There's plenty of places to catch some fish in the Lake County Forest Preserves

There's plenty of places to catch some fish in the Lake County Forest Preserves

Nationwide, 3.1 million people fished for the first time in 2020 as a way to recreate responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation survey.

The scale of fishing is what you make of it: a laid-back, relaxing pastime or a focused, competitive activity. Whether you've fished plenty or are just picking up the rod and reel, try casting a line in your Lake County Forest Preserves.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources requires all anglers 16 and older to have a fishing license. Purchase one online at or at an approved vendor, including the Independence Grove Marina near Libertyville.

Fishing is allowed in any Forest Preserves waterway, unless a sign prohibiting it has been posted. Waterbody sizes vary, from the 2-acre Rubber Duck Pond at Grant Woods near Ingleside to the 129-acre lake at Independence Grove. Several preserves offer fishing piers.

Lakewood Forest Preserve near Wauconda offers fishing opportunities. Courtesy of Jeff Goldberg

Bring your own small, nonmotorized watercraft to Long Lake at Grant Woods, Hastings Lake near Lake Villa, Lake Carina near Gurnee, Van Patten Woods near Wadsworth, or one of six canoe launches along the Des Plaines River.

A four-lane launch for boats, personal watercraft and paddlecraft is available at Fox River Preserve and Marina near Port Barrington.

You can also rent fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and pedal boats seasonally at the Independence Grove Marina.

Forest Preserves staff generally agreed that sunrise and sunset, spring through fall, are when many fish species are most active. Water quality, weather and waterway structure also influence the quantity of fish caught.

"If you fish where the wind blows toward shore, that will whip up small bits of food in the water," said Environmental Educator Mark Hurley. "This attracts bluegills, which attract predator fish."

Nippersink Forest Preserve near Round Lake. Courtesy of Jeff Goldberg

Fishing can be a consistently rewarding experience.

"Success is how you interpret it," said Gary Glowacki, manager of conservation ecology. "You'll be surrounded by nature and see birds, turtles and frogs, even if you don't catch a fish."

There's no guarantee whether the day's catch will be plentiful or not. In the push and pull of luck versus skill, our staff thought skill was more crucial.

"It's three-quarters skill and one-quarter luck. If you can skillfully place the lure or live bait, you give that fish a chance to bite," Hurley said.

• Brett Peto is an environmental communications specialist at the Lake County Forest Preserves.

Staffers reveal their favorite spots

Lake County Forest Preserves staffers share their favorite fishing spots:

Events operations manager Stephanie Bosack: Independence Grove, North Bay Pavilion; Des Plaines River, close to Ryerson Conservation Area near Riverwoods; and off Route 173 near Van Patten Woods.

Environmental educator Mark Hurley: Des Plaines River for northern pike and bass.

Environmental educator April Vaos: Along the banks of the lake at Nippersink near Round Lake.

John Nelson, director of operations and infrastructure: Taylor and Banana lakes at Lakewood near Wauconda. Easy to access and a short walk from the parking lot to the pond with kids and fishing gear.

Gary Glowacki, manager of conservation ecology: Independence Grove. Great for beginner fishers to catch crappie, bluegill or bass. There are also northern pike and muskie for the experienced pros.

Landscape architect Michael Haug: Nippersink, road crossing at the lake. Independence Grove, North Bay bridge.

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