As fishing season arrives, here are some things you need to know
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 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 Natural Resources director Colleen Callahan, “During the last year, as we all dealt with the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw an increase in interest in spending time outdoors in Illinois, including new and renewed interest in fishing.”
And so if fishing was something you came to enjoy last year and are looking to do some more this year, we have all kinds of info for you! Or, if you’re brand new to fishing and want to know how to get started, we’ve got info on that, too.
Typically, we see “learn to fish” events hosted by our forest preserves and park districts in Champaign County. These events didn’t happen in 2020 and we don’t know for sure if they’ll be happening in 2021, but we will be sure to add them here if they do.
What are the most popular places to fish around Champaign-Urbana?
Here’s a good list of places you might like to fish in our area:
- 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 Vermilion County Park, Danville
- Clinton Lake
- Moraine View State Recreation Area
- 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!)
- Weldon Springs State Park
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 $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 $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 Field and Stream. 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 to the lake, you’ll want to pick up some live bait. You can get them at Walmart but we prefer to find a Casey’s near where we’re going to be fishing. In addition to Walmart and Casey’s, you’ll find live bait at Rural King and Field and Stream, as well as many small town gas stations. Some places (but none we know of in C-U) even have “bait vending machines,” which will be amusing for your kids if you stumble upon one.
Want to borrow gear to give it a try?
The tackle loaner program through the state of Illinois works a lot like renting library books… with fishing equipment! According to their website, there are locations to check out equipment in our area at:
- Savoy Recreation Center
- Rantoul Public Library
- Weldon Springs
- Kennekuk County Cove Park
- Allerton Park 4-H Camp
Reach out to the appropriate contact at each location, found here, to ensure there is equipment to borrow available.
When You’re 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 it 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 and when you’re fishing to see if you need to catch-and-release right away or if you’re free to take a certain number of fish home. 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.
Warm days are here and days spent at the lake are always well spent. Try something new this year and head out to the lake to try your luck at fishing!
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:No Events
More on all your favorite outdoor activities:
- Gardens and Flower Farms in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Where to Go Boating with Your Family in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Fishing Fun for Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Visiting Champaign-Urbana Area Parks and Playgrounds with your Family
- Walk Your Way Through Champaign-Urbana
- Avoid the Mud and Muck with Mulch-Free Playgrounds in Champaign-Urbana
- Hiking Trails For Families in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Gardens and Flower Farms in Champaign-Urbana and Beyond
- Great Places for a Picnic in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Family-Friendly Bike Trails in the Champaign-Urbana Area
- Creek Stomping Your Way Around Champaign-Urbana
- Camping with Your Family Near Champaign-Urbana
- Parks Minus Playgrounds We Love Around Champaign-Urbana
- 6 Places to Experience Nature with Kids Near Champaign-Urbana
Top spots for outdoor recreation near Champaign-Urbana:
- Visiting Clinton Lake With Your Family
- Visiting Imagination Grove Near Bloomington-Normal
- Meet Me Halfway: Kankakee River State Park
- Hidden Treasure in Central Illinois: Weldon Springs State Park
- The Perfect Family Hike: Explore the Sangamon River Forest Preserve near Fisher
- Best Kept Secret: Buffalo Trace Prairie in Mahomet
- Getaway for a Day: Matthiessen State Park
- Best Kept Secret: Forest Glen Preserve
- Hiking the Sangamon River Corridor Reserve in Monticello with your Family
- What to Do at Kickapoo State Recreation Area
- What To Do At Turkey Run State Park With Your Family
- Everything You Need To Know about Visiting Homer Lake Forest Preserve with Your Family
- What To Do At Moraine View State Recreation Area With Your Family
- Visiting Lake of the Woods in Mahomet with Children
- What To Do At Clinton Lake With Your Family
- 8 Reasons You’ll Love Visiting Allerton Park with Your Family
- At Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, Darkness is the Star
- Parent’s Guide to Busey Woods in Urbana
- River Bend Forest Preserve in Mahomet a Great Escape