing from a boat.

6. Devil’s Kitchen Lake

Devil's Kitchen Lake Fishing

Devil’s Kitchen Lake is an 810-acre reservoir situated in Southern Illinois.

It’s renowned for its maximum depth of 90 feet, which makes it one of the deepest lakes in the state.

Created by damming Grassy Creek, it features a 24-mile shoreline and scenic surroundings, mostly enveloped by forest.

As part of the Crab Orchard Refuge, the lake is accessible by three boat ramps.

Fish Varieties

The lake hosts a diverse range of fish species. You can look forward to catching largemouth bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, redear sunfish, and yellow perch. Additional stocking efforts have bolstered its fish population.

Notably, yellow perch were stocked for the first time in 2014 and have been maintained through 2022.

There are also brown trout, crappie, channel catfish, and bullheads.

With such variety, you’re likely to find something biting any time of the year.

Amenities and Permits

Aside from fishing, Devil’s Kitchen Lake offers boating with a 10-horsepower limit, swimming, and picnicking facilities. The southern portions permit only electric motors or paddling, preserving the tranquil environment.

Anglers must adhere to regulations set by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, including obtaining the necessary fishing permits.

The collaboration between state and federal bodies ensures sustainable fish populations and recreational activities.

7. Lake Carroll

Lake Carroll Fishing

Lake Carroll spans a significant area, providing numerous fishing spots.

The lake was created by damming the east fork of the Plum River in 1974.

It measures about 60 feet in depth and boasts water clarity of approximately 17 feet.

Adequate signage and maps are available to help you locate productive fishing areas, ensuring a fruitful visit.

Target Fish Species

Lake Carroll is home to several fish species.

Among the most sought-after are carp, northern pike, flathead catfish, and muskellunge.

These species provide varied fishing experiences, whether you prefer casting from the shore or venturing out by boat. Knowing the habits and preferred habitats of these species can significantly enhance your fishing success.

Boating Information

Boating at Lake Carroll is convenient, with access points clearly indicated on maps and signage. The lake supports various types of watercraft, from fishing boats to personal watercraft.

Rules and regulations are enforced to ensure safety and environmental protection. Boaters must adhere to speed limits and designated areas for specific activities.

8. Lake Lou Yaeger

Lake Lou Yaeger Fishing

Lake Lou Yaeger in Illinois is a popular fishing spot known for its largemouth bass, diverse habitats, and various recreational facilities.

You’ll find this 1,300-acre reservoir offers unique fishing opportunities and convenient amenities.

Fishing here provides a chance to target species like trout and largemouth bass.

Despite a weaker largemouth bass population, the size structure is solid, with bass ranging from 10″ to 17″.

The largest bass recorded was 22″ long and weighed 6.2 pounds. Annual stocking efforts help to maintain fish populations.

Other fish species include catfish, crappie, and bluegill, making for a varied fishing experience.

The lake’s serene environment enhances your fishing trip, ensuring a pleasant outdoor adventure.

Habitats and Species Breakdown

This reservoir features several habitats supportive of fish.

The lake has an average depth of around 10 feet and a maximum depth exceeding 30 feet, creating diverse aquatic environments. These depths provide excellent conditions for largemouth bass, trout, and other species.

9. Lake of Egypt

This man-made lake covers over 2,300 acres and offers a diverse range of fish species.

The lake provides excellent facilities for anglers. You can access the shoreline for bank fishing at various spots, including Buck Ridge Campground.

Boaters can easily launch their vessels from multiple boat ramps around the lake.

Kayaking and canoeing are also popular here, providing anglers the chance to explore the lake’s 90 miles of shoreline.

Whether you prefer fishing from the bank, a boat, or a kayak, Lake of Egypt has something for every angler.

Fish Populations

Common catches include largemouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, and bluegill.

Largemouth bass, also known as black bass or green trout, are a favorite among sport fishers.

Crappies, both black and white, are abundant and provide a good challenge. Bluegill are also plentiful and make for an enjoyable fishing experience for all skill levels.

License Requirements

Fishing at Lake of Egypt requires an Illinois state fishing license for those 16 years and older. You can purchase these licenses online or at various retailers throughout the state.

Certain areas of the lake may have specific regulations, so it’s important to check local rules before heading out.

10. Shabbona Lake

Shabbona Lake Fishing

Shabbona Lake, located in DeKalb County, Illinois, is a 318-acre lake known for its diverse fish population and excellent fishing opportunities.

Created in 1975, this lake is a favorite destination for anglers of all skill levels due to its well-maintained facilities and scenic surroundings.

Fishing Opportunities

Shabbona Lake offers a variety of fish species that cater to different fishing techniques and preferences. The lake is particularly known for its muskie, with some individuals reaching trophy sizes. Other notable species include largemouth bass, walleye, and channel catfish.

The lake’s structure, featuring submerged trees, rock piles, and weed beds, provides ideal habitats for fish, making it a productive fishing spot.

Popular Fishing Spots

Anglers can find success in various areas around Shabbona Lake:

  • The No Motor Zone is excellent for those seeking a quiet fishing experience, particularly for muskie and bass.
  • The East Bay and West Bay are popular for shore fishing and are accessible via well-maintained trails.
  • The Deep Water Fishing Area near the dam is a hotspot for walleye and catfish.

Regulations and Permits

Fishing at Shabbona Lake requires an Illinois state fishing license. Specific regulations are in place to maintain fish populations, such as size and catch limits for different species.

It’s important to review these regulations before fishing.