Fishing in Illinois offers a diverse range of opportunities, from the expansive waters of Lake Michigan to the serene rivers and lakes scattered throughout the state. To ensure a legal and enjoyable fishing experience, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate fishing license. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of getting a fishing license in Illinois for 2024, covering everything from license types and costs to purchasing methods and regulations.

Understanding Illinois Fishing License Types and Costs

Illinois mandates that anglers purchase a valid fishing license to help fund conservation efforts and maintain sustainable fishing practices. Here’s a breakdown of the different license types and their corresponding fees for 2024:

Resident Fishing Licenses

  • Annual Fishing License: $15.00
  • Senior Fishing License (65 and older): $7.75
  • Super Senior Fishing License (75 and older): $1.50 plus a $0.50 handling fee
  • 24-Hour Fishing License: $5.50
  • Lifetime Fishing License: $435.00
  • Sportsman’s License (combined hunting and fishing): $26.25
  • Senior Sportsman’s License: $13.50

Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

  • Annual Fishing License: $31.50
  • 24-Hour Fishing License: $10.50
  • 3-Day Fishing License: $15.50
  • Lifetime Fishing License: $840.75

Special Licenses

  • Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp: $6.50 (required for licensed anglers)
  • Inland Trout Stamp: $6.50 (required for all waters except Lake Michigan)

Who Needs a Fishing License?

In Illinois, anyone aged 16 and older must have a fishing license to fish in public waters. There are specific exemptions and reduced fees for certain groups:

  • Exemptions:
  • Anglers under 16 years old
  • Legally disabled or blind residents
  • Residents on active military duty
  • Owners or tenants fishing on their own land
  • Reduced Fees:
  • Seniors aged 65 and older
  • Veterans returning from service abroad or mobilization

When to Buy and License Validity

Fishing licenses in Illinois are valid from March 1 of the current year through March 31 of the following year. Licenses for the 2024 season go on sale starting March 1, 2024. It’s important to note that licenses expire on March 31 each year, regardless of the purchase date.

How to Purchase a Fishing License

Illinois offers several convenient options for purchasing fishing licenses:

Online Purchase

The easiest way to obtain an Illinois fishing license is through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) online licensing system. Follow these steps:

  1. Visit the IDNR website and select the “Buy Licenses/Permits” option.
  2. Choose the appropriate license type based on your residency status and desired duration.
  3. Provide the required personal information and make the payment securely online.
  4. Upon completion, you’ll receive a temporary license via email, with the physical copy arriving in the mail within 7-10 business days.

Authorized Retailers

Illinois has a network of over 1,200 authorized retailers, including sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, bait and tackle shops, and select retail chains like Walmart. Simply visit a participating retailer near you and purchase your license in person.

Telephone Orders

If you prefer to purchase your license over the phone, call the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at 1-888-673-7648 and follow the prompts to complete your transaction securely.

Fishing Regulations and Legal Requirements

Obtaining a fishing license is just the first step in ensuring a legal and responsible fishing experience in Illinois. Anglers must also familiarize themselves with the state’s fishing regulations and legal requirements:

  • Carrying Your License: Anglers must have their fishing license in possession at all times while fishing.
  • Fishing Methods: Regulations on fishing methods, such as the use of two poles and lines, are in place to ensure sustainable fishing practices.
  • Species-Specific Regulations: There are specific regulations for different fish species, including minimum length limits and daily harvest limits.

Conservation Efforts Supported by Fishing License Fees

The fees collected from fishing licenses contribute significantly to conservation efforts in Illinois. These funds support various programs, including:

  • Fishery and hatchery management
  • Habitat development and protection
  • Endangered species programs
  • Fishing and conservation education


Fishing in Illinois is a rewarding experience, offering a chance to connect with nature and enjoy the state’s diverse aquatic resources. By obtaining the appropriate fishing license and adhering to state regulations, anglers can contribute to the conservation of these resources and ensure a sustainable fishing experience for future generations. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, this guide provides all the information you need to get your fishing license in Illinois for 2024 and enjoy a successful fishing season.

For more detailed information and to purchase your fishing license, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website or contact their customer service.

Can I fish without a license in Illinois?

In most cases, no. Anglers aged 16 and older must have a valid fishing license to fish in Illinois waters, with a few exceptions for residents under 16, legally blind or disabled individuals, and active-duty military personnel on leave.

Do I need a separate license for saltwater fishing in Illinois?

No, Illinois is a landlocked state and does not have any saltwater fishing opportunities. Your Illinois fishing license covers all freshwater fishing within the state.

Can I purchase a lifetime fishing license in Illinois?

No, Illinois does not currently offer lifetime fishing licenses. The longest duration available is the annual fishing license, which is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

What happens if I lose my fishing license?

If you purchased your license online, you can easily reprint it from the IDNR website. If you bought your license at a retail location, you may need to purchase a duplicate license for a small fee.

Do I need a fishing license to fish on private property in Illinois?

If you are the owner or tenant of the private property, you can fish in waters wholly contained within your property boundaries without a license. However, if you are a guest or fishing on someone else’s private property, you still need a valid Illinois fishing license.

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