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Recreation Activities


We offer fishing and ice fishing fun for anglers of all ages and experience levels at many lakes and ponds in forest preserves throughout Lake County. Many preserves offer accessible fishing piers. See individual locations for details.

Fishing Guide

Catch them if you can with the definitive guide to fishing in your Lake County Forest Preserves. Plan your day of fun with detailed bathymetric maps of 17 major fishing locations and sport fish species typically found there. Read helpful tips from Forest Preserves staff, including recommended reels, lure colors, best times of day to fish and more. 



A valid Illinois fishing license is required for ages 16 and older. Anglers fishing for rainbow trout in Banana Lake at Lakewood must also have an inland trout stamp. Fees from these licenses provide funds to manage many of these lakes and ponds annually. Purchase at the marina at Independence Grove Forest Preserve, many sporting goods stores, or from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

State fishing regulations, including site-specific regulations, apply at all forest preserve waterways. Visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for full details.



Bring your own small, nonmotorized watercraft to Long Lake at Grant Woods (Ingleside), Hastings Lake (Lake Villa), Lake Carina (Gurnee), Van Patten Woods (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 (Port Barrington).


You can rent fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and pedal boats seasonally at the Independence Grove marina. Use of personal watercraft is not permitted on the lake at Independence Grove.


Only worms and minnows are permitted as live bait. Learn more »

Seining or trapping batfish, shellfish or other aquatic organisms is not permitted in any forest preserve waterway. Dump unwanted bait in trash, not in waterways where non-native species can cause problems for existing fish populations.



Two poles maximum. Line fishing only. Use of barbless, non-stainless steel hooks encouraged. Independence Grove and Nippersink have a mandatory catch-and-release fishing program, which makes it recreational for anglers and beneficial for nature. Learn more »

Sending fish back is an important part of maintaining good populations and is mandatory at Independence Grove and Nippersink. At 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.

Cast No Trash

Please deposit all litter, including fishing line, in trash receptacles. Most sites have recycling and fishing line collection tubes. We have seen birds and other wildlife entangled in old fishing line. Please help us avoid this.

Tips for Proper Technique

  • Land a fish as soon as possible. Exhausting a fish lowers its chance of survival.
  • When possible, do not use a net. Nets remove a fish's protective slime.
  • Always wet hands before handling fish. This protects the protective slime.
  • Use barbless hooks for easier hook removal.
  • Keep fish in the water while removing the hook.
  • Handle toothless fish by gripping the lower jaw.
  • Handle fish with teeth by gripping behind the gill covers.
  • Never grab a fish directly on the gill covers.
  • Never grip a fish around the abdomen.
  • Never grip a fish by depressing the eyes.
  • If a fish swallows the hook, do not attempt to remove it. Cut the line as close to the hook as possible and return the fish to the water. The hook will rust away in a few days.
  • Gently place the fish in the water upon release, never throw a fish back.

Basic Fishing Knots

Use fishing knots to properly tie your line to your hook, lure and other tackle. The knots below are those most commonly used by anglers. Each knot has a specific purpose. When creating your knot, consider the following:

  • The "tag end" (a.k.a. "working end") is the end of the line used to tie the knot.
  • The "standing end" is the line that comes from your reel.
  • Leave about 12 inches of the "tag end" of line to tie knots permanently
  • You want the strongest knot possible to avoid losing fish.
  • Simple overhand knots actually weakens your line.
  • Practice tying until you can create each knot easily and correctly.
  • Use saliva to wet knots as you pull them tight. This prevents damage to the line, helps pull the knot tight and prevents it from slipping.
  • Once tied, trim knots closely. A good, tight knot will not come loose, and close trimming prevents the knot from catching snags or weeds.
  • Do not burn the tag end. Heat damages the line and knot.

Improved Clinch Knot—Used to tie fishing line to a hook or lure for lines up to 20-pound test. The secret is making five turns of the tag end around the standing end before putting the tag end back through the formed loop.


