Your guide to fishing in the preserves

Want to boost your success rate on the water? We’re here to help.

|  Story by Meghan McMahon |


Fishing is one of the most popular activities within the Forest Preserves, but that doesn’t stop some from complaining that the fish don’t bite some of our most popular fishing spots.

The staff at Monee Reservoir often hear people complain that there’s nothing to catch in the lake, but the number of people who return to cast a line time and again tell a different story, said Jason Stevenson, the office manager at Monee Reservoir.

“If people were not catching fish, we would not have as many regulars as we do,” he said.

Bass, bluegill, catfish, crappies and perch are all popular catches at Monee Reservoir, Stevenson said, adding that what people are finding on the end of their line can vary based on the time of year and where people are fishing.  

At Hidden Lakes Trout Farm, the Forest Preserve’s newest premier fishing spot, popular catches are bluegills, carp, catfish, crappies and largemouth bass, said David Piotrowski, the concessions manager at the facility’s Tackle Box bait shop. In April and October, anglers can also catch trout after the ponds are stocked for the state trout fishing seasons.

A man helps a young boy with a fish on the end of a line.

Piotrowski is happy to share tips and advice with anglers and encourages people to ask when they visit the Tackle Box. He has decades of fishing experience to draw on, and he’s got a lot of experience at Hidden Lake as well. He worked for the Bolingbrook Park District for many years when they owned the facility and joined the Forest Preserve staff shortly after they took over ownership.

“It’s fulfilling and appreciated when they do well on those recommendations,” he said.

Piotrowski said he will often advise people fishing with your children to try wax worms for bait.

“These are sure to catch bluegills and keep the children happy,” he said.

A few spots Piotrowski would recommend to Hidden Lakes anglers include right in front of the Tackle Box, on Pond 3, and the east side of Pond 4. The deepest spot at Hidden Lakes is the area in front of the large willow tree, and that can also be a good spot to drop in or cast a line, he said.

The staff at Monee Reservoir are also happy to dish out tips and make bait recommendations based on what’s been happening at the lake recently, Stevenson said. He also encouraged people to call before heading out to see if boats and bait are available and find out what’s biting.

People fish both from the shore and by boat at Monee, but in general anglers catch more fish by boat, Stevenson said. Shoreline fishing is best at the beginning and end of the fishing season, when the vegetation in the lake is at a minimum.


A view of the lake at Monee Reservoir.

An aerial view of Monee Reservoir.

From shore, people like to fish along the mouth of the bay and also along the rocks of the inner bay, which is the closest spot to the deepest part of the lake and a spot where catfish are often caught, Stevenson said. By boat, crappie fishing is often good near the railroad tracks, and bass fisherman often have luck in the spots where lily pads are growing on the water.

In addition to tips and suggestions from Forest Preserve staff, the visitor center at Monee Reservoir and Tackle Box at Hidden Lakes Trout Farm can hook anglers up with whatever they need to spend the day fishing, Stevenson said. Both facilities sell fishing licenses and have free fishing pole rentals, and anglers can also purchase bait, drinks and snacks.

Both Monee Reservoir and Hidden Lakes also host fishing programs during the year. Check for upcoming programs on the Forest Preserve event calendar.


Catch and release

An underwater view of bluegill.

The Forest Preserve District encourages catch-and-release fishing as a conservation tool for maintaining healthy fish populations and quality fishing opportunities. You can help conserve our natural resources by practicing the following guidelines:

  • Don’t exhaust a fish once it’s hooked. Play it quickly so it can be released in the best possible condition.
  • Keep your hands wet while handling fish, and handle them as little as possible. A fish’s skin has a coating designed to protect it, and dry hands can remove this protective coating.
  • Use needle-nose pliers to move hooks.
  • Use your judgment with swallowed hooks. Trying to pull out a deeply swallowed hook can cause more harm than good, so it may be best in some cases to cut the line.
  • Barbless hooks are easier to remove and also less likely to harm fish, improving survival rates.
  • Take your photos and measurements quickly. Keep fish in the water as much as possible to reduce stress and allow the fish to breathe.

For the general health of the surrounding wildlife, be sure to properly dispose of fishing line. Cut the line into segments no longer than 6 inches each and dispose of it in a covered container.

Where catch and release is not practiced, anglers must adhere to daily limits.


Where to fish

The Forest Preserve has several premier fishing locations:

A man fishes along the shore.

Monee Reservoir

The reservoir’s 46-acre lake is stocked with bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish. Anglers can also catch perch, although they are not stocked. The preserve, in Monee, has a visitor center that offers rowboats and trolling motors for rental. Fishing pole rentals are free. Bait and tackle are also available for purchase. Minnows must be purchased from the visitor center, and the use of amphibians, reptiles and crayfish is prohibited. Check current fishing conditions at Monee Reservoir by calling 708-534-8499. Visitor center hours vary by season.


A child fishes along the shore of a lake.

Hidden Lakes Trout Farm

This popular fishing spot at Hidden Oaks Preserve in Bolingbrook includes four fishing ponds. The site hosts fishing derbies in the spring and summer, and the ponds are stocked prior to the derbies. Hidden Lakes also features the Tackle Box bait shop, which sells a variety of bait, tackle and concessions. Visitor center hours vary by season. Hidden Lakes is also adjacent to Whalon Lake, another top fishing spot. Visitors can walk back and forth between the two spots via the DuPage River Trail.

A person fishes from a kayak.

Whalon Lake

This 80-acre lake in Naperville is stocked with bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass, channel catfish and walleye. The preserve has a boat launch to allow for entry of small fishing boats with trolling motors only. Whalon Lake is adjacent to another popular fishing spot, Hidden Lakes Trout Farm at Hidden Oaks Preserve. Visitors can walk back and forth between the two spots via the DuPage River Trail.

An egret stands in shallow water

Isle a la Cache

This preserve sits along the Des Plaines River, providing plenty of shoreline fishing opportunities for anglers. Paved trails from the visitor center lead to a lagoon, and beyond that is a nature surface trail that runs along the river.

Aerial view of Rock Run Rookery Preserve.

Rock Run Rookery Preserve

The preserve, in Joliet, has two lakes. The large lake on the east side of the preserve has a boat launch to allow for entry of small fishing boats with trolling motors only.

Preserve visitors fishing at Lake Chaminwood.

Lake Chaminwood Preserve

This preserve, in Minooka, features two lakes. Small fishing boats with trolling motors are allowed, but only watercraft that can be transported on top of a vehicle are permitted. No boat trailer parking is available at the preserve.


Aerial view of Lake Renwick.

Lake Renwick Preserve – Turtle Lake Access

This preserve, in Plainfield, provides access to both Turtle Lake and Budde Lake for shoreline fishing. Fishing is restricted to posted areas to protect the breeding and foraging habitat for birds at the nearby Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve.


Shoreline fishing is permitted at many other preserves. Fishing by boat is also allowed at some preserves. Visit the Forest Preserve District’s Fishing page for specific information.


Fishing licenses

Anyone 16 years old or older must have a fishing license to fish on a public Illinois waterway. Cost is as follows:

  • Illinois resident: $5.50 per day or $15 per year
  • Nonresident: $10.50 per day or $31.50 per year
  • Senior fishing license (for residents 65 and older): $7.75 per year

Fishing licenses expire on March 31 each year. You can purchase a fishing license at the Forest Preserve District’s Monee Reservoir and Hidden Lakes Trout Farm or at many retailers across the county. They are also available online through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.


Fishing regulations

Preserve visitor fishing along the shoreline.

Fishing is allowed year-round in Will County preserves, weather permitting; ice fishing is not allowed. Fishing is allowed only during the posted Forest Preserve hours. Night fishing is prohibited.

Only line fishing is allowed, and anglers can use a maximum of two poles, with no more than two hooks or lures per pole. Taking frogs, turtles and mussels is prohibited. Anglers can use minnows, worms, insects, lures, wet flies, dough balls or stink or blood bait; amphibians, reptiles and crayfish are prohibited for use as bait. Collecting bait is not allowed within the preserves, and live, unused minnows should not be released into waters.

Where fishing by boat is allowed, people must be entirely secure in the watercraft. Swimming, wading and float tubes are prohibited.

All statewide fishing regulations apply, including daily creel and size limits, and may be obtained from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Additional regulations apply to fishing within the preserves. For more information, download the District's General Use Ordinance No. 124 or call 815.727.8700.


Photo credits: Glenn P. Knoblock, Anthony Schalk and Chad Merda

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