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Illinois Boating and Fