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Illinois Fishing Licenses

Illinois fishing licenses are available for purchase to both resident and nonresident anglers. Only those with the correct fishing license credentials, who follow the rules and regulations of the sport, are allowed to take fish from the bodies of water located inside and around Illinois. The IL Department of Natural Resources administers fishing licenses on behalf of the state. To obtain a license to fish, you must furnish the appropriate fishing permit and/or license fee. Your decision regarding the specific types of credentials will depend on your interest in the activity of fishing. For example, if you would like to engage in the sport of fishing purely for recreational purposes, then a standard recreational fishing license will be a good fit for you. However, if it is your goal to make a profession out of fishing and to sell fish that you catch for commercial gain, then you will need to learn about obtaining a license to fish for business purposes from the IDNR. This state agency handles the issuances of both kinds of licenses. Most, though not all, fishing licenses can be purchased either online or in person at an authorized license dealer. Some fishing licenses can only be applied for by paper application form that must be mailed to the IDNR. Learn more information about how to get a license to fish from the sections below. Begin by choosing from one of the following types of fishing licenses that best suits your intentions:

  • New standard fishing licenses in Illinois
  • Illinois commercial fishing permits


Illinois New Fishing Licenses

Illinois fishing license options are offered in many different categories for both residents and non-residents through the Department of Natural Resources. Applicants can either buy a fishing license that will last one day, three days, one year or a lifetime. Also based on your status, you have the option to choose between the Illinois resident fishing license and the nonresident fishing license. Combination licenses are further available to those individuals who are interested in fishing and hunting. Given the differences in length of validity, the prices for these credentials will vary significantly. Factors that affect price in Illinois include:

  • Length of IL fishing license validity
  • An applicant’s residency status
  • License combination options
  • An applicant’s age
    • Seniors receive discounts on fishing permits in Illinois.
  • An applicant’s military status
    • Military members can receive licenses that are free for as long as they served in the Armed Forces.

If you are wondering, “where can I buy a fishing license?” a number of places (and methods) to choose from are available across the state. Depending on the specific type of permit to fish, decide to submit your Illinois fishing license application online or in person. Note that some fishing license options only allow prospective fishermen to apply in person with a paper application (typically the commercial fishing permits in Illinois).

Illinois Commercial Fishing Licenses

Illinois commercial fishing licenses are required for anglers who do not wish to fish for recreational purposes but would rather catch fish for the purpose of sales. As such, fishermen in this neck of the water are required to apply for a different kind of license: the Illinois commercial fishing license. Learn more about the different kinds of commercial license and the application methods available to you below.

Although widely different in its purpose, the license to fish commercially in Illinois does share one important similarity to the standard fishing credential: You can apply for commercial credentials in the same ways. Though some specific commercial documents require you to apply by mail via a physical commercial fishing license application, most of these licenses can be obtained either in person or online. In-person applicants will visit an official license vendor of the state, while online applicants will obtain a fishing license through the Department of Natural Resources’ digital licensing portal.

Several options are at your disposal as it pertains to the different kinds of licenses available through the DNR of Illinois. Depending on the kind of commercial fishing venture you would like to launch, invest in any of the following, or others that are also available on the Department of Natural Resources website: nonresident/resident commercial fishing license (initial), nonresident/resident commercial fishing device license, resident mussel dealer license, resident retail aquatic life dealer license, interstate minnow dealer license and more.

Note: Each commercial license comes with a different cost.

Fishing Frequently Asked Questions

Oftentimes you can buy a fishing license through your state’s fishing department website. You will most likely need to create an account on the webpage and have a printer nearby to finalize your transaction. Make sure to also have a valid credit card on hand, as no other form of payment is accepted by state departments online. Take note that, as proof of your residency, you may be required to enter your driver’s license number.
In a general sense, a good number of states offer the following types of fishing licenses: a regular fishing license and a commercial fishing license. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to get a saltwater license to fish, if you are by coastal waters. In addition to these permits, you may be required to buy a fishing stamp, depending on the specific type of fish species you intend to catch.
A regular fishing permit is often valid for the period of a full year. However, you may also have the option to obtain a license to fish that is good for 24 hours or 72 hours, for example. In some instances, a weekly fishing license or a lifetime license may also be available. Lifetime licenses to fish are the most suitable option for those anglers who intend to fish for the duration of their lives. Keep in mind that if you would like to continue fishing after the expiration date of your current licensure, you will be required to get a new permit to fish.
The fees related to a state fishing license may vary, depending on a few factors. But senior residents and military veterans can usually get a fishing license that is free of charge, as long as they can present official documentation that supports their residency or military service. Resident licenses to fish are often more affordable than nonresident licenses. The most costly licenses are for those who would like to get lifetime credentials.
In the event that you have lost your fishing license or it was stolen, the most common way to obtain a duplicate is through your state’s fishing department. You may be required to make an in-person visit to a nearby office or to contact a licensed agent directly. Depending on where you reside, you may also have the option to order a fishing permit replacement online. But, to be sure, it is important that you double check with your state department first, as you may also need to bring in certain documentation, such as your driver’s license or ID card.
This site is privately owned and is neither affiliated with, nor endorsed by, nor operated by a government agency.