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Illinois hunting and fishing

Fishing with the kids

June 06, 2010 at 05:05 PM

School is out and brave parents, searching for something to do, are pondering whether to take the kids fishing.

Just do it. Take them fishing now, while fish are still biting and heat is not yet oppressive. Gov. Pat Quinn has even declared June as “Leave No Child Inside” month.

If you aren’t a diehard angler, wait until Friday through next Monday, when Illinois will be holding a Free Fishing Days promotion. For those four days, adults don’t need a license. Youngsters under age 16 can always fish for free in Illinois.

If you want your youngsters to really enjoy their outing, don’t plan on fishing much. Focus on the kids. Bait their hooks. Unhook fish. Get hooks out of trees. Consider leaving your own rod in the truck.

Here are other tips to help your kids catch fish and make memories to last a lifetime.

Illinois hunting and fishing

One way to get kids fishing is to attend free kid’s derbies.

A good one is Saturday at the Fulton County Camping and Recreation Area near St. David. Admission to the complex of strip-mine lakes is free from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food, drinks, bait and door prizes will be provided for ages 15 and under. Fish biologist Rob Hilsabeck will speak and Larry Dozard offers instruction. Call (309) 668-2931.

Argyle Lake State Park has a clinic Saturday from 2-4:30 p.m. There are also kid’s derbies Saturday at Lock 14 in LaSalle from 8-11 a.m. (815-223-2382) and at Miller Park in Bloomington starting at 8 a.m. (309-275-9891).

Urban fishing clinics open June 17 through Aug. 11 at Glen Oak Park Lagoon in Peoria. Call (309) 681-2865.

Illinois hunting and fishing

June is a prime month to catch bluegill. And while these tasty fish bite well, they also have small mouths. So it makes sense that anglers who want to catch bluegill should use small hooks.

Too often people head out with large hooks, stout line and unsinkable bobbers in pursuit of the state fish. Too often those same people head home disappointed with the catch of the day.

Avoid that mistake. Using small hooks, light line and sensitive floats will help your kids catch more fish and have more fun.

The picture above shows a collection of small ice-fishing jigs that work well for bluegill year-round. You won’t lose as much bait with these hooks and your kids will catch more fish than their neighbor with the shark hook.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Eureka Lake
Catfish, crappie, bluegill and the chance for a big bass along with a manicured shoreline make this the top spot east of the Illinois River.

Spring Lake
Very good shoreline access here as well as bluegill, channel catfish and a chance to see swans and other waterfowl.

Snakeden Hollow
Small lakes abound here and so do bluegill, bass and channel catfish.

Farm ponds
Know somebody with a farm pond? Ask if your kids can fish, a request even Scrooge would struggle to resist. The next few weeks should be the peak of farm-pond bluegill fishing.

Hennepin Canal; Banner Marsh Kid’s Pond; Jubilee College State Park Pond; Charter Oak Lake, Peoria; Glen Oak Lagoon, Peoria; Lakeland Park, Canton; Mineral Springs Lagoon, Pekin; Lake Storey, Galesburg.

Click here for a list of other sites across Illinois.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Kids love fishing lures. The fancy colors and shapes intrigue them.

But for catching fish, flashy lures are not as effective as live bait. And few baits work better than worms. Just use them sparingly. The point isn’t to feed fish, but rather to catch them. So tip your small hooks with small pieces of nightcrawler or, better yet, waxworms.

Need more proof? Check out the big bluegill below caught on live bait out of a farm pond last July by Kaitlyn Phillips of Farmington.

If you plan on fishing more than once this summer, consider the various Berkley Gulp live bait imitators. You don’t have to worry about keeping Gulp products alive between fishing trips.

Illinois hunting and fishing


1. If fish aren’t biting, there are always frogs to catch.

2. Bring plenty of food. Snacks can save a fishless trip.

3. Wear old shoes. Kids love the water and mud.

4. Photograph the first fish. It might be the only fish.

5. Bring a pliers in case a fish swallows a hook.


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