Fishing License in Illinois: Licensing, Regulations, and Key Requirements

Fishing is a popular activity in Illinois, with a variety of fishing spots ranging from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and numerous ponds and marshes. The state offers good fishing opportunities for bass, walleye, and catfish, among other species1. Curious how to get your Fishing license in Illinois?

Illinois small map

Individuals aged 16 and older are required to have a valid fishing license in Illinois2. Children under the age of 16 do not need a fishing license3. Fishing licenses can be purchased online or over-the-counter from DNR DIRECT license/permit vendors4.

The cost of fishing licenses in Illinois varies depending on the type and residency status. For residents, an annual fishing license costs $15, while for non-residents, it costs $31.505. There are also discounted licenses available for Illinois residents who are seniors, super seniors, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces returning from service or mobilization. Other types of fishing licenses and permits in Illinois include:

  • Non-resident sport fishing (24-hour): $10.50
  • Non-resident sport fishing (3 days): $15.50
  • Inland trout stamp: $6.50 (required for all licensed anglers fishing for trout in inland waters, except Lake Michigan)5

Fishing licenses in Illinois are valid from March 1 of the current year to March 31 of the following year7. To purchase a fishing license online, you can visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website8.

Types and Costs of Fishing Licenses in Illinois

Illinois offers a plethora of fishing opportunities, from the vast expanse of the Mississippi River to the freshwater allure of Lake Michigan. But before you embark on your angling adventure, it’s crucial to be equipped with the right fishing license.

Resident vs. Non-Resident Licenses

The state categorizes licenses based on residency. If you’ve been domiciled in Illinois for the entire year, you’re considered a resident. Temporary absences, like military duty or out-of-state studies, don’t affect this status. Non-residents, on the other hand, are visitors from other states or countries.

Fishing License Costs

Resident Fishing Licenses:

License TypeCost
Annual Sport Fishing$15.00
Sport Fishing (65 and older)$7.75
Sport Fishing (24-hour)$5.50
Sportsman’s License (combined hunting and fishing)$26.25
Senior Sportsman’s License (combined hunting and fishing)$13.50
Illinois Fishing License Costs for residents
Illinois Fishing License Costs for residents

Non-Resident Fishing Licenses:

License TypeCost
Sport Fishing (24-hour)$10.50
Sport Fishing (3 days)$15.50
Annual Sport Fishing$31.50
Fishing License Costs for non residents in Illinois
Fishing License Costs for non residents in Illinois

Who Can Purchase Discounted Illinois Fishing Licenses?

Illinois offers discounted licenses for specific groups:

  • Seniors (65 and older): $7.75
  • Super Seniors (75 and older): $1.50
  • Veterans returning from service: $7.75

Special Fishing Programs in Illinois

Illinois is not just about licenses; it’s about fostering a love for fishing. The Illinois Urban Fishing Program is a testament to this, teaching people of all ages to fish and appreciate natural resources.

Where to Buy an Illinois Fishing License?

You can secure your license from the Department of Natural Resources online or over the phone. Additionally, a list of vendors, including Walmart stores, is available for in-person purchases.

Use of Illinois Fishing License Fees

The fees from license sales are reinvested in the state, funding programs dedicated to the conservation and management of Illinois’ water and natural resources.

Reciprocal License Arrangements

Illinois has agreements with neighboring states like Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Indiana. These arrangements allow anglers to fish in boundary waters under certain conditions.

Lifetime Fishing Licenses in Illinois

For those deeply committed to fishing in Illinois, the state offers lifetime licenses, ensuring you’re always ready for the next big catch.

Regulations & Requirements for Fishing in Illinois

Fishing in Illinois is not just about casting a line; it’s about understanding and adhering to the state’s regulations to ensure sustainable and responsible fishing. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has set forth specific guidelines to protect both the angler and the aquatic life.

Fishing Seasons

  • Spring Trout Fishing Season: The 2023 Spring Trout Fishing Season officially opened on March 18th for catch-and-release fishing only. Starting April 1st, regular Spring Trout fishing commenced.

Size and Bag Limits

Certain fish species have specific size and bag limits to ensure their populations remain healthy. For instance, for fish like striped bass, white bass, and yellow bass, the maximum length you are allowed to catch is 17 inches. Anything over this size is unlawful.

Non-Resident Fishing Regulations

Non-resident sport fishermen under 16 years of age can fish without a license in Illinois. However, all other non-resident sport fishermen must purchase the appropriate sport fishing licenses.

Additional Tips

  • Always check the latest regulations before heading out, as they can change based on the health of fish populations.
  • Respect the environment. Practice catch and release if you’re not sure about the size or species of the fish.
  • Ensure you have the correct license type for your fishing activity.

Licensing Process for Fishing in Illinois

Before you embark on your fishing adventure in Illinois, it’s essential to ensure you have the appropriate license. The process is straightforward, and with the right information at hand, you can obtain your license with ease.

Where to Apply

Fishing licenses in Illinois can be acquired in two primary ways:

  1. Online: The most convenient method for many is to purchase their fishing license online. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides an online platform where you can select the type of license you need, provide the necessary details, and make a payment.
  2. Over-the-Counter: For those who prefer an in-person approach, licenses can be purchased over-the-counter from DNR DIRECT license/permit vendors. This includes various locations across the state, ensuring accessibility for all residents.

Documents Required

While the specific documents can vary based on the type of license and any discounts you might be eligible for (e.g., senior, veteran), typically, you will need:

  • Proof of residency (e.g., Driver’s License, State ID)
  • Proof of age (for age-related discounts)

Processing Time

Once you’ve submitted your application and payment, the processing time is typically immediate for online purchases. You’ll be able to download and print your license. For over-the-counter purchases, you’ll receive your license on the spot.


