Fine fishing is one of the best reasons to come to Alton, especially in the spring and fall. With three great rivers joining forces around the city and a whole host of lakes as well, there’s no shortage of fishing holes to be explored. Choose your favorite kind of fishing and use this guide to plan your fishing expedition at the Meeting of the Great Rivers.
Where to Fish Around Alton
Lakes, rivers and vast wildlife management areas fan across the entire Alton area, luring visitors here to fish by the thousands. The Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers each have their own fans among anglers, so let’s look at what you can expect to find fishing the rivers near Alton.
• Illinois River – When you put a boat in the Illinois River near Grafton, you’re going to find a world of fishing possibilities. The river swings all the way up to the La Grange Lock and Dam in a formation known as the Alton Pool, but there’s plenty of fishing action close to Grafton. Follow the Lower Illinois in search of black and white crappie, bluegill, sunfish and white bass. Bring your favorite spinners and plastic worms and you might just lure a largemouth bass out of the brush.
We haven’t even mentioned the variety of habitat provided by sloughs and backwater lakes along the Illinois. As the river slips around Pere Marquette State Park, you’ll find access points that let you explore spots like the Stump Lake Fish and Wildlife Area, where six lakes provide good bluegill and bullhead fishing. Put the boat in at Hadley Landing, a little farther north on the Illinois, to reach the Twelve Mile Island/Glades area for catfish and drum.
By the way, Pere Marquette SP itself is home to a popular event each year in early June, the Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair. Bring the kids along and let them try their hand at skills like trout fishing, crafting a cane pole and identifying fish. They’re never too young to spark a love for fishing!
MORE: FIND OTHER EVENTS HERE
• Mississippi River – The Mississippi joins the Illinois just north of Alton, offering anglers yet another option for river fishing action. The Mississippi above Alton is broken up into ‘pools’ by a series of locks and dams, making for safer, saner fishing in a variety of habitats. Having said that, we also have to remind everyone that the Mighty Mississippi is a busy, national waterway filled with commercial traffic, so you’ll need to stay aware of your surroundings.
From the shallow sloughs and backwater lakes, to the pools and tailwaters formed by the dams, the variety of fish found in this river is amazing. Enter the river at Piasa Creek Access Area above Alton to explore the Piasa Island Channel for largemouth bass, white bass and drum. Further north within Pool 26, you can put in at Grafton and fish for channel cats, largemouth bass and crappie in Pohlman’s Slough.
Pool 25 at Batchtown, north of the Alton/Grafton area, boasts great bluegill and crappie populations at Prairie Pond, Dixon Pond and Gilead Slough.
• Missouri River – The second confluence of the Great Rivers near Alton occurs south of town, where the Missouri meets the Mississippi. An area to consider if spoonbills and big cats are your passion is the water surrounding Maple Island Conservation Area south of Alton. There’s a boat ramp near the dam, but you can fish from the bank with a heavy rig, especially where the water flows just below the dam. Record-breaking catfish have been pulled from these waters, so consider following the bank to find your sweet spot.
Rules and Regulations for Fishing Near Alton
Anyone over the age of 16 planning to fish in Illinois will need to obtain a state fishing permit. The price varies depending on the length of time for which the permit is issued. If you’re coming to Alton for trout fishing, you’ll also need an inland trout stamp. Check the license, permit and registration tables at the Illinois DNR website to learn if the license can be purchased online or from a local vendor. Here’s some good news: during National Fishing Week in June, Illinois offers Free Fishing Days for all anglers.
For a complete list of state fishing regulations, it’s a good idea to read through the Annual Fishing Guide prepared by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Specific bodies of water may have restrictions, especially during hunting season.
The Alton, Illinois area can be the site of your best fishing trip ever, with lakes, rivers and sloughs ready to challenge every level angler. Use these tips to start your planning, and plan to come back often to fish at the Meeting of the Great Rivers.
Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. Joe has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years, and greatly enjoys exploring the outdoors. Joe has been camping across the United States, from coast-to-coast, and makes a point to stop at national landmarks along the way. He is also actively involved in numerous campground associations, including RVIA's Go RV-ing committee, as well as travel industry associations.