Fishing 101: Everything you need to know about taking your kids fishing in Champaign-Urbana.
The Best Places to Fish in Champaign-Urbana, Where to Buy Fishing Gear, Family-Friendly Fishing Events and More.
Grab your tackle box, slather on the sunscreen and introduce your kids to a favorite past time this summer. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by great bodies of water right in town or within a short drive from Champaign-Urbana. Mahomet to Homer, Penfield to Clinton and all throughout Illinois, you can get an Illinois fishing license and have tons of family fun all year long.
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WHAT YOU NEED TO START FISHING
Illinois Fishing License – Anyone 16 years of age and older needs to have a current fishing license to fish in Illinois. Children do not need a license. You can get a 24 hour fishing license for just $5.50, but why not just get a full year of fishing fun in Illinois for $15? If you have grandparents that want to fish with you, licenses are just $7.75 for adults 65 and older. Buy them online on the DNR site or visit locations in Champaign-Urbana like Rural King, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Meijer, Walmart or the Champaign County Forest Preserve District Headquarters (in Mahomet).
- Fishing rod/reel and some hooks – You can get some basic fishing equipment at many local stores such as Rural King, Target, Walmart, Meijer or Dick’s Sporting Goods. You don’t need much. Just one pole to share with your kids, or one for each person if you’d like them to have their own. You’ll see tons of accessories you can buy and while you may be tempted to spend a lot up front, it’s certainly not necessary. If you’re squeamish about the idea of touching the fish you catch, you may want to pick up a pair of inexpensive fishing gloves. They’ll protect your hands from being cut by the fish as you remove it from the hook.
- Bait – When you are ready to head out to the lake, you’ll want to stop and pick up some live bait to fish with. You can get them at Walmart but we prefer to find a Casey’s near where we’re going to be fishing and pick ours up. In addition to Walmart and Casey’s, you’ll find live bait at Rural King and Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as many small town gas stations, too.
PICKING SOMEWHERE TO FISH
We have our own favorites and we asked our readers where they like to fish around Champaign-Urbana. Here are the locations that we know of as the most popular for fishing, especially with kids:
- Colbert Park, Savoy ,all catch and release (See our review of Colbert Park here)
- Kaufman Lake, Champaign
- Crystal Lake Park, Urbana
- Lake of the Woods, Mahomet
- Riverbend Forest Preserve, Mahomet
- Homer Lake, Homer
- Clinton Lake (Visit the beach while you’re there, too!)
- Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood (See our Review of Kickapoo here)
- Lake Shelbyville (Get a boat and make a whole day of it!)
- Lake Sara, Effingham (Get a boat and make a whole day of it!)
WHEN YOU’RE OUT AT THE LAKE
If you’ve been fishing before, you have a good idea on how to get set up when you arrive. Make sure your pole is casting properly, snag a worm and put it on the hook before dropping into the water. Hopefully, before long, you or someone in your group will have the thrill of a catch! But be prepared for some waiting around if that’s not the case. It’s good to set kids up with the expectation that *maybe* we will catch a fish, just in case you end up with nothing that day. Take in the sunshine and enjoy the day, regardless!
Make sure to check the policies based on where/when you’re fishing to see if you need to catch and release right away or if you’re free to take up to a certain number of fish home if you plan to eat them. Personally, we like catch and release because we mostly catch crappie and other small fish around this area. There’s the occasional bass or catfish, though, and I suppose we could take those and eat them if we wanted to do that work!
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a great website for all things fishing that you can check out here for more tips.
NO GEAR? NO PROBLEM!
If you don’t have your own fishing gear yet, you can stop by Museum of the Grand Prairie any time during their open hours and check out FREE fishing poles at the front desk!
UPCOMING FISHING EVENTS AROUND CHAMPAIGN-URBANA
Are you new to fishing or wanting to test it out before you invest in your own gear? Each summer, there are many events happening through the Champaign-Urbana community planned for precisely this purpose! See a list below of any upcoming events:
Fishing for Beginners - FREE - Register by April 24 held at Homer Lake Forest Preserve – 04/25/2020, 9:00 am - 11:00 am