Father’s Day Weekend is Free Fishing Weekend in Illinois

Each year, to celebrate Father’s Day and encourage people to spend time in nature, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources designates its Free Fishing Days. The annual four-day-long celebration of fathers and fishing lets in-state residents cast their lines without a fishing license, salmon stamp, or inland trout stamp and runs from Friday, June 14 through Monday, the 17th.

Those who are eager to try their hand at catching fish can look forward to a number of events being held by forest preserves, parks, and fishing clubs across the state during the 2024 Illinois Free Fishing Days. Head to Hidden Lakes Trout Farm in Bolingbrook to take advantage of free pole rentals and gifts for Dad, enjoy breathtaking views and free entry at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Carterville, or compete in the biggest and smallest fish competition to win prizes at the Father’s Day Fishing Frenzy at Lakefront Park in Fox Lake.

Lake Paradise is located approximately four miles south of Mattoon in Coles County and is another great location to fish!


Not only are you allowed to fish without a license during the Free Fishing Days, but newcomers who reel in trophy fish can keep their catch, so long as it meets requirements and the body of water allows it. While you may not need a fishing license or certain stamps during the Free Fishing Days, you will still have to follow all applicable fishing laws and rules set by your preferred fishing spot. If you are unsure of fishing laws, whether you are able to go fishing in a certain body of water, or how many fish you can keep, check the resources listed by IDNR at ifishillinois.org.

Whether you are an experienced angler or have never cast a line, it is always important to keep in mind what you are fishing, where you are fishing, and how you are fishing. While enjoying the Free Fishing Days, make sure to remember these important tips to stay safe while you are having fun:

  • Know who and what is around you while casting your line
  • Always wear a life jacket when you are on, near, or in the water
  • Only cast where fishing is allowed
  • Handle fish with care when removing your hook
  • Only consume fish that are safe to eat

There is a good chance you will be hooked on angling by the tail end of the 2024 Illinois Free Fishing Days, but that does not mean that you have to stop enjoying your new favorite pastime. If you are 16 or older, you will need to get a fishing license starting June 18, but licenses are easy to obtain, only cost $15 a year, and help fund habitat protection programs that conserve some of Illinois’ best fishing spots. If you really catch the fishing bug, you can also save by purchasing a lifetime fishing license. Licenses and stamps can be bought online through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at exploremoreil.com or at vendors throughout the state.

The 2024 Illinois Free Fishing Days are just around the corner. Mark your calendars and get ready to find a new hobby, learn about Illinois’ diverse aquatic wildlife, and create lasting memories with your loved ones during the biggest fishing weekend of the year!