Who's Allowed to Stock Lakes?

Outdoor Illinois

Ever been tempted to improve the fishing at your local lake by transporting a bucket of fish from a different lake? Maybe you think a grass carp or two, or a few northern pike, might "fix" the lake? 

Although well-meaning anglers assume they're helping the resource with their Johnny Appleseed fish-stocking approach, Illinois law prohibits such releases because of scientific reasons.  

Experts maintain the dynamics of a fishery can be ruined by the introduction of unauthorized fish. For instance, anglers who dump seemingly desirable crappie into a small lake or pond might unwittingly trigger a serious population imbalance. Crappie compete for spawning grounds and resources with large mouth bass, especially in small lakes. Crappie also prey on young bass. Since bass are a primary bluegill predator, a lack of bass can result in large populations of stunted bluegill as bluegill populations explode.  

Worse yet, there's also the risk anglers might toss in a species that poses ecological risk, such as diseased fish or exotic species that compete with resident fish or upset the ecological balance of the lake.  

Illinois law prohibits anyone, other than authorized individuals, from removing and transporting live fish from one public lake to another. As an exception, fish that were legally caught in public waters can be released into waters entirely contained on private property, such as your own farm pond. Yet biologists indicate that kind of stocking approach rarely succeeds unless the appropriate mix of species are introduced. Home-stocking ventures are far more successful when fish are obtained from a licensed fish farm or through DNR's Division of Fisheries. Even then, only approved species may be stocked.  

For more information about fish stocking, contact your local DNR district fisheries biologist or call (217) 782-6424.

MidWest Outdoors Illinois Section May 2003 Page 100