At What Age Do You Need a Fishing License in Illinois?

At What Age Do You Need a Fishing License in Illinois?

Fishing is more than just a hobby; it’s a means to connect with the beauty of nature, forge bonds with loved ones, and create lasting memories. However, before you cast your line into the abundant waters of Illinois, there’s a crucial piece of information you must have: what is the minimum age for obtaining a fishing license in Illinois? This comprehensive guide will not only answer that question, but also equip you with all the necessary knowledge for a seamless and enjoyable fishing excursion in the Land of Lincoln. Let’s dive in and make your fishing trip a memorable one!

At What Age Do You Need a Fishing License in Illinois?

Understanding the Basics of Fishing Licenses in Illinois

What Constitutes a Fishing License in Illinois?

A fishing license is a legal requirement that authorizes you to engage in fishing activities within the State of Illinois. This license is issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). It’s important to note that a license is required for both freshwater fishing and bank fishing. The license serves as a regulatory measure to ensure sustainable fishing practices and conservation of fish species in Illinois waters.

Types of Fishing Licenses Available

In Illinois, there are several types of fishing licenses to choose from, each catering to different needs and circumstances. The most common types include:

  1. Sport Fishing Licenses: Ideal for those who wish to catch sport fish. These licenses are available for both residents and non-residents.
  2. Senior Licenses: Designed for individuals aged 65 and over, offering them a discounted rate.
  3. Super Senior License: An even more discounted option for those over 75.
  4. Combination License: This is for those interested in both hunting and fishing. It’s a two-in-one license that covers both activities.
  5. Fishing Permit: Required for specific fishing areas or for participating in fishing tournaments.

Your choice of license depends on various factors such as your age, whether you are a resident of Illinois, and the type of fishing you intend to do. Always check the Illinois Fish Code for the most up-to-date information.

Where to Buy an Illinois Fishing License

You have multiple options when it comes to purchasing your Illinois fishing license:

  1. Online: Licenses are available from the Illinois Department‘s official website. You can even reprint your license if you lose it.
  2. License Examining Station: These are physical locations where you can apply and receive your license.
  3. Vendors: Various license and permit vendors are authorized to sell fishing licenses. These could be sporting goods stores or even some convenience stores.
  4. DNR Direct License Sales: This is another avenue to explore, especially for those who are tech-savvy.

Remember, your fishing license expires on March 31 of each year, so make sure to renew it in time for the new fishing season.

Age-Specific Guidelines for Fishing Licenses in Illinois

Fishing Licenses for Minors

In the State of Illinois, children under the age of 16 are not required to have a fishing license. This provides a great opportunity for taking kids fishing and introducing them to the joys of the sport. However, it’s important to note that these minors must be accompanied by an adult. Interestingly, the accompanying adult is not required to have a license, as long as they do not engage in fishing themselves. This makes it easier for families to enjoy fishing opportunities together.

Fishing Licenses for Adults

For those aged 16 and above, a fishing license is required to fish in Illinois. This rule applies to Illinois residents as well as non-residents. Whether you’re planning to fish in the Illinois River or any other body of water in the state, you’ll need to have either a physical license or an electronic copy readily available. The license is a legal necessity and ensures that you are adhering to the fishing regulations set forth by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Senior Citizens and Fishing Licenses

If you’re 65 or older, you’re eligible for a Senior License, which comes at a discounted rate of $7.75, as of 2023. These licenses can be available from the Illinois Department and are also sold at various license sales points across the state. Senior Licenses offer the same fishing privileges as regular adult licenses but at a reduced cost, making it more accessible for older adults to engage in fishing activities.

Special Cases and Exemptions for Fishing Licenses in Illinois

Active Duty Military Personnel

Persons on active duty in the armed forces who have entered the service from Illinois are granted a special privilege. They are exempt from having a fishing license while on leave. This exemption is a gesture of gratitude from the State of Illinois, acknowledging the sacrifices made by service members. It allows them to enjoy fishing opportunities without the usual bureaucratic hurdles. However, it’s crucial to carry proof of active duty status and Illinois residency when you go fishing, to confirm your eligibility for this exemption.

Free Fishing Days

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) often announces Free Fishing Days, which are specific days when fishing is allowed without a license. These days are a boon for both Illinois residents and non-residents, offering a chance to experience fishing in Illinois lakes and rivers without the need for a license. It’s an excellent opportunity for beginners to get a taste of the sport and for experienced anglers to enjoy a day out without worrying about license requirements. Keep an eye on the IDNR website or subscribe to their newsletter for announcements about these special fishing days.

Non-Residents and Fishing Licenses

For non-residents, the rules are slightly different but still accommodating. Non-resident sport fishermen under 16 years of age may fish without a license. This is in line with the general rule that minors under 16 do not require a fishing license. However, all other non-resident sport fishermen must purchase sport fishing licenses. These can be bought online or at various sales points, and prices vary depending on the type of license you choose.


Understanding the age requirements for a fishing license in Illinois is crucial for a hassle-free fishing experience. Remember, if you’re under 16, you don’t need a license, but if you’re 16 or older, a license is mandatory. Special exemptions apply for senior citizens and active-duty military personnel. Always check the fishing regulations and ensure you have the correct license before you go fishing.

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