19 Fishing Derbies and Where to Go Fishing Plus Must-Have Gear

Outdoor Places to GoNature

Over the past few summers, our family has enjoyed more time outdoors in nature than ever before. Fishing is a simple, relaxing activity that has taken over all of our hearts. We take turns preparing hooks and casting our lines, hoping to catch even just a couple fish. Encouraging each other, practicing patience, and the collective excitement with every bite makes these outings some of my daughters’ favorite summertime memories.

The keys to a successful fishing adventure are being prepared and being patient. We’ve found local organizations hosting fishing derbies for both beginners and experts. You’ll also find ideas of where to go and what to bring when you take your kids fishing, as well as other helpful tips to make sure it’s an outing your family won’t forget.

2023 Fishing Derbies and Classes

Family Fishing Fun (Patriot Park, Downers Grove)
April 29, 2023 | 10:00am – 11:30am
May 7, 2023 | 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Register each child participating.

Fishing Days (Lake Katherine, Palos Heights)
May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5, September 9, October 7, 2023 | 8:00am-10:00am
Registration is required.

Trout Derby (Knolls Park, Lombard)
May 6, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:00am
Registration is required.

First Time Fishing (Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Bolingbrook)
May 13, 2023 | 10:00am – 3:00pm
Register by the day of the class.

Fishing: With Mom (Hidden Lake Forest Preserve, Downers Grove)
May 14, 2023 | 10:00am – 12:00pm

Free Youth Fishing Derby (Aurora)
May 20, 2023 | 10:00am – 1:00pm

Just for Kids Fishing Derby (Blackwell Forest Preserve, Warrenville)
June 11, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:00am
Register in advance.

Fish-O-Rama (Northside Park, Wheaton)
June 17, 2023 | 8:00am – 10:00am

Family Fishing Derby (West Chicago)
June 17, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:30am
Registration is required.

Family Fishing Derby (Burr Ridge)
June 17, 2023 | 9:00am – 11:00am

Fishing Derby (Lombard)
June 17, 2023 | 9:00am – 11:00am

Take Me Fishing (Bernas Park, Westmont)
June 17, 2023 | 9:00am – 12:00pm

Gone Fishin’ Derby (Lake Ellyn Park, Glen Ellyn)
June 17, 2023 | 8:00am – 9:30am
Register in advance.

Father’s Day Fishing Derby (Carol Stream)
June 18, 2023 | 8:30am – 11:00am
Register in advance.

Father’s Day Fishing Derby (Aurora)
June 18, 2023 | 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Included in general admission at Blackberry Farm.

Fishing with Dad (Herrick Lake, Naperville)
June 18, 2023 | 4:00pm – 6:00pm
Register in advance.

Kids Fishing Derby (Hidden Oaks Nature Center, Bolingbrook)
June 24, 2023 | 7:00am – 3:00pm
Registration is required.

Fishing Derby (Prospect Park, Clarendon Hills)
June 24, 2023 | 8:00am – 10:00am
Free to Clarendon Hills residents only.

Fish with a Cop (Itasca)
June 25, 2023 | 9:30am – 12:30pm

Fishing Derby (Patriot Park, Downers Grove)
August 5, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:00am
Registration is required.

Fishing Derby (Mount Prospect)
September 9, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:00am
Register in advance.

Huck Finn Fishing Derby (Buffalo Grove)
September 22, 2023 | 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Catfish Derby (York Center Park District, Lombard)
September 23, 2023 | 8:00am – 10:30am

Fishing with Dad (Oswego)
September 30, 2023 | 9:00am – 11:00am

Fishing Derby (Glendale Heights)
September 30, 2023 | 9:00am – 11:00am

Autumn Gone Fishin’ Derby (Glen Ellyn)
September 30, 2023 | 9:30am – 11:00am

Fishing Derby (Palos Park)
October 14, 2023 | 8:00am – 11:00am

Fishing: Fall Trout Season Opener (Blackwell Forest Preserve, Warrenville)
October 21, 2023 | 6:00am – 7:00pm

Where to Go Fishing in the South and West Suburbs

Mayslake in Oak Brook on a beautiful sunny summer day, a relaxing place to take kids fishing
Mayslake in Oak Brook

Can’t make it to one of the derbies? The Cook County, DuPage County, and Will County forest preserve websites have awesome information on where to take kids fishing everyday and what kinds of fish are in each body of water. The links above have great maps and detailed information about each location, but be sure to check that your fishing spot is open before you go.