Before applying, ensure you meet the residency requirements. Illinois defines a resident as someone who has been domiciled in the state for at least 30 consecutive days.

Special Provisions

  • Youth: Anglers under the age of 16 can fish without a license but must observe all fishing regulations and limits.
  • Seniors and Veterans: Illinois offers discounted licenses for seniors (65 and older) and returning veterans. Ensure you have the necessary documentation to avail of these discounts.

Regulations & Requirements for Fishing in Illinois

Fishing in Illinois is governed by a set of regulations to ensure the conservation of fish populations and provide a fair opportunity for all anglers. Here’s an overview of the key regulations and requirements:

Fishing Seasons

  • Open Season: Fishing is allowed year-round for most species. However, specific seasons may apply for certain fish like trout.
  • Closed Season: Some species may have a closed season to protect them during spawning or other critical periods.

Size and Bag Limits

  • Minimum Size: Some fish species have a minimum size limit, meaning you can only keep fish that measure above this size.
  • Bag Limit: This refers to the maximum number of a particular species you can keep in a day.

Restricted Areas

  • Some areas may be designated as catch and release only.
  • Certain water bodies or sections of water bodies might be off-limits during specific times of the year.

Bait and Tackle Restrictions

  • The use of certain types of bait or tackle might be restricted in some areas to protect fish populations.
  • Always check local regulations before using live bait.

Conservation Practices

  • Practice catch and release when possible, especially for species that are underfished.
  • Use barbless hooks or pinch the barbs on your hooks to make catch and release easier and less harmful to the fish.

It’s essential to stay updated with the latest regulations, as they can change based on fish populations and other ecological factors. Always refer to the official Illinois Department of Natural Resources website or local fishing guides for the most up-to-date information.

Renewal Process for Fishing Licenses in Illinois

Every angler should be aware of the renewal process for their fishing license to ensure uninterrupted fishing adventures in Illinois. Here’s a step-by-step guide to renewing your fishing license:

Fisherman holding the Illinois Fishing License
Fisherman holding the Illinois Fishing License

License Expiration

  • All Illinois fishing licenses expire on March 31 each year, including lifetime licenses.

Renewal Timeframe

  • You can start renewing your license from March 1 each year. For instance, if you purchase or renew your license on or after March 1, 2023, it will be valid until March 31, 2024.

Renewal Methods

  1. Online Renewal: The most convenient method is to renew your license online. This can be done through the official Illinois Department of Natural Resources website. Ensure you have your previous license details and any necessary identification documents handy.
  2. In-Person Renewal: If you prefer, you can also renew your license in person at various approved vendors, including Walmart and local bait and tackle shops. To find the nearest approved vendor, visit the License and Permit Vendors section of the Illinois DNR website.

Lost License?

If you misplace your license, don’t panic. Here’s what you can do:

  • Online Purchases: If you bought your license online, you could reprint it at no extra charge. An electronic copy saved on your phone is also acceptable.
  • Vendor Purchases: If you procured your license from a vendor, you could reprint it online for a small fee. Alternatively, you can get a replacement in person for a $3 fee per item (the license and any additional stamps), plus a minor transaction fee.

Remember, staying updated with your license’s validity ensures you’re always ready for your next fishing trip in Illinois. For any further queries, it’s recommended to contact your local DNR office.


Fishing in Illinois offers a rich and diverse experience for anglers of all levels. From the serene freshwater lakes to the bustling rivers, the Prairie State is a haven for fishing enthusiasts. However, with great opportunities come responsibilities. Ensuring you have the correct fishing license, understanding the regulations, and adhering to them is not just a legal requirement but also a step towards sustainable fishing. By staying informed and updated, you not only protect the aquatic ecosystems but also ensure that future generations can enjoy the same thrilling experiences that the waters of Illinois offer today. So, before you cast your line, make sure you’re equipped with the right knowledge and the right license. Tight lines and happy fishing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fishing in Illinois

Q: Where can I purchase a fishing license?

A: Fishing licenses can be purchased online through the official Illinois Department of Natural Resources website or in-person at various approved vendors across the state.

Q: How much do fishing licenses cost?

A: The cost varies based on the type of license and your residency status. Refer to the “Fees” section for a detailed breakdown.

Q: When do fishing licenses expire and when can I buy my “new” fishing license?

A: All Illinois fishing licenses expire on March 31 each year. You can start renewing or purchasing your license from March 1.

Q: At what age is a fishing license required?

A: Individuals aged 16 and over are required to have a fishing license in Illinois.

Q: Do kids under age 16 need to buy a trout stamp to fish for trout?

A: No, children under the age of 16 are not required to purchase a trout stamp.

Q: Do non-resident children need a fishing license?

A: Non-resident children, like resident children, can fish without a license if they are under the age of 16.

Q: Do Seniors get a free fishing license?

A: Illinois offers discounted licenses for seniors aged 65 and older.

Q: Do I qualify for a free license based on my disability?

A: Illinois has provisions for individuals with disabilities. It’s best to check the official DNR website for specific criteria and application processes.

Q: Am I exempt from purchasing a fishing license because I am in the military?

A: Certain exemptions are available for active-duty military personnel. It’s recommended to check with the Illinois DNR for the latest guidelines.

Q: Do I need a fishing license in order to take my children/grandchildren fishing?

A: If you plan to fish alongside them, yes, you would need a license. However, if you’re only assisting or supervising, a license may not be necessary.

Q: I lost/destroyed my fishing license, how can I get a replacement?

A: If purchased online, you can reprint it at no extra charge. If bought from a vendor, you can get a replacement online or in-person for a nominal fee.

Q: Do I have to have my physical license with me when I go fishing or can I just have a picture of it on my phone?

A: An electronic copy of your license saved on your phone is acceptable in Illinois.


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