Guide To Popular Ice Fishing Lakes In Illinois
Favorite fish species at top ice fishing lakes in the state.
The best ice fishing lakes in IL are north of I-80. They include the Fox Chain O' Lakes, Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. The most popular species through the ice, across the state, include perch, bluegill and crappie. See a list of lakes and species below.
Ice fishing is as basic as fishing gets. During winter, it is popular here in the state. Aside from the tools one uses to create a hole in the ice, all other gear is very basic. A simple rod, reel, line and hook or lure is all you need. Lures, live bait and prepared bait are options, depending on the fish species in the lake or pond.
Ice fishing in Illinois is a popular winter activity that offers anglers a unique and thrilling fishing experience. Despite the cold temperatures, many anglers eagerly venture out onto the frozen lakes to target a variety of fish species. Some of the commonly sought-after species during ice fishing in Illinois include panfish such as bluegill and crappie, as well as northern pike, walleye, and yellow perch.
When it comes to ice fishing methods, anglers typically use specialized equipment and techniques. Ice augers are used to drill holes in the ice, allowing anglers to drop their lines and fish beneath the frozen surface. Tip-ups, which are mechanical devices with flags that signal a bite, are commonly used for targeting larger species like northern pike and walleye. Jigging is another popular technique, where anglers use small lures or bait to entice panfish into biting. Electronics such as fish finders can also be useful in locating schools of fish beneath the ice.
Safety is of paramount importance when engaging in ice fishing. Before venturing out onto the ice, it is crucial to check its thickness and ensure it is safe for walking or fishing. Ice thickness should be at least 4 inches for walking and 6-8 inches for vehicles. It is recommended to wear appropriate clothing to stay warm and dry, including insulated waterproof boots, thermal layers, and wind-resistant outerwear. Additionally, anglers should always fish with a partner and have ice safety tools on hand, such as ice picks or a throw rope, in case of an emergency. Regularly monitoring ice conditions and staying informed about weather forecasts are also essential for maintaining safety while ice fishing.
Illinois offers several lakes and reservoirs that are popular for ice fishing, including Lake Michigan, Lake Shelbyville, and Evergreen Lake, among others. These bodies of water provide ample opportunities for anglers to enjoy ice fishing and reel in their favorite fish species during the winter months.
Ice fishing in Illinois is not only a way to continue fishing during the colder season but also an opportunity to embrace the serene beauty of the winter landscape. With the right equipment, knowledge, and safety precautions, anglers can have an enjoyable and successful ice fishing experience in Illinois.
Top Ice Fishing Lakes & Species
There are numerous places to go ice fishing in the state. Here are a list of some of the proven, best destinations.
Click the images for species details.
This is a great way to get the kids to go outdoors in winter, connect with nature and learn to fish. The first consideration when attempting to go ice fishing, is safety. Make sure the ice is safe, and that you are prepared should an accident occur. Dress to stay warm - it's better to remove extra jackets than be cold and miserable. Be aware that the ice can be slippery, and falls can be dangerous.
Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques Video
Click here for ice fishing basics, including details on finding the best place to fish, tips for cutting a hole, basic tackle, bait, lures, depths to fish, safety, shanty's, tents and huts.
Best ice fishing method for crappie, bluegill, perch and sunfish
Horizontal jigs and spoon-type baits are the go-to baits for crappie, either tipped with a minnow, wax worm or prepared baits often triggers more bites. Jigs work better close to the bottom, spoons tend to work better higher in the water column. If options allow, 15 to 30 feet is the most common depth. Adjust as necessary. See additional info on ice fishing for crappie, perch and sunfish.
Best ice fishing method for walleye
Four basic lures are all you need. Ice jigs are minnow shaped with a tail that causes them to fall in a circular patter. Drop them to the desired depth (often to the bottom), then lift the bait a few feet to let it fall on slack line. Spoons: Metal slabs in chrome or a wide array of colors are used to jig up-and-down mimicking a dying baitfish. Lipless crankbaits: Fish like a spoon. Jigs: Use slightly larger jigs than for crappie, preferably with a flashing blade attached. Tip with live bait and let it sit, up a ways from the bottom typically 1 to 3 feet. A general tip is to always keep your bait off the bottom, one to 5 feet is an ideal place to start. Additional information about ice fishing for walleye.
Best ice fishing method for bass
Bass are often found closer to the shoreline than schooling fish. Fish the same as other species, using a bit larger baits and slightly heavier line. Be prepared to battle using your drag if you hook a big one. Additional information about ice fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Best ice fishing method for pike and musky
Live bait, shiners and sunfish, are a great way to attract these big fellahs, assuming local law allows their use. Heavier line, steel leaders, bigger hooks and stronger tip-ups are in order. See more information on ice fishing for pike and musky.
Click here for a Illinois Fishing License.
States with notable ice fishing.