As fishing season is here, there are some things you need to know before taking your family fishing in 2020
Families have long enjoyed fishing together and while we are practicing social distancing, fishing is one of the activities you can still (safely) engage in together around Champaign-Urbana
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.
According to the Illinois Department of National Resources fishing website, they have received this clarification from the governor’s office on fishing during these times. “As long as our sportsmen and women are fishing or hunting at a site which is currently open and they have the appropriate licenses and permits, they may continue to hunt and fish during the stay at home order.”
So which fishing sites are open this year?
Well, pretty much ALL of our local fishing spots are open for the season now.
- 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
- Forest Glen Preserve, Westville
- Lake Vermillion County Park, Danville
- Clinton Lake
- 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!)
Individual parks may have certain rules about fishing, as guidelines and recommendations change often.
The Champaign County Forest Preserve District issued this statement on April 9 when Lake of the Woods opened for fishing. “Anglers must adhere to appropriate social distancing, which is at least 6 feet of separation between fishermen. Family units may fish together. If social distancing regulations are not being followed, we will have no choice but to close the lake to further fishing until the end of the Stay-At-Home order. Thank you for your cooperation during this unprecedented public health emergency.”
Yes, all fishing rules and guidelines apply and you need a fishing license to fish. 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 as many of the in-person spots to buy a fishing license are not open currently.
What You Need to Start Fishing
- 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.
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.
In a year where we’re all brainstorming ways to stay active outdoors and keep social distance, fishing fits the bill nicely if you have gear already or are willing to invest in a rod or two. Warm days are here and days spent at the lake are always well spent, no matter what the unpredictable times are.
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