Des Plaines River: North
Des Plaines River Facts (Central Cook County – Lake County, IL)
Primary fish: northern pike, rock bass, carp
Secondary fish: largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill/sunfish
Present but not common: walleye, smallmouth bass
Average Depth: 2-5 feet
Des Plaines River Information
The Des Plaines River is an often overlooked fishery in the State of Illinois. The river starts in southern Wisconsin and travels south through northeast Illinois before meeting up with the Kankakee River near Joliet, IL to form the Illinois River. The information on this page will center on the upper Des Plaines River from Thatcher Woods (West of downtown Chicago) through the Wisconsin border.
At it’s widest point, the Des Plaines River is approximately 180 feet wide. The narrower sections are closer to 30 feet wide. The average is width of the river between 40 and 100 feet. Depth also vary from location to location, but the average depth of the Des Plaines River is right around 3 feet during normal water levels.
Jay’s General Comments
The fishing in the upper Des Plaines river can be summed up in 2 words – northern pike. This is the primary gamefish of this stretch of the river. Other species include largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, carp, the occasional walleye (walleye are more prominent in the lower Des Plaines River), the occasional smallmouth bass. You won’t find great numbers of big pike in the river, the average “big” fish probably tops out around 36″. Pike of 18-24 inches are plentiful however.
Anglers seeking northern pike in the Des Plaines River will commonly use spinnerbaits as the main arsenal. Rattling crankbaits, in-line spinners and spoons are also very popular lure choices. Cranksbaits and Rapala’s are also very effective. Concentrate on fallen timber, eddies, current breaks and drop-offs. The depth of the river varies by location, but generally gets no more than 10 feet deep, with an average depth of closer to 3-4 feet deep.
The Des Plaines River is easily fished from shore, canoe/kayak or by wading. Much of the bottom is a combination of rock and muck so choose your areas for wading carefully.
I’ve personally found the best success using spinnerbaits for northern pike. A 3/8oz white spinnerbait with a willow and Colorado blade seems to be the most effective for me, but i’ve caught them on a wide variety of colors and styles. I also like spinnerbaits because the single hook, as opposed to dual trebble hooks on crankbaits, is much more forgiving for getting hung up – and you will get hung up.
Accessing the Des Plaines River
The upper Des Plaines River runs primarily through forest preserve property of Cook County, IL and Lake County, IL. Much of the shoreline is on property owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Some portions do run through land that is not publicly owned so be sure to be aware of signs indicating private property.
Des Plaines River Access Areas
Van Patton Woods (near Wadsworth, IL)
Independence Grove (near Libertyville, IL)
Adler Memorial Park (near Libertyville, IL)
Riverside Park (near Libertyville, IL)
Red Top Park (near Libertyville, IL)
Half Day Forest Preserve (near Vernon Hills, IL)
Spring Lake Park (near Lincolnshire, IL)
Potawatomi Woods near Wheeling, IL and Northbrook, IL
Dam #1 Woods (near Wheeling, IL)
Allison Woods (Northbrook, IL)
Lake Avenue Woods – East (near Glenview, IL and Mt. Prospect, IL)
Dam #2 Woods (near Mt. Prospect, IL)
Big Bend Lake (near Des Plaines, IL)
Northwestern Woods (near Des Plaines, IL)
Campground Road Woods (Des Plaines, IL)
Iroquois Woods/Touhy Dam (Park Ridge, IL)
Dam #4 Woods East (Park Ridge, IL)
Robinson Woods (Near Chicago, IL, Rosemont, IL and Schiller Park, IL)
Schiller Woods (near Chicago, IL and Schiller, Park, IL)
Thatcher Woods (near River Forest, IL)
Des Plaines River Caanoe/kayak launch areas
Van Patton Woods Canoe Launch
Wadsworth Road Canoe Launch
Independence Grove Canoe Launch
Oak Spring Canoe Launch
Rt. 60 Canoe Launch Launch
Dam #2 Canoe Launch
Irving Park Launch