There are also some family-friendly fishing spots that we have gone to or heard of from readers, such as:

If you and your family enjoy fishing at another location, please let us know by commenting at the end of this article or emailing Annie at annie@mykidlist.com!

Bait Shops and Fishing Supplies in the Suburbs

Check out these local store for buying bait and fishing gear. Ordering supplies online and having them shipped to your house is also a great option. You can even buy live bait online and have it delivered to your doorstep!

Bass Pro Shops
709 Janes Avenue
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
(630) 296-2700
Giant outdoor store with tons of fishing gear.

Lee’s Bait & Tackle
1400 Army Trail Road
Carol Stream, IL 60188
(630) 830-5337
Small local shop with a great selection.

Lee’s Global Tackle
1010 E. Higgins Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
(847) 593-6424
This fishing store offers online ordering with a plethora of equipment.

DuPage Fly Fishing Co.
1512 N. Naper Boulevard, Suite 136
Naperville, IL 60563
(630) 857-3468
Fishing gear, fly tying classes, and fly casting lessons. The company also leads guided kids’ fly fishing trips.

Corley’s Bait Shop
21648 S. Schoolhouse Road
New Lenox, IL 60451
(815) 462-1146
This local bait shop is in the same building as Jack’s Automotive and stocks live bait, fishing accessories, and other gear.

Anglers Outlet
17036 Oak Park Avenue
Tinley Park, IL 60477
(708) 331-5711
In addition to fishing supplies, you can also get insight into local spots to fish, help obtaining a fishing license, and more.

Fishing Connection
7897 W. 159th Street
Tinley Park, IL 60477
(708) 532-1476
This fishing tackle pro shop has been outfitting fishing enthusiasts since 1995.

What to Bring When Fishing with Kids

  • Fishing License: You need to obtain a state fishing license for anyone 16 or older. The Illinois resident fishing license cost is $15 and can be obtained online through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  • Fishing Pole: Child-sized poles are typically inexpensive. You can find them at Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Bass Pro Shop, as well as many of the fishing stores listed in the bait section above.
  • Hooks and Bobbers: First, check the fishing pole to see if a hook and bobber is included. The bobber is a ball tied onto the fishing line. When it goes underwater, it signals that something is attached to your line!
  • Tackle Box: You’ll be able to purchase a small tackle box wherever you find a fishing pole. Just a few extra supplies are needed such as extra line, fishing hooks, bobbers, plastic worms, needle-nose pliers (to help remove the hook from the fish), a small first aid kit, and sunscreen. (Seriously, don’t forget the sunscreen.)
  • Bait: “Take Me Fishing” has a great guide to fishing with live bait. Here’s a tip: if you are bringing live worms as bait, use plastic to-go cups (such as the ones used at restaurants to hold condiments).
  • Hand Wipes: Handling bait and fish can leave your hands feeling icky. Make sure to bring something to clean up if you’re planning to eat or do other activities while fishing.

Tips for Taking Kids Fishing in Chicagoland

If you are fishing in a boat or near deep water, it is a good idea to have your child wear a life jacket. Make sure to wear a hat or sunglasses and have a cooler packed with water. And wear bug spray!

Check out your local library for some books on fishing. Looking through the books together will get your kids excited to fish.

Remember: fishing takes patience. Relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and your surroundings. Pack water, food and snacks to keep everyone happy.

To help fish survive after you’ve caught and released them:

  • Use barbless hooks
  • Use a landing net
  • Keep the fish in the water until you’re ready to release them
  • Wet your hands
  • Hold the fish upside down while you remove the hook
  • Remove the hook quickly
  • Cut the line if you can’t remove the hook
  • Don’t touch the gills

Comment below with your favorite fishing spots in the suburbs! And when you go fishing, be sure to share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #sharekidlist.

Thanks so much for reading. You’ll always find tons of outdoor fun for kids here on Kidlist!

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • I am new to River Forest and looking for places to go fishing with my Granddaughters. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Des, Thanks for your comment and welcome to the area! Did you read the article above? There are suggestions for places to go fishing, tips for what to bring, and tips for when you get there. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Barb Plichta
    May 14, 2020 8:18 pm


    Enjoyed the fishing article and wanted to remember the info. How do I print it?


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