View Full Version : F/W Spearfishing in Illinois? Lake Michigan?

01-31-2006, 01:19 AM
I just moved to Chicago and that big ol' Lake Michigan's seemingly unending fish supply seems to mock me everyday on my way to class. I tried looking up the legality of spearfishing on Illinois' website for Department of Natural Resources but came up empty. Anyone know the legalities of spearfishing in Illinois or Lake Michigan? I have a regular fishing license for the year . . . would that work?

Also, if it is legal, do any of you guys go spearfishing in the Great Lakes? I mean, is it worth it? I keep hearing all this talk about Asain carp infecting the Lake Michigan and I just want to do my part to help. :D

02-03-2006, 07:36 PM
Not sure about down there - but up here it's carp, suckers, gar and bowfin.
Interestingly suckers don't even make the fish advisory up here making them one of the cleanest species - whereas virtually all the game fish are on there for mercury and pcbs - though not with the concentrations you'll find down there.

I know jon in wisconsin is able to spear panfish so you'll have to see what illinois has to offer - check the illinois DNR site.

02-03-2006, 09:11 PM
Cobra -

Where do you go to school? I went to Northwestern. I had an apartment just south of campus two hundred yards from the lake. I only *wish* that I could've crawled out of bed to do some hungover freshwater spearing every day. Ah, well.

Good luck and slay up those damned carp,


02-04-2006, 12:44 PM
Check out the fishing license pamphlet,(you do need a fishing license) I'ts been a long time but you used to be able to shoot "rough" fish, no "game" fish, rough is carp, catfish, etc, (BOW AND ARROW & SPEAR GUN) In Wis it includes some pan fish,its against the law to enter lake Mich (in Chicago at least) from shore with scuba gear (not always enforced).
word of caution, I know Wis will confiscate anything you used to shoot a game fish, that includes the car you drove up in , the boat you went out in, etc.

02-06-2006, 02:47 PM
I have been spearfishing in Lake Erie when I lived in Ohio. Visibility is great and lots of cool things to look at. I have taken lots of carp and good sized catfish out of the drink. I think you are good to go with just a fishing license, same rules apply with bowfishing as to spearfishing. Remember to have a big dive flag and put it high on your boat, people up in the great lakes are not use to seeing dive flags and assholes on jet skis and fishermen will fly by very close.

02-07-2006, 10:30 AM
Here bowfishing and handspearing have much more liberal laws than spearguns - don't assume they are the same.

02-07-2006, 10:38 AM

I just browsed through your picture gallery. Nice stuff! Where exactly are those national and/or state parks that you mention?


02-09-2006, 10:31 AM
Hi and thanks!

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore runs along the outside of the 'little finger' of lower michigan. The particular area where I got most of the pictures of Freshwater Drum is just south of Pyramid Point and a couple miles North of Glen Arbor. There are lots more interesting places to dive - but that one is handy and secluded. I just park, climb down a small bluff to miles of mostly secluded beach - and swim out :)

The Marina shots are all around the west breakwall of Clinch Marina which is at the South End of West Grand Traverse Bay. East and West Grand Traverse Bays are what make the 'little finger' (Leelanau County for the most part) distinct. You'll see if if you look at the mitten shape of lower Michigan - toward the top on the west side.

This spring my daughter and I plan to visit South Manitou Island. There is a grounded freighter about 1/3 mile off the south end that should be a blast to swim out to and freedive on. We'll camp on the island and take the ferry out - so we'll just need our freedivng and camping gear. Nice thing about here is ease of access to clear water. The marina is five minutes from my house - Lake Michigan 30 minutes. I can actually go diving on my lunch hour! Grand Traverse bay does have alot of boat traffic during the tourist season - reason for staying close to the breakwall. In Lake Michigan boat traffic is almost completely a non-issue.

02-09-2006, 11:40 PM
snowstopsspears, I'm at Loyola's lake shore campus so it looks I'm a little to the south of where you were. But yeah, I wake up every morning and see that huge blue lake out my apartment window. Unless of course it's days like today when the water's frozen. :(

But yeah, thanks for all the info everybody, and Fondueset, wow. All I can say is I hope the water's that clear on this side of the lake. I had no idea spotted gar lived in lake michigan either. I'm guessing those are probably a rarity. But since you saw him, I guess I have to ask. Has anyone ever seen an alligator gar while diving in lake michigan?

02-10-2006, 08:36 AM
You're right about the gar - I think it's a long-nosed - but it does look like a spotted. That was in GT bay - still Lake Michigan technically and yes, very rare. Same spot where we saw the huge bass in the posed looking photos and a northern pike. Never saw the pike or gar again. I've never heard of an alligator gar - they seem to like warmer waters but I'm guessing it's theoretically possible. That would be cool!

02-10-2006, 02:16 PM
I took everyone's advise and hunted around Illinois' DNR site a little further. I guess my problem when I had looked before was their fishing regulations are in Adobe Acrobat format so they don't come up under their search engine. But yeah, I figure I'll post it here in case there's anyone else out there like me who was wondering about the status of spearfishing by Chicago.

Carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, sucker, gar (except alligator gar), and bowfin may be taken with spear or gig, pitchfork, underwater spear gun, bow and arrow or archery device. Spearing/bow and arrow fishing is not permitted in waters listed in Site Specific Regulations as 2 Pole and Line Fishing Only (except as listed by notation).

After reading through the sections regarding Lake Michigan, it looks like all you really need is a standard license to go spearfishing. So I guess that means when the water warms up a little I'll be keeping you guys posted on all the monster 50 lb carp I'll snagging. ;)

02-10-2006, 03:05 PM

I'll probably be back in Chicago a few times during the next few months. If you discover that there are places where you can take some steel to the lake's unwanted inhabitants, let me know. I'll pack accordingly.

Happy hunting,


02-11-2006, 02:17 AM
snowstopsspears, if the carp population's as bad as everyone's been talking about, I'll definately let you know.

02-14-2006, 02:39 PM
The internet never ceases to amaze me. 20 years ago I got an interesting job offer near Chicago. I refused because, from Florida, I couldn't find reliable information on spearing in Lake Michigan. I wouldn't mind shooting non-game fish during only 4 months because the pay was good. In only few days and some clicks of the mouse XCobra427X got the lay of the land :scratch:

Did you notice this little detail: "...may be taken with... pitchfork..."!?!? Hee haw! :cowboy: