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Illinois

Where You Fish Is As Important As What You Catch

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Fishing in northern Illinois waterways can provide a great deal of sport, but it may also provide reason for concern.

While there are nutritional benefits of eating fish from Illinois lakes and rivers, contaminants can make fish less than ideal to eat.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issues a fish advisory for more than 90 waterways in the state. The “eatability” of fish from those waters is rated based on the size and species of fish commonly caught there.

The food safety of fish also varies according to where you fish in what body of water.

For example, catfish caught in the Rock River are safer than carp – which are safer north of the Fordam Dam in Rockford than they are below it.

In the Illinois River, catfish from above the Marseilles Dam are not safe to eat, and other species should not be eaten more than once a month.

Carp, catfish and bass caught in the Starved Rock Pool of the Illinois are considered safe for one meal a month.

The accumulation of Poly-Chlorinated Biphenyls – or PCBs – is a concern all across northern Illinois. The special mercury advisory also applies in some locations.

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You can check the safety factor of the fish you catch on the department’s interactive map.

Here, adapted from the IDPH Illinois Fish Advisory, are some selected ratings of fish in northern Illinois lakes and rivers

Fox River -- North of I-90, McHenry County

  • Carp, one meal per week if larger than 15”
  • Channel Catfish, one meal per week if larger than 15”

Fox River -- I-90 to Dayton Dam, Lake, LaSalle, Kane & Kendall Counties:

  • Carp, one meal per week if less than 15”, if larger 1 meal per month
  • Channel Catfish, all sizes, one meal per week
  • Freshwater Drum, all sizes, one meal per week

Illinois River -- Headwaters to Marseilles Dam

  • Carp, all sizes, 6 meals per year
  • Channel Catfish, all sizes, do not eat
  • Smallmouth Bass and White Bass, all sizes, 1 meal per month

Illinois River -- Starved Rock Pool

  • Carp, all sizes, 1 meal per month
  • Channel Catfish, all sizes, 1 meal per month
  • White Bass, all sizes, 1 meal per week

Kishwaukee River -- Boone, McHenry & Winnebago Counties:

  • Carp, all sizes, 1 meal per week
  • Channel Catfish, unlimited consumption if less than 18”, one meal per week if larger
  • Rock Bass and Small Mouth Bass, Special Mercury Advisory

Kishwaukee River, South Branch -- Kane & McHenry Counties:

  • Carp, one meal per week if less than 22”, if larger, 1 meal per month
  • Channel Catfish, one meal per week if less than 18”, one meal per month if larger
  • Freshwater Drum, all sizes, one meal per month

Lake Depue -- Bureau County

  • Carp, one meal per week if less than 17”, one meal per month if larger
  • Channel Catfish, one meal per month if less than 17”, six meal per year if less than 24”, do not eat if larger
  • White Bass, all sizes, one meal per month

Lake In The Hills -- McHenry County

  • Largemouth Bass, Special Mercury Advisory

Pecatonica River -- Stephenson & Winnebago Counties:

  • Carp, unlimited consumption if less than 21”, one meal per week if larger

Rock River -- State Line to Fordam Dam, Winnebago County

  • Carp, one meal per week if less than 23”, if larger 1 meal per month
  • Channel Catfish, unlimited consumption if less than 16”, one meal per week if larger

Rock River -- Fordam Dam to Milan Steel Dam, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Henry & Rock Island Counties

  • Carp, all sizes, 1 meal per month
  • Channel Catfish, unlimited consumption if less than 16”, one meal per week if larger
  • Flathead Catfish, unlimited consumption if less than 20”, one meal per week if larger

Sugar River -- Winnebago County:

  • Carp, unlimited consumption if less than 18”, one meal per week if larger

Sycamore Lake -- DeKalb County

  • Carp, all sizes, 1 meal per week
  • Channel Catfish, unlimited consumption if less than 23”, one meal per week if larger