Illinois Trout Fishing

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Illinois Trout Fishing

Illinois is home to some of the best fishing in all of the Midwest, but did you know that Illinois has Trout Fishing? I bet most readers of Midwest Bliss did not know that.

It wasn’t until about five years ago that I was introduced to fall trout fishing by a wonderful group of friends that had been going for several years.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been doing a fabulous job promoting conservation and fishing over the last few years. Numerous stocking projects have been underway in Illinois to replenish and enhance several bodies of water that had been in decline in recent years.

Back to Trout Fishing.

Trout are not native to the Midwest, certainly not Illinois. Trout are native to the Western United States and are members of the Salmon family.

Since Illinois is home to mostly farm ground with fertile soil, most lakes, streams, and rivers in Illinois are quite muddy – not ideal habitat for Trout. Trout prefer clearer, colder, rockier streams and bodies of water. However, Trout are quite adaptive to various environments and can even survive in salt water for periods of time.

Illinois runs two Trout seasons – Spring and Fall. The spring season is typically about the first week of April, which just so happens to be about when Trout will typically spawn. The fall Trout season is typically the third week of October.

Here at Midwest Bliss, we have participated in the fall season several times and have always enjoyed taking a limit of Trout each time. A limit is typically five Trout per day, per licensed person.

Spring 2019 Season

Illinois Department of Natural Resources is stocking 59 ponds, lakes, and streams throughout Illinois for the 2019 spring season.

Four new locations have been selected to receive Trout. One of those locations is a state park that we have visited and written a review of – Weldon Springs State Park. Read that post HERE.

Check the IDNR website for a complete list of locations where Trout have been stocked. Don’t forget to get your Illinois fishing license AND Inland Trout Stamp! Get it online HERE.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Spring Trout Season

Weldon Springs State Park

We love Weldon Springs State Park. Located near Clinton, Illinois, this park is a small state park with a 29 acre, spring fed lake with nearly two miles of shoreline.

Stocking Trout to this lake will be an additional reason for us to visit and enjoy this lovely Illinois state park.

Conditions

The conditions the day that I was able to head out to try my luck trout fishing, certainly not ideal.

Illinois had upper 60 to lower 70 degrees F for several days. The day before I was able to fish, Illinois had a cold front, rain, and high winds, and then the temperature rose again into the low 70s. Not good fishing conditions at all.

Conditions were overcast, moderate wind, temperature about 70 degrees F.

Now, consider what habit trout prefer – some moving water, colder, deeper, and rocky bottom. Keeping this in mind will help you find trout when fishing Illinois lakes, or anywhere in the Midwest trout have been introduced.

Where I finally found fish was just as I described above – deeper water with rocky surfaces. The pictures above pretty well depict the conditions – very cloudy, the wind was gusty but not bad near the dam as pictured to the left.

Depth at this part of the lake is about 20 to 25 feet deep with large rocks.

My luck was fair given the terrible conditions. I hooked four and landed two nice Rainbow Trout. One of the fish I landed was too small to worry about photographing. The larger one pictured below was about 14 inches and I would say weighed nearly two pounds.

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Fish were biting slowly and not aggressive at all. Trout are fairy aggressive fish and when using a treble hook, they usually are well hooked on their own. However, since they were not biting aggressively, I lost two nice fish that managed to evade my treble hook.

Bait and technique

The traditional way to catch a trout would be using a fly rod and various fly bait. In Illinois, however, finding a location that is conducive for fly fishing is challenging to say the least. If you can “roll” your line, then you might be ok, otherwise, low hanging trees and other obstacles will be a problem.

Just stick to traditional fishing gear typically used for Illinois panfish. Since trout have smaller mouths and thinner tissue, opt for lighter gear. Ultralight rods with spinning reels are my preferred gear.

I have personally never tried flies tied to traditional rods, but feel free if you choose. The bait that we have the most success with in Illinois for trout is the Rooster Tail.

Depending on the conditions, you will need various sizes to find the right depth. For calm and warmer conditions, try a lighter weight with a little faster retrieve. For colder, windy conditions, like I experienced the week I went, called for a heavier bait retrieved at a much slower rate to get that lure deeper.

You’ll have to experiment with colors, but my experience has shown that something in a dark color with a silver blade works best.

Gear Suggestions

Having good gear is important. Early spring means variable weather in Illinois, so make sure to have additional gear. Below are a few recommendations based on my experience and what I used on this trip.

Jacket:

Redhead Radius Softshell Hooded Jacket – Available at BassPro Shops, this is a good choice for early spring with the temperature above 30 degrees. Wind and rain resistant. Not rain gear by any means but in a light drizzle, this jacket can repel small amounts of water and keep you dry and warm. I opted for the hooded model because I don’t like wearing stocking hats. In the picture below, I’m also wearing a light base layer, which I quickly peeled off once I was casting my rods.

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Bait:

Make sure to buy name brand Rooster Tail bait. Trust me on this. Opting for the generic “knock-offs” will leave you frustrated and fish-less. Generic spinning baits do not work as well. Part of the appeal of these spinning baits is the action of the blade. Generic baits will not function as well when being retrieved and will not yield the fish you are hoping for.

Choose Worden’s or Yakima Rooster Tails. Anything else will leave you fish-less and frustrated. Get at least two of each size in dark color – preferably black with a touch of grey and a silver blade. Shown below is what I use every trout season.

Available at most of your larger outdoor outfitters and bait shops. Below I have shown them available through Amazon – So, you can get these in a variety of sizes and shipped right to your door 🙂

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Footwear:

Men’s Merell Moab II – A great boot for a variety of Midwest activities.

You never know what you’re getting into in the Midwest. Rocks, uneven surfaces, mud, tree roots, and who knows what else. Make sure to protect your feet.

A newer purchase for me and I love these boots. I will be writing a full review of this boot soon, but this boot is well worth the money.

Sturdy, comfortable, warm (maybe too warm for summer), well constructed, and true to size.

These boots are available at most outdoor outfitters, but you will find prices varying quite a bite from one vendor to the next. Amazon has the best price I have found on these boots. Make sure to check these out.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your gear in order and get out there and do some fishing. Take the kids even but make sure you get your license and trout stamp.

Also, make sure to check the links below for specific regulations for each body of water you are fishing and for size and numbers of fish you can take.

https://www.ifishillinois.org/programs/trout_stocking.html

https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Activity/Pages/WeldonSprings.aspx

Good luck and thanks for stopping by Midwest Bliss. We appreciate you!

illinois trout fishing

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2 comments

    1. Most folks don’t even know about trout sticking in Illinois. There should be a lake near you that has been stocked. Very fun to catch and I enjoy taking them to eat as well – pretty tasty. Thanks for stopping by.

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