If you love to fish but don’t own a boat, there’s no need to stay home. There is plenty of great fishing in the area for fishermen who are boatless. With a variety of accessible ponds, lakes and rivers in Northern Illinois, non-boat-owning fishermen have access to some excellent fishing opportunities.
Some bodies of water are actually better to fish without a boat. Several local rivers offer some phenomenal fishing for those willing to wade. Wading enables fishermen to get to areas that might not be accessible by boat. And in fast-moving or heavy-current waters, controlling the boat can be challenging. Wading or fishing from shore eliminates the challenge of trying to keep the boat steady over the desired location. Or anglers can simply bring a chair and park themselves on the bank and still put fish on the stringer. Here are some great local waterways for those of you without a boat:
From Naperville, through Plainfield, to Shorewood and finally Channahon, the DuPage River has hundreds of great places to access the river. It’s an extremely shallow waterway, most of it only one to three feet deep, which is why it’s such a great river to wade. Downtown Plainfield has a few deep spots by some of the road bridges. There also a small waterfall south of the Route 59 road bridge that holds fish below. In Shorewood, there is some great easy river access where Seil Road crosses the River. There are some deep channels north of the Seil Road bridge and plenty of good wading South through Shorewood.
Originating in Indiana, the Kankakee River has 30 miles of fishable water before it merges with the Des Plaines River to form the Illinois, which is why this region is called the “three rivers” area. The Kankakee River state park has abundant river access from within the park. There are some great wading spots where Rock Cut creek flows into the river, and on Warner bridge Road, there are a couple of parking areas where the Kankakee can be accessed. Another great spot is near the I-55 Road bridge. The River has a lot of shallow spots east and west of the bridge. But be careful as there are some deep holes can take an unsuspecting fisherman for a swim.
Connecting the Fox Chain of Lakes to the Illinois River, the Fox River has 110 miles of fishable water. With 14 dams that offer great shore fishing, the Fox is another spectacular fishery for all species including musky, smallmouth bass, walleye and catfish. Downtown Yorkville has some great wadable water, and below the dam is a popular spot for shore fishing.
Some of biggest bluegills in Illinois are caught from farm ponds, and they can hold some monster bass as well. If you’re lucky enough to know a farmer or landowner with a fully stocked pond, you better offer to do some chores for fishing permission. Farm ponds are typically great little ecosystems and fairly simple to fish. For bluegill, simply use jigs tipped with waxwork or crawler. For bass, plastic worms, spinner baits, or topwater plugs work great, or you can’t go wrong with minnow and bobber if you prefer live fishing. Since most ponds have an abundance of bluegill, they are a great place to take kids for some easy fun from shore. VanHorne Woods in Plainfield is a Park District-managed pond that is home to big bluegills and a healthy largemouth population. Located on the frontage road south of Route 30 at I55, it’s a great little fishing hole with a beautiful park and plenty of parking near the water.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages several outstanding fisheries that are close and have plenty of free public access. Heidecke Lake in Morris is an outstanding fishery for walleye, crappie, smallmouth bass and catfish, and has plenty of bank fishing access. The dike that separates the north and south parts of the lake allows for bank fishermen to fish either side for probably close to mile of water access along rip-rap shoreline. Silver Springs State Park is another well-managed facility, with two stocked lakes that have ample bank fishing in a clean park setting. Milliken Lake in Wilmington is a shallow lake but offers some good trout fishing in April, as that is one the local IDNR-stocked facilities. It also holds bass and catfish. Braidwood Lake is a nuclear cooling lake with a phenomenal catfish population. There are some excellent bank fishing spots near the Braidwood boat ramp.
If you do head out for some bank fishing, be sure to use good conduct. Pick up your trash and leave the area as good or better than when you found it. And don’t “crowd in” on other fishermen, especially if they are on a good bite. Despite the temptation to get in on their spot, be respectful and keep your distance. Lastly, be sure to have a valid Illinois fishing license, although kids under 16 fish for free and don’t require a license. And always know the creel limits on the body of water you are fishing— nothing puts a damper on the fun like getting pinched by the law because you didn’t know the catch limit.
So don’t put off that fishing trip this weekend just because you don’t have a boat. In addition to the spots I mentioned here, there are thousands of great bank and shore fishing spots in Illinois. Many of them can be found listed on the IDNR-managed website iFishIllinois.org, or CLICK HERE! and you can find hundreds of great, free public access places to fish. There are over 40 listings alone just for the Kankakee River.