How to Get Your Illinois Fishing License in 2024

Fishing is a beloved pastime in Illinois, offering anglers the opportunity to enjoy the state’s diverse waterways and reel in a variety of fish species. However, before casting your line, it’s crucial to understand the importance of obtaining a valid Illinois fishing licenseA fishing license is not only a legal requirement but also plays a vital role in supporting conservation efforts and maintaining the quality of Illinois’ fisheries.

In Illinois, anyone 16 years of age or older must possess a valid fishing license to fish in the state’s waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which will be discussed later in this article. Fishing licenses are issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and can be purchased through various methods, including online, at approved vendors, and by mail for certain license types.

Types of Illinois Fishing Licenses

Illinois offers several types of fishing licenses to cater to the needs of both resident and non-resident anglers. The license types vary based on factors such as residency, age, and the duration of the fishing trip. Here’s a breakdown of the main license categories:

Resident Licenses

  • Annual Sport Fishing License: This license is valid for one year, from March 1st to March 31st of the following year, and allows Illinois residents to fish in the state’s waters.
  • 24-Hour License: Perfect for short fishing trips, this license is valid for 24 consecutive hours from the time of purchase.
  • Senior Licenses (65+ and 75+): Illinois residents aged 65 and older can purchase discounted annual fishing licenses. Those aged 75 and above are eligible for even further discounted rates.
  • Lifetime Licenses: Residents can invest in a lifetime fishing license, which provides fishing privileges for the duration of the license holder’s life.

Non-Resident Licenses

  • Annual Sport Fishing License: Non-residents can purchase an annual license, valid from March 1st to March 31st of the following year, to fish in Illinois waters.
  • 1-Day and 3-Day Licenses: These short-term licenses are ideal for non-resident anglers visiting Illinois for a brief fishing excursion.

Additional Stamps Required

In addition to the standard fishing licenses, anglers may need to purchase additional stamps depending on the type of fishing they intend to do:

  • Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp: Required for anglers fishing for salmon and trout in Lake Michigan and its tributaries.
  • Inland Trout Stamp: Necessary for fishing in designated trout waters during the spring trout season.

License Fees (2024)

The cost of fishing licenses varies depending on the license type, residency, and age of the angler. Here’s a table outlining the license fees for the year 2024:

License Type Resident Fee Non-Resident Fee
Annual Sport Fishing License $15.00 $31.50
24-Hour License $5.50 $10.50
3-Day License N/A $15.50
Senior License (65+) $7.75 N/A
Senior License (75+) $1.50 N/A
Lifetime License $435.00 N/A
Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp $6.50 $6.50
Inland Trout Stamp $6.50 $6.50

It’s important to note that Illinois offers discounted license fees for resident seniors, veterans, and disabled individuals. To qualify for these discounts, anglers must provide proper identification and meet the specified criteria.

How to Purchase an Illinois Fishing License

Obtaining an Illinois fishing license is a simple process, with several convenient options available:

Online through the Illinois DNR Website

The most convenient way to purchase a fishing license is through the Illinois DNR website. The online system is available 24/7, allowing anglers to buy their licenses from the comfort of their homes. One significant advantage of purchasing a license online is the ability to reprint lost or damaged licenses at no additional cost.

In-Person from Approved Vendors

Fishing licenses can also be purchased in-person from approved license vendors across the state. These vendors include:

  • Walmart
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Bait and tackle shops
  • Other outdoor recreation retailers

When purchasing a license from a vendor, anglers should be aware of the $3.00 replacement fee for lost or damaged licenses, in addition to a small transaction fee.

By Mail for Lifetime Licenses

For anglers interested in purchasing a lifetime fishing license, the process can be completed by mail. The necessary application forms and instructions can be found on the Illinois DNR website.

License Exemptions

While a fishing license is required for most anglers in Illinois, there are a few notable exemptions:

  • Residents under the age of 16 are not required to have a fishing license.
  • Illinois residents who are disabled and possess proper identification are exempt from needing a license.
  • Illinois residents on leave from active military duty can fish without a license while on leave.
  • Blind residents are not required to have a fishing license.
  • During Free Fishing Days, which are designated by the Illinois DNR each year, anglers can fish without a license. These dates are typically announced in advance on the DNR website.

When You Need to Renew

Illinois fishing licenses are valid from March 1st to March 31st of the following year. Anglers must renew their licenses annually, starting on March 1st, to continue fishing legally in the state’s waters. It’s essential to keep track of the expiration date and renew your license promptly to avoid any interruptions in your fishing adventures.


Obtaining a valid Illinois fishing license is not only a legal obligation but also a way to contribute to the conservation and preservation of the state’s aquatic resources. By understanding the different license types, fees, and purchase methods, anglers can ensure they are properly licensed before heading out to enjoy Illinois’ fantastic fishing opportunities.

Remember, fishing licenses directly support the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to maintain and enhance the quality of fishing in the state. From stocking programs to habitat improvement projects, your license fees play a crucial role in protecting and promoting Illinois’ fisheries.

For more information on fishing regulations, seasons, and other important details, visit the Illinois DNR website. So, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, get your Illinois fishing license, grab your gear, and prepare to create unforgettable memories on the water!

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