Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.

February 1, 2023

2023 Fishing Regulations Available

With sport fish licenses expiring annually on March 31, thoughts turn to the upcoming season and that it holds. One eagerly anticipated event is the release of the annual Illinois Fishing Information guide, which holds a wealth of information on fishing regulations and places to fish.

An image of the cover of the Illinois Fishing 2023 Regulations Information booklet. The featured image on the cover is a tan gray fish with a long flat nose swimming along the bottom of a river. In the background is another fish with a long nose.
Cover of the 2023 Illinois Fishing Regulation information. Photo courtesy of the IDNR Divisions of Fisheries.

“Without the commitment of anglers who support the fishing regulations in Illinois waters, quality fishing cannot be maintained from year to year,” explained Mike McClelland, Chief of the Division of Fisheries for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). “The success of most fishing regulations depends on angler participation and their observation of those rules.”

IDNR Division of Fisheries staff updates the Illinois Fishing Information guide each year to provide a comprehensive look at fishing in Illinois along with an updated summary of statewide and site-specific regulations organized by the body of water at which they apply. The new edition contains regulations that take effect on April 1, 2023 and runs through March 31, 2024.

Pictured on the cover of the 2023 edition are two shovelnose sturgeon collected from the Mississippi River.

“These sturgeon were on display in the Division of Fisheries tent at the 2022 State Fair,” noted Nerissa McClelland, an IDNR Illinois River Fisheries Biologist who coordinated development of the 2023 Illinois Fishing Information guide. “Rob Hilsabeck, an IDNR District Fisheries Biologist, captured the photo of these sturgeon, which are the smallest of the three sturgeon species occurring in Illinois and the only species not listed as a state-endangered species.” How to identify the sturgeon you catch is on page 64 of the guide and anglers are advised that Lake sturgeon and pallid Sturgeon must be released immediately after catch due to their state and/or federal listings.

Three fisherman stand by their harvest of several fish hanging from metal hooks attached to metal pipes holding up a sign saying, "North Point Marina." In the background are trees and shrubs with blue sky peeking through the leaves.
Illinois record pink salmon (top row second from the left) caught in July, 2022. Photo courtesy of Vic Santucci.

The guide contains an extensive list of places to fish, that includes species present and other amenities available (see pages 59 and 60).

Always popular with anglers is the updated list of new state-record fish.

Page 63 of the guide lists the Illinois and North American hook and line record fish, including a new record—the 4-pound, 14.4-ounce pink salmon caught in Lake Michigan on August 4, 2022.

“Anglers are always interested in knowing what the record fish are in case they happen to find a monster fish at the end of their line,” Nerissa McClelland noted. “One record just waiting to be broken is the standing 1936 record of a 48-pound buffalo reeled in on the Mississippi River.

Another popular feature are the dates of the annual Illinois Free Fishing Days, which in 2023 will occur on Father’s Day weekend, Friday, June 16 through Monday, June 19.

A father squats next to his toddler while he holds up a large green fish. In the background is a pond and green trees.
Photo courtesy of the IDNR Division of Fisheries.

“Free Fishing Days provides an excellent opportunity for all anglers and families to go fishing even if they have not yet purchased a fishing license,” explained Nerissa McClelland. “This is a great time to introduce people to a wonderful outdoor activity that can provide a lifetime of memories.”

Throughout the year, online posts by IDNR will note emergency changes to rules, fish stocking data, fish population information and many other fisheries communications of interest.

“Those who enjoy fishing in Illinois provide the resources vital to Illinois’ fisheries,” Mike McClelland said. “The money spent on fishing licenses and equipment helps fund IDNR fisheries programs, such as fishery and hatchery management, habitat development and protection, endangered species programs, and fishing and conservation education. License purchases help ensure the future of fishing in Illinois.”

The annual regulation guide is available online at Anglers may also pick up a copy at many gas stations and bait shops throughout the state.

Kathy Andrews Wright is retired from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources where she was editor of Outdoor Illinois magazine. She is currently the editor of Outdoor Illinois Journal.

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