Do You Need a Fishing Guide License in Illinois? | FishingLicenceUSA

2024 Illinois Fishing Guide License: Everything You Need to Know

As an avid angler in the state of Illinois, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest fishing regulations and licensing requirements. With the start of the 2024 fishing season, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has implemented some changes to the fishing guide license system. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the essential information you need to know about obtaining and maintaining your Illinois fishing guide license in 2024.

Who Needs an Illinois Fishing Guide License?

According to the Illinois Fish and Aquatic Life Code, any individual who offers guided fishing services for compensation in the state of Illinois must obtain a valid fishing guide license. This requirement applies to both resident and non-resident fishing guides operating on any waters within the jurisdiction of the state, including Lake Michigan.

Resident Fishing Guide Requirements

To qualify as a resident fishing guide, you must have resided in Illinois for at least 30 consecutive days prior to applying for the license. Resident fishing guides must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid Illinois fishing license.

Non-Resident Fishing Guide Requirements

Non-resident fishing guides must also be at least 18 years old and hold a valid fishing license from their home state or country. Additionally, they must obtain an Illinois non-resident fishing guide license before offering any guided fishing services within the state.

How to Obtain an Illinois Fishing Guide License

The process of obtaining an Illinois fishing guide license has been streamlined for the 2024 season. You can now apply for and purchase your license online, by phone, or in person at any authorized IDNR license vendor.

Online Application

The most convenient way to obtain your fishing guide license is through the IDNR website. Simply visit the online license portal, create an account, and follow the step-by-step instructions to complete your application and payment.

Phone Application

You can also apply for your fishing guide license by calling the IDNR’s automated license system at 1-888-673-7648. Have your personal information and payment method ready when you call.

In-Person Application

If you prefer to apply in person, visit any authorized IDNR license vendor, such as sporting goods stores, bait shops, or county clerk offices. You can find a list of authorized vendors on the IDNR website.

Illinois Fishing Guide License Fees

The fees for Illinois fishing guide licenses have been updated for the 2024 season:

  • Resident Fishing Guide License: $50
  • Non-Resident Fishing Guide License: $100
  • Resident Fishing Guide License (65 years and older): $25
  • Non-Resident Fishing Guide License (65 years and older): $50

These fees help support the IDNR’s fish management and conservation efforts, including the operation of state fish hatcheries and the stocking of Illinois waters.

Exemptions and Special Considerations

While most individuals offering guided fishing services must obtain a fishing guide license, there are a few exemptions and special considerations to keep in mind.

Landowner Exemption

Owners or tenants residing on private property with artificial lakes less than 30 acres in size are exempt from obtaining a fishing guide license when guiding on those waters. However, this exemption does not apply to organizational lakes or lake developments.

Disabled Veterans and Anglers with Disabilities

Disabled veterans and anglers with disabilities may be eligible for reduced-fee or complimentary fishing guide licenses. To qualify, veterans must provide proof of their service-related disability, while anglers with disabilities must present a valid Illinois Person with a Disability Identification Card.

Active Duty Military Personnel

Illinois residents who are on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and entered service from Illinois may fish without a license while on leave. Beginning in 2012, resident veterans returning from service abroad or mobilization by the President are eligible for half-priced sport fishing and sportsman’s licenses.

Fishing Regulations and Best Practices

As a licensed Illinois fishing guide, it’s your responsibility to know and follow all applicable fishing regulations and to promote responsible angling practices among your clients.

Bag and Size Limits

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the statewide and site-specific bag and size limits for various game fish species. These regulations can be found in the annual Illinois Fishing Information guide, available online and at IDNR offices and license vendors.

Catch and Release

Encourage your clients to practice catch and release whenever possible, especially when fishing for tagged or sensitive fish populations. Proper catch and release techniques, such as using barbless hooks and minimizing handling time, can help ensure the survival of released fish.

Reporting Tagged Fish

If you or your clients catch a tagged fish, report the tag number, color, date, location, and fish length to the IDNR using the phone number printed on the tag. Anglers are encouraged to release tagged fish back into the water to support ongoing research and management efforts.

Boating Safety

As a fishing guide, you may be responsible for operating a boat while on guided trips. Always follow Illinois boating rules and regulations, which can be found on the IDNR website. Ensure that your boat is properly registered and that you and your clients wear life jackets when required by law.


Obtaining and maintaining your Illinois fishing guide license is an essential part of operating a legal and successful guiding business in the state. By staying informed about the latest licensing requirements, fees, and exemptions, you can focus on providing your clients with memorable and responsible fishing experiences. As the 2024 fishing season gets underway, make sure to secure your fishing guide license and review the current regulations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable season on the water.

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