Free fishing in Illinois this weekend

Free fishing in Illinois this weekend

CHAMPAIGN — Local bass fisherman Gary Montgomery enjoys taking his grandsons out on the water with him even if they don't stick to fishing.

"I fished and they played in the live well," Montgomery said of an outing when he took two grandsons at once, Nathan Montgomery, 10, and Lucas Montgomery, 8. "Fishing is more than just catching. If a person was going out just to catch fish, he'd quit after the first two or three trips."

Montgomery, a Tolono resident and member of the Champaign County Bassmasters, said he likes to take his grandsons fishing, because it's good to get them outside.

"And in the boat with them, it's one on one, it's wholesome for them. They love being in the water and in the boat. It's good any time you can get their nose out of an iPod or whatever," said Montgomery, who fished a bass tournament last weekend at Lake Shelbyville with Nathan, who hung in for the entire nine hours of fishing. "He's getting quite good at casting. He's pretty good."

It's Illinois Free Fishing Days this weekend, a program that encourages parents, even grandparents, to get outside with their kids to fish. From today through Monday, everyone can fish without buying a fishing license, salmon stamp or inland trout stamp. It coincides with the state's proclamation of June as 'Leave No Child Inside Month,' encouraging kids and families to spend time outdoors. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other organizations throughout the state host a variety of activities and events this month to get people outdoors.

According to IDNR Director Marc Miller events like Free Fishing Days are great alternatives to being latched to a video game controller or bored by TV shows all summer.

Montgomery said his son doesn't buy a long-term fishing license, because he can't go much with his work schedule. So, he takes advantage of the Free Fishing Days with his sons.

"It's a good thing," Montgomery said of the program. "It helps people get out who don't normally get out."

Now that school is out, Montgomery plans to take his grandsons out more often. Normally, they go to Clinton Lake, and if they end up playing in the live well, rather than fishing, at some point, he doesn't mind. And they definitely hit Boondockers to eat.

"You're just trying to make it fun for them, to get them out and get fresh air," said Montgomery, who four other grandchildren who will be getting old enough to go, too, in the next few years. "I'm going to have to get a bigger boat."

Parents and grandparents can take their kids fishing at any local or state park that allows it, but if children want a challenge or some basic instruction, there are two fishing derbies this weekend.

The Champaign Park District is hosting a Kids Fishing Derby from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday at Kaufman Lake for children ages 6 to 12.

Jimmy Gleason with the park district said parents just fill out a permission form on arrival, the bait is provided, there's a free hot dog lunch and recognition for the most fish, biggest fish and more.

And Weldon Springs State Park near Clinton celebrates Free Fishing Days by hosting a Kids Fishing Derby at its 29-acre lake, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday with registration at 8:30 a.m. Park Naturalist Carol Thompson said they've been doing it every year for as long as she can remember. There is no registration fee, and participants can bring their own pole or the park will provide some. And if they've never fished, Thompson said organizers will help them get started. Trophies will be awarded for first, second and third place for the number of fish caught from the bank in three age divisions: 6 and under, 7-9, and 10-12.

Thompson said the biggest catch ever in the event was a six-year-old girl who caught 99 fish in three hours. And Thompson, who was watching the little angler, said she had no help and even put her owns worms on each time.

"She was pretty skilled," she said. "The whole purpose is for everybody to have a positive experience outside. It's a fun family activity. It gives people an opportunity to fish who might not otherwise give it a try, and we hope that they will enjoy it and want to continue to fish."

Free Fishing Days

In Illinois, youth 16 or under do not need a fishing license, but this weekend, during Illinois' Free Fishing Days, today through Monday anyone over 16 can fish without a license. But if you can't get out this weekend to reel in that big catch, here's information about fishing licenses in Illinois.

You can get your license directly from Illinois Department of Natural Resources direct license and permit vendors, online through the IDNR website or by calling 1-888-6PERMIT. The system is available 24 hours a day. For online sales and a list of vendors, go to:

Resident sport fishing, annual;$15

Resident Sport Fish, 65 and older;$7.75

Resident and non-resident sport fishing (24-hour license);$5.50

Non-resident sport fishing (10 days)$20

Non-resident sport fishing (annual)$31.50

Sportsman's License (combined hunting and fishing licenses);$26.25

Senior Sportsman's License (combined hunting and fishing licenses);$13.50

Resident lifetime sport fishing;$435

Resident lifetime combined (hunting and fishing);$765

— Do I need a fishing license to fish my private pond located entirely on my property?

No. Owners or tenants (if they reside on the land) may fish in waters on or flowing over their lands without a license. This exemption does not apply to club and organizational lakes or lake developments. Guests must have a fishing license to fish the lake unless they meet any of the requirements exempting persons from needing a license - such as being under age 16, Illinois residents who are disabled or blind, or Illinois residents on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces.

— Do I need a fishing license to fish our subdivision's private lake?

Yes. Many people believe that if they live in a subdivision with a lake, they are a landowner and exempt from having a fishing license. Unfortunately, this is not correct. Section 5/20-15 of the Illinois fish code (ILCS 515) specifically states that the landowner fishing license exemption "does not apply to club lakes, organizational lakes, or lake developments."

Fishing Licenses

When you purchase a fishing license, you're helping to protect, preserve and enhance the sport of fishing for today and for generations to come. License fees help pay for fishery and hatchery management, habitat development and protection, endangered species programs, fishing and conservation education, lake maps and other publications, and many other valuable programs.

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