How Many Fishing Rods Per Person in Illinois?

Illinois offers excellent fishing opportunities for people of all ages. From crystal clear rivers and ponds to the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan, Illinois provides many options for bank fishing. 

But how many fishing rods are allowed per person in Illinois? Anglers can use a maximum of three poles when fishing in Illinois State waters. Site-specific fishing regulations allow anglers to harvest fish with no more than two poles with two hooks or two lures per line. A sportfishing license is necessary for anyone trying to take fish in state waters.

Keep reading to learn more about Illinois fishing regulations, including length limits and daily bag limits. 

Illinois Fishing Rules and Regulations

Illinois Fishing Rules and Regulations

The State of Illinois requires that most people fishing in state waters carry a valid sportfishing license. Resident and non-resident sport fishermen under 16 aren’t required to hold a sport fishing license. This exemption also applies to legally disabled and blind individuals and Illinois residents on active duty in Armed Forces.

A valid sportfishing license is also required for taking approved species from the aquatic life list. Anyone using a commercial device to harvest fish, including minnows or crayfish, must have a commercial fishing license and a sportfishing license. 

Fish Sizes

The Illinois State Department of Natural Resources enforces strict fishing regulations for daily harvest and length limits.

Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, & Spotted Bass

There is no statewide size limit for catching largemouth, smallmouth, or spotted bass, but the daily harvest limit is six fish. The daily bag limit for smallmouth bass, in certain streams and rivers, is three fish. 

All smallmouth bass caught between April 1st and June 15th in rivers and streams except for Mississippi, Ohio, Wabash, Illinois River, Calumet River, and other areas must be released. 


All muskellunge and muskellunge hybrids must be at least 36 inches long. No more than one muskellunge or tiger muskie can be taken from state waters per day. 

Northern Pike

The minimum length limit for northern pike is 24 inches, except in the Mississippi River and Ohio River, where there is no size limit. Anglers can bag a maximum of three northern pikes daily.


There is no size or harvest limit for black, white, or hybrid crappie except in those waters covered by Site-Specific Regulations. 


The daily bag limit is two paddlefish. If you plan on harvesting this fish species, check out the Site-Specific Regulations for the Mississippi River.

Alligator Gar

The State of Illinois has a harvest limit of one alligator gar within 24 hours. 

Striped Bass, Yellow Bass, & White Bass

There is no daily bag limit or minimum size limit for striped, yellow, and white bass, which are less than 17 inches long. For bass 17 inches long or longer, the daily harvest limit is three fish, except in the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri. In these waters, the daily limit is 30 fish for striped, yellow, or white bass. 

Walleye & Sauger

The minimum length limit for walleye, sauger, and their hybrids is 14 inches. The daily harvest limit is six fish per angler. 

Common Snapping Turtles & Bullfrogs

The daily bag limit for common snapping turtles is two, with a possession limit of four. The daily harvest limit for bullfrogs is eight, but the possession limit is 16.

Gear Restrictions

Illinois defines fishing as taking or attempting to harvest aquatic life in any State waters by any method, including placing, drawing, setting, or using any device commonly used for harvesting aquatic life. 

Here’s everything you need to know about fishing gear restrictions in Illinois:

Bow, Pitchfork, Underwater Spear Gun, Spear, & Gig

Archery and spear methods are legally used to take aquatic life in Illinois. However, certain species of fish, amphibians, and reptiles are exempt from this rule.

Dip Net

Anglers with sportfishing licenses are allowed to take smelt from Lake Michigan with a dip net not exceeding 12 feet in diameter and having a mesh size not less than 1 inch. Carp, carpsucker, buffalo, and gizzard shad can be taken with a dip net of at least 15 feet in diameter and 1½ inch mesh size. 

Cast Net

Cast nets not larger than 24 feet in diameter with a mesh size not larger than 1 inch can be used to harvest minnows. Shad scoops larger than 30 inches in diameter, and longer than 4 feet with a bar mesh size larger than ½ inch can’t be used to harvest minnows. 

Site-Specific Gear Regulations

The two-pole and line fishing only regulation allows anglers to take fish with no more than two fishing rods and no more than two hooks or lures per line. Unless noted otherwise, anglers can use legal-sized cast nets, minnow seines, and shad scoops to harvest shad, minnows, and crayfish as bait. 

Bullfrogs can be taken by hand, hook and line, pitchfork, gig, and spear during bullfrog open season. 

How Many Fishing Rods Can You Use in Illinois?

Anglers with valid sportfishing licenses can use a maximum of three rods when fishing in Illinois State waters. All fishermen must follow the two rods and line fishing only regulation and use no more than two rods with two hooks and two lures on specific sites.

How Many Hooks Can You Have on a Rod and Reel in Illinois?

On Illinois State waters, without two poles and line fishing only restriction, anglers can use up to 50 hooks in total on all fishing devices permitted by a fishing license. 


Anglers carrying a valid Illinois State sport fishing license can use a maximum of three rods and up to 50 hooks in total to harvest fish. On specific sites with two poles and line fishing regulations, anglers can’t use more than two rods with two hooks and two lures per line. 

If you’re going fishing in Illinois, research the State’s fishing rules and regulations to avoid paying a fine.