Fishing in Illinois offers a unique and rewarding experience, with its diverse aquatic ecosystems and abundant fish species. However, before you can cast your line, it’s essential to obtain a valid fishing license. This article provides a comprehensive guide on the costs, types, and purchasing methods for fishing licenses in Illinois, ensuring you are well-prepared for your next fishing adventure.

Types of Fishing Licenses in Illinois

Illinois offers various fishing licenses to cater to different needs and preferences. Here are the main types:

Resident Annual Fishing License

  • Cost: $15
  • Eligibility: Illinois residents aged 16 to 64
  • Validity: One year from the date of purchase

Non-Resident Annual Fishing License

  • Cost: $31.75
  • Eligibility: Non-residents of Illinois

Non-Resident Temporary Fishing License

  • Cost: $14.75
  • Eligibility: Non-residents
  • Validity: 5 consecutive days

Senior/Disabled Fishing License

  • Cost: $8.50
  • Eligibility: Illinois residents aged 65 and older or those with qualifying disabilities

Lifetime Fishing License

For avid anglers seeking a long-term solution, Illinois offers lifetime fishing licenses:

  • Resident Lifetime Fishing License (ages 0-64): $420.75
  • Non-Resident Lifetime Fishing License (ages 0-64): $840.75
  • Resident Senior Lifetime Fishing License (ages 65+): $210.75

Costs of Fishing Licenses in Illinois

The cost of fishing licenses in Illinois varies based on the type of license and the angler’s residency status. Here is a detailed breakdown:

License TypeFee
Resident Annual Fishing License$15
Non-Resident Annual Fishing License$31.75
Non-Resident Temporary Fishing License (5 days)$14.75
Senior/Disabled Fishing License$8.50
Resident Lifetime Fishing License (ages 0-64)$420.75
Non-Resident Lifetime Fishing License (ages 0-64)$840.75
Resident Senior Lifetime Fishing License (ages 65+)$210.75

Additional fees may apply for specific stamps, such as the Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp ($6.50) and the Inland Trout Stamp ($6.50).

How to Purchase a Fishing License in Illinois

Purchasing a fishing license in Illinois is convenient and can be done through several methods:

Online Purchase

You can buy your fishing license online through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) website. This method is available 24/7 and allows you to print your license immediately.

In-Person Purchase

Fishing licenses can be purchased at various authorized vendors, including sporting goods stores, bait shops, and IDNR offices. Ensure you bring the necessary identification and payment method.

Phone Purchase

You can also purchase a fishing license by calling the IDNR Customer Service at 866-716-6550. This service is available 24 hours a day.

Exemptions and Special Cases

Certain individuals are exempt from needing a fishing license in Illinois:

Age Exemptions

  • Children under the age of 16 do not need a fishing license.

Disability Exemptions

  • Legally disabled or blind individuals can fish without a license, provided they have proof of disability.

Military Exemptions

  • Active military personnel who are Illinois residents and are home on leave can fish without a license.

Free Fishing Days in Illinois

To encourage participation in fishing, Illinois offers several free fishing days each year. On these days, both residents and non-residents can fish without a license. For 2024, the free fishing days are:

  • June 15-16, 2024
  • August 17, 2024 (Illinois State Fair Free Fishing Day)

Conservation Efforts Funded by Fishing Licenses

The fees collected from fishing license sales in Illinois are crucial for various conservation efforts. Here’s how the funds are typically utilized:

Fish Stocking and Hatchery Operations (35%)

  • Supporting fish hatchery operations and stocking programs to maintain healthy fish populations.

Habitat Improvement and Protection (25%)

  • Initiatives such as stream bank restoration, wetland conservation, and removal of invasive species.

Resource Management and Research (20%)

  • Monitoring fish populations, studying aquatic ecosystems, and developing sustainable fisheries management strategies.

Law Enforcement and Education (15%)

  • Ensuring compliance with fishing regulations and promoting responsible fishing practices through educational programs.

Administrative Costs (5%)

  • Managing the licensing system and conservation programs.


Obtaining a fishing license in Illinois is a straightforward process that supports the state’s conservation efforts and ensures a sustainable fishing experience for future generations. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, make sure to get the appropriate license before heading out to enjoy Illinois’ rich fishing opportunities.

What happens if I lose my fishing license?

If you purchased your license online, you can easily reprint it from the DNR website. If you bought your license at a retail location, you can request a duplicate license for a small fee.

Can I fish in Illinois without a license?

Only if you meet one of the exemption criteria, such as being an Illinois resident under 16 years old, legally blind or disabled, or on leave from active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. All other anglers must have a valid fishing license.

Do I need a separate license to fish in Lake Michigan?

No, your Illinois fishing license allows you to fish in all state waters, including Lake Michigan. However, if you plan to fish for salmon in Lake Michigan, you must purchase a Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp in addition to your license.

Can I purchase a fishing license for someone else?

Yes, you can buy a fishing license as a gift for another person. You’ll need to provide their personal information, such as name, address, and date of birth, during the purchase process.

How long is an Illinois fishing license valid?

Annual fishing licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase. Short-term licenses, such as 24-hour or 3-day licenses, are valid for the specified time period.

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