Palomar Knot—Used to tie fishing line to a hook or lure for lines up to and over 20-pound test. This takes more line to tie and can tangle because it is doubled first, but it is a favorite of many anglers because it is easy and can be tied in the dark.


Non-Slip Loop Knot—Used with larger lines where a tight knot can affect the hook or lure movement. This knot creates a fixed loop so the hook can move freely.


Blood Knot—Used to join two lines of similar diameter. The secret is making five turns of line with each tag end around the overlapped standing end. Tip: Make one series of turns, tuck the tag end between the two lines and repeat with second line.


Arbor Knot—Used to attach line to your reel. This knot does not need to be strong. Run line around the spool, make overhand knot around standing line, clip and pull.


Independence Grove Fishing Regulations

  • Fishing on the preserve lake is mandatory catch-and‐release, which makes it recreational for anglers and beneficial for nature.
  • Site-specific state fishing regulations apply. Visit for full details. State fishing license required for ages 16 and older and can be purchased at the marina (open seasonally). Only worms and minnows permitted as live bait. Dump unwanted bait in trash, not in waterways. Two poles maximum. Line fishing only. Use of barbless, non‐stainless steel hooks encouraged.
  • Fishing is not permitted in the South Bay, or from the North Bay dock when the North Bay Pavilion is reserved for special events or programs.
  • Inflatables are not permitted.
  • Ice fishing is permitted in South Bay only.
  • Fishing boats can be rented at the marina (open seasonally).
  • All boaters and passengers on watercraft must be in possession of a USCG approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD). PFDs must be worn at all times on all paddlecraft and by those ages 13 and younger.
  • Boaters may be denied use of equipment based on the judgment of facility team member for the following, but not limited to: failure to exhibit minimal marine proficiency, age, influence of alcohol, or failure to follow prescribed rental or facility policies.
  • Participants must be at least 16 years of age or 12 years of age with a parent/guardian’s signature, and be accompanied on site by a parent/guardian, counselor or teacher.
  • Stand up paddleboard minimum age is 10 years old with a parent/guardian’s signature and adult supervision.
  • Rescue service and surveillance are not provided.
  • Boaters assume all risk for personal or equipment liability.
  • All comfort bikes are adult size frames and are not appropriate for children under the age of 12.
  • Helmets are recommended for all riders and passengers. If a rider/passenger opts to not wear a helmet, this must be indicated on the rental agreement form. Children under the age of 6 are required to wear a helmet at all times.
  • Facilities staff reserve the right to restrict or refuse access to the lake based on weather, water conditions, or other factors according to staff discretion.
  • For questions, or to view all ordinances governing the use of preserves and trails, visit, or call 847-549‐5200 and ask to speak to a Ranger.
  • Rangers and other staff regularly patrol the area and can offer assistance. For emergenices, call 911. For nonemergency public safety issues, call 847-549-5200 to speak to a Ranger. 


Sport Fish Species of Lake County Forest Preserves


Bluegill, bowfin, carp, channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, muskellunge (muskie), northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye and yellow perch are found in Lake County waterways. Some species are common and easier to catch, particularly panfish, a class so named because they’re edible fish that don’t usually outgrow the size of a frying pan.

Carp and channel catfish are non-native fish and plentiful in most preserves. Carp are popular target fish for many anglers. Large predatory fish, such as walleye and muskie, are fairly rare and challenging to catch. Learn about these sport species from videos, books, other anglers and fishing clubs.


The following state of Illinois fishing daily catch limits apply at all sites:

Bluegill and sunfish none none
Channel catfish none 3
Crappie none none
Muskellunge 48" 1
Largemouth bass 15" 1
Northern pike 24" 3
Rainbow trout 19" 5
Smallmouth bass 15" 1
Walleye 16" 6


Fishing Tips by Mark Hurley, Environmental Educator


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