We work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to manage a number of lakes and ponds in forest preserves throughout Lake County that provide quality fishing. State of Illinois fishing regulations apply at all sites.
Anglers ages 16 and older must have a valid Illinois fishing license. Those fishing for rainbow trout in Banana Lake at Lakewood in Wauconda must also have an inland trout stamp. Fees from these licenses provide funds to manage and stock many of these lakes and ponds annually. You can purchase a fishing license online, at Independence Grove, or at many sporting goods stores.
Live bait is permitted. However, seining or trapping baitfish, shellfish or other aquatic organisms is not permitted in any Forest Preserve waterway. Please do not release unused live bait into Forest Preserve waterways where non-native species can cause problems for existing fish populations.
Catch-and-release fishing is an important part of maintaining good populations and is mandatory at Independence Grove and Nippersink. At the other preserves, we highly encourage you to release bass or other predator fish you do not intend to keep. These predator fish help to keep panfish populations in balance.
A variety of small boats are available for rent seasonally at Independence Grove in Libertyville. Personal watercraft are not allowed on the lake at Independence Grove.
Launch your own cartop boat, canoe, kayak, stand up paddleboard or other small watercraft on Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth, on Long Lake at Grant Woods in Ingleside, or at Hastings Lake in Lake Villa. Launching is free and at your own risk. You'll need approved flotation gear and your non-motorized watercraft must have a mandatory Water Usage Stamp issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Electric trolling motors are allowed. Trailers are permitted only at Van Patten Woods but parking is limited to the grass overflow area.
For larger boats, Fox River Forest Preserve in Port Barrington has one of the best equipped public boat launches on the Fox River. Boat slips are available for rent on a seasonal basis in the preserve's beautiful 169-slip Marina. Indoor dry storage is also available here.
Permitted only in the south bay at Independence Grove, on Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods, and on Banana Lake at Lakewood. A uniform 4.5-inch layer of ice is required, and the area must be posted safe for fishing. Shelters must be removed by the end of the day. Only two poles are allowed, and holes must be drilled six inches or smaller. For the latest ice conditions, call the Winter Sports Hotline at 847-968-3235 or check the Ice Fishing page.
Many preserves offer wheelchair accessible fishing piers. See individual preserve maps in the Fishing Guide for details.
Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve, Buffalo Creek Reservoir
Designed and built as a flood control reservoir in 1986, the lake is not managed or stocked for fishing. Careful and creative design of the reservoir has created a natural-looking wetland.
Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve, Wright Woods Pond
This man-made pond was created in 1964. An outlet at the south end flows into the Des Plaines River.
Des Plaines River Greenway
While not stocked or managed for fishing, the Des Plaines River contains many species and is a great spot for anglers. Parking and access to the river's edge is available at forest preserve canoe launches: Van Patten Woods, Sedge Meadow, Des Plaines River near Gurnee's Gowe Park, Independence Grove, Oak Spring Road, and Route 60.
Note: River fishing is not allowed at Ryerson Conservation Area, MacArthur Woods or Wadsworth Prairie.
Fox River Preserve and Marina
Fox River Preserve and Marina is open for shoreline fishing in designated areas only. Fishing is not allowed in the marina and dock area, or from the boat launch. The 169-slip marina includes a four-lane launch for boats and personal watercrafts. Indoor dry storage is also available. Some slips provide electric and water access. For more information, call 847-381-0669.
Grant Woods Forest Preserve, Rubber Duck Pond
Rubber Duck Pond was excavated in 1987. The pond is named after its shape, which resembles a bathtub toy.
Greenbelt Forest Preserve, Dugdale Lake
Built to its final shape in 1984, Dugdale Lake offers great shoreline fishing.
Greenbelt Forest Preserve, Pulaski Lake
Built as a borrow pit for the 14th Street overpass in 1976, occasional flooding of the adjacent Skokie River has allowed fish like carp and catfish access to Pulaski Lake.
Half Day Forest Preserve, Half Day Pond
Named after the Potowatomi Chief Aptakisic, whose name means half day, this pond was built in 1989.
Hastings Lake Forest Preserve, Hastings Lake
Hastings Lake features 12,000 feet of shoreline and many species for good fishing.
Independence Grove Forest Preserve, The Lake at Independence Grove
We've transformed a sterile gravel quarry with steep sides into a rich aquatic ecosystem with gently graded slopes and underwater islands. There is good fishing here, especially for bass. Your luck will increase when you fish from a boat, available for rent at the Marina. Bait, tackle, and concessions are also for sale. At the Marina, daily service runs Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Weekend service runs mid-April through Memorial Day and again Labor Day until mid-October. Marina hours are 6:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset. Call 847-362-6506.
Note: Catch-and-release fishing is mandatory at this site. Anglers are encouraged to use barbless, non-stainless steel hooks. Dogs, horses and other pets are not permitted here. A parking fee applies for nonresidents.
Lake Carina Forest Preserve, Lake Carina
A popular fishing hole and former gravel pit. A short gravel trail provides walk-in access and connects the parking area with a wheelchair accessible fishing pier.
Lakewood Forest Preserve
Lakewood has five designated fishing areas: Banana Lake, Taylor Lake, Beaver Lake, Acorn Pond and Heron Pond. Most are natural potholes and sloughs that were dammed to create deeper, permanent lakes and ponds. Banana Lake is closed for trout stocking for two weeks each March and October. Ice fishing is permitted on Banana Lake only when conditions allow.
Nippersink Forest Preserve, Nippersink
Man-made in 1965, extensive shoreline restoration efforts and improved fish habitats make Nippersink's two lakes great for fishing. Anglers can fish from shore or from two wheelchair accessible fishing piers.
Note: Catch-and-release fishing is mandatory at this site. Anglers are encouraged to use barbless, non-stainless steel hooks.
Old School Forest Preserve, Old School Lake
Old School Lake began as a borrow pit left after construction of the adjacent Intersate Tollway 94 in the 1950s.
Raven Glen Forest Preserve, Timber Lake
Timber Lake is one of the most prominent natural features of Raven Glen.
Note: While the District owns 95 percent of Timber Lake, the northern portion of the lake is privately owned.
Van Patten Forest Preserve, Sterling Lake
Sterling Lake offers a wheelchair accessible floating dock, two fishing piers, and a boat ramp and sand launch area for cartop boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards or other small watercraft. Launching is free and at your own risk. You'll need approved flotation gear and your boat must be properly registered with the state of Illinois. Trailers are permitted but parking is limited to the grass overflow parking lot. Electric trolling motors are allowed.