Illinois Bass Fishing Size Laws

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There are no statewide limits on the size of bass kept when fishing in Illinois. Instead, the size limits vary according to the body of water being fished. However, Illinois does have specific rules regarding the daily creel or number of bass kept and the practice of culling.

How Bass Are Measured

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, bass, as well as all other fish, are measured from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail. The mouth of the bass must be closed and the lobes of the tail fin pressed together to get an accurate measurement. It is recommended to lay the fish on a flat board and place the ruler above it.

Law on Culling

It is also illegal to practice culling on the Illinois waterways and lakes, which is replacing a smaller fish in your catch with a larger fish. In most cases, the smaller fish would have already died. Therefore, once a fisherman has kept the daily limit, he cannot keep fishing and replacing the dead smaller fish in his possession with larger ones. The exception is sanctioned fishing tournaments in which participants are required to keep fish in a live well with a pump.

Daily Catch Limits

Although there are no statewide limits in Illinois concerning the size of bass kept, there is a ruling on the catch limit. Fisherman in Illinois can only keep six bass per day. The exception to this rule includes the mainstem of the Mississippi, Ohio and Wabash Rivers, in which no more than three smallmouth bass can be taken home. Bass must also be immediately released between April 1st and June 15.

Examples of Local Size Laws

In most fishing spots in Illinois the size limit for small and large mouth bass ranges from 14 inches to 18 inches. For example, Arrowhead Lake in Johnston City has a size limit of 15 inches. Baldwin Lake sets a size requirement of 18 inches for large and smallmouth bass and 17 inches for striped, white or hybrid striped bass. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources posts the size limit for each body of water.