Location of Chain O’Lakes:
In the northeastern part of the state, predominantly along the western portion of Lake County and partially in the eastern portion of McHenry County. The Chain is near the communities of Fox Lake and Antioch.
- Boat Rentals: Many marinas and the state park concession, located off Wilmot Rd in Spring Grove.
- Bait and Tackle shops: In the villages of Antioch, Lake Villa and Fox Lake.
- Some marinas also offer bait and tackle.
- Lodging: Many hotels, motels and resorts in the area.
- Marinas: A number of marinas both on and off the water provide full marine services.
- Public Parks & Campgrounds: Several are available in the area. The State Park is open everyday from 6:00 am to 9:00 p.m. during the summer and 8:00 am to sunset during the winter.. The park is closed from beginning of November to mid December for all activities except hunting. There are 193 campsites. Tent rental is available. Other activities include hiking trails, horseback riding and picnicking. Swimming and wading are prohibited. Many private campgrounds are available on the Chain.
The Chain consists of nine major lakes. Navigation between all lakes is possible. It is considered the largest inland water recreation asset in northeastern Illinois and is the top attraction in Lake County.
Size and Depth- Approximately 6,500 total acres and 42 feet maximum
Water Source: Drainage lake: An impoundment of the Fox River which centers on thee west shore of Grass Lake. Other major in lets include Squaw Creek on the south side of Fox Lake: Nippersink Creek on the north end of Pistakee Lake: Trevor Creek on the northeast shore of Lake Catherine: Sequoit Creek on the northeast corner of Lake Marie and many other minor streams. The Fox River outlet is located on the west shore of Pistakee Lake. The Dam is located just south of McHenry.
Surface area = 352 acres, Maximum depth – 42.0 feet
Channel Lake, the deepest in the Chain is a favorite of bass and northern pike fishermen. It has 3.6 miles of shoreline and also 2.4 miles of channels with many piers and weeds, offering an excellent habitat. The extensive weed beds in the main lake, hold good population of bass and bluegill. There is a sandbar between Channel Lake and Lake Catherine that consistently produces a lot of stripers. The channels on the western shore of the lake yield bluegills and crappie and some largemouth. The favorite part of the lake for bass fishermen is the bay at the south end where the bottom drops suddenly providing a season long haven for bass. Just west of the Lake Marie Channel in 15 feet of water is a car that was allowed to sink at a winter carnival, providing a fish congregator and the area has become an excellent spot for perch and some pan fish. However, many pleasure boaters use the sandbar between Channel Lake & Lake Catherine as a make shift beach when the weather warms up, making the pan fishing season very short. This lake has a reputation for being one of the best areas for ice fishing in northeastern Illinois. Channel Lake is at the far north of the Chain. Access is available off Rte. 173 in Antioch. Direct access is available through 8 boat marinas and resorts.
Surface area = 1360 acres, Maximum depth – 6.0 feet
Shoreline Length = 8.5 miles and 2.8 miles of channels
Grass Lake serves as a corridor for pleasure boaters, but is popular with fishermen because the boaters are confined to a center area across the lake. Thus, the fishermen have the shoreline to themselves. An extremely shallow lake, with a maximum depth of 5.5 feet, Grass Lake is an important spawning area for northern pike and Muskie, but not the best place to catch either. Catfish are the only species caught in abundance, with a few largemouth bass. As with Nippersink Lake, it has an abundance of Egyptian Lotus, that grows uniquely in the Chain. It borders Chain-O-Lakes State Park, where boats may be rented. It is also a popular duck hunting spot in the winter. The only free public access area on the Chain is at Chain-O-Lakes State Park on Grass Lake. Boating access can be obtained through fee resorts and marinas.
Surface area = 480 acres: Maximum depth 35.0 feet
Shoreline Length = 6.0 miles plus 3.1 miles of channels.
- Lake Marie is considered by many to be the best fishing lake in the Chain.
- It has the greatest variety of bottom of all the lakes including rock, gravel, mud and sand. The diversity serves as a spawning ground for over 30 varieties of fish.
- Lake Marie holds the: honor of being the lake in which the state’s record holding northern pike-22 lbs 12 oz was caught. Even so, the lake holds the
- unusual distinction of offering a good habitat for walleye as well.
- Walleye ranging up to 10 lbs have been caught.
- Sequoit Creek, on the northeastern shore is an excellent spawning ground for northern pike and fishermen have long had success working in that area.
- A bar in the center of the lake offers excellent striper fishing; many say the best in the Chain. It is also a good spot for walleye.
- Lake Marie is also the release site of many of the fishing derbies. Most fish are released from the island in the no-wake area on the lake’s northwest corner.
- A Muskie stocking program begun in 1984, has been continued each year by the Northern Illinois Conservation Club (NICC) and the Chain O’Lakes Waterway Management Agency.
- Lake Marie is located in Antioch off Rte. 173.
- Direct public boating access is available via one marina and five resorts.
- Bank fishing is available via two resorts.
Surface Area = 86.0 acres. Maximum Depth 31.0 Feet
Shoreline length= 1.6 miles plus 1.3 miles of channels.
This is the smallest of the principal lakes in the group, referred to collectively as the Fox Chain. It is linked by channel with Lake Marie to the north and Petite Lake to the south. It is accessible by boat from either Lake Marie or Petite Lake. Bluff Lake offers several blessings for fishermen. It
is too small to attract many pleasure boaters. When they are seen, it is usually en route to one of the larger lakes of the Chain. It’s gravel bottom is a haven for white bass some large mouth bass and pan fish. Many stripers inhabit Bluff Lake and the average catch is about 7 inches. Night fishing on Bluff Lake is particularly popular and effective. Most fishermen hang lanterns from the side of the boats to attract minnows at night. The mouth of the channel leading into Lake Marie on the northwest side of Bluff Lake, is well known for it’s proliferance of bluegill and crappie. The fish sometimes are not easily coaxed in-to taking the hook. Successful fishermen recommend a light line and tackle for best results. The best think about Bluff Lake for fishermen is that they have it to themselves, more than any other lake on the Chain.
Surface Area = 155 acres Maximum Depth = 45.0 feet
Shoreline Length – 2.0 miles, also 0.7 miles of channels
Fox River dam at McHenry built in 1939 gave this glacial lake its present depth. The northernmost lake in the Chain, Lake Catherine is perhaps the favorite of bass fisherman. It is the cleanest lake and thus it is important for fishermen to use clear light line for best results. Trevor Creek, which feeds into the lake on it’s northeastern shore helps to keep the lake clean and is an excellent fishing spot. Also keeping the lake clean is the fact that it’s two-plus miles of shoreline are almost entirely developed, allowing very little silt to gather. The bottom drops off precipitously near the sandbar separating Lake Catherine from Channel Lake, making it a particularly good spot to fish.
Lake Catherine is accessible off Rte. 173 in Antioch. The lake’s shoreline is almost 100% subdivided so shoreline fishing is restricted to a single resort area.
Surface Area – 2,120.0 acres: Maximum Depth 22.0 feet
Shoreline Length -.12.2 miles plus 12.7 miles of channels
The present water level was established construction of the McHenry Dam in 1939. This lake is located on the Fox Chain. Since Nippersink Lake is in reality, just a bay of Fox Lake, the two lakes will be considered as one in this article. Nippersink Lake is very shallow with a mud bottom, it is not a good spot for fishing. It is used by pleasure boaters mainly as a corridor between other lakes in the chain.
Nippersink and Grass Lakes have the greatest profusion of the rare Egyptian Lotus, which thrives in the Chain but can’t seem to take hold much of anywhere else in the world. Some fishermen try their luck in the lotus beds, but most agree that their time is best spent elsewhere.
Fox Lake is the anchor of the Chain. It is the busiest of the lakes and along with Pistakee Lake, the most popular with pleasure boaters. This is one of the lakes that people flock to for skiing and power boating.
Fishing is almost always poor because of the abundant proliferation of waves. However, it has decreased since the Waterway Agency has instituted tighter speed limits and night and added no wake areas. Still the only time
successful fishing can be had is at night. Fishermen who work it report that Fox Lake is a good producer of walleye, white bass and perch. Among the best spots to fish are near the Mineola Hotel and between Lippincott Point and Crabapple Island. The shoreline in front of the Mineola Hotel and Crabapple Island is quite rocky and harbors numerous walleye. Large mouth bass are found throughout the lake.
Most of the shoreline around Fox Lake is developed with night spots and marinas. It offers little in the way of shoreline habitat, Indian Point is sometimes fished for walleye, pike and bass, but Fox Lake is primarily a haven for skiing, power boating, sailing and even some wind surfing. Most
fishermen prefer to leave it to the recreational pleasure seekers and work the quieter, more consistently productive areas. Boating access can be obtained through eleven fee resorts and marinas while bank fishing access is available from six resort areas.
Surface Area: 167.0 acres: Maximum Depth = 22.0 feet
Shoreline Length = .2.0 miles: plus 2.1 miles of channels
- Petite Lake has a sunken car in the middle to act as a fish congregator.
- It is almost superfluous as Petite Lake: has some of the best fish holding structure in the Chain. It sports more walleye and catfish than any other
- Species, though muskies which were planted were expected to reach legal size last year. The muskies were planted near the no-wake spot on the lake’s south shore. Though catfish and walleye abound, other species including perch, striper, crappie, northern pike and large mouth bass can be caught in abundance on a good day. The best spot for walleye and northern pike reportedly are the north and far southeast shorelines. For good fishing it is best to fish during the early morning and late evening as the lake is popular with pleasure boaters during the day. Many boaters swim and ski on the lake.
- The channel between Bluff and Petite Lakes is fed by a spring. It attracts many bass and bluegill. Some fishermen report the channel on the west side of Spring Lake, a small no-wake lake, can often be a good quiet spot to fish
- Petite: Lake can be reached off Rte.59, just northeast of Lake Villa.
- Boating access is available via one of resort while bank fishing access may be obtained from 3 resorts.
Surface Area = 1700.0 acres Maximum Depth = 31.0 Feet
Shoreline Length = 11.8 miles, plus 3.5 miles of Channels.
Constructed: Natural glacial Lake impounded in 1939 by McHenry Dam of Fox River. Pistakee Lake is probably used by more types of enthusiasts than any of the other lakes on the Chain. It is a hot spot for windsurfers, sailboats, water skiers, power boats and every other variety of boating enthusiasts. In spite of all this activity it remains popular with bass fishermen. It has a variety of bottoms and is loaded with weed beds and other good habitats for fish. Perhaps the best spot to fish is in the no-wake area at the base of Meyers Bay. Pistakee is surrounded by many of the smaller lakes such as Redhead, Lake Matthews & Jerilyn. These are all no-wake and access is available for those with small boats. Located just west of downtown Fox Lake on Rte.12 Boating access is available through 10 resorts and bank fishing through 2 resort areas.