No reason not to buy a fishing license

The 2024 Illinois Fishing licenses are available for purchase and go into effect on April 1. There is no reason not to purchase a license.

Your fees go toward improving our fisheries and the licenses in Illinois are exceptionally reasonable. There are few bargains available in today’s society, but I think an Illinois fishing license is one of them.

I suggest you get your license from a local tackle shop instead of buying it online. I’d rather let my local bait shop earn a half-buck for selling me my license than giving the money to a faceless entity processing licenses and charging our state for the right to do so.

The 2024 Illinois Fishing Digest hasn’t rolled off the presses yet, but can be downloaded at It contains all the rules and regulations you need to follow to avoid getting tickets and fines.

Everybody picks up a copy of the digest when they buy a license, but hardly anyone reads it. Most people rationalize by thinking, “Why do I need to read the rules and regs? I’ve been fishing my whole life and I know what to do.” Wrong, my friends.

Rules change and not being aware is no excuse for breaking them. Rules regarding the size of fish that can be kept change from year to year as does the amount that can be kept. Many people think rules are statewide, but that is incorrect. Many limits are specific to a particular body of water. Two lakes a mile apart can fall under different rules. You are responsible for knowing the laws.

I once fished at a DuPage County Forest Preserve District lake and saw a sign telling fishing enthusiasts that bluegills under six inches in length had to be kept and disposed of. The particular body of water was being overwhelmed with thousands of tiny gills and they needed to be thinned out. You were actually in violation of the rules if you threw back the small fish.

Back when using a drop shot rig was all the rage in bass fishing, I was vacationing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I ran out of drop shot hooks and ran to the local bait and tackle shop to replenish my supply. I couldn’t find them on the shelves, so I asked a clerk where they were located. He made a face like I was a criminal. He explained to me dropshotting was illegal in Michigan.

Dropshotting is a method in which your sinker is at the bottom of your line and your bait runs above the weight. The reason for the ban was to stop anglers from using the weights to over-harvest fish from the depths of the Great Lakes and had nothing to do with bass fishing.

The rules about drop shots were changed a year or two later, thank goodness. I was fortunate I didn’t get fined for using an illegal fishing method. I would never have lived that down.

I was on a fishing trip to Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage when one of our party caught a nice musky. None of the six adults in our party knew the correct legal limit for muskies. I insisted the fish be released back into the water. Why take a chance on a big fine and the possibility of having your boat and equipment impounded because of a silly mistake? Play it safe, my friends. Read the rules.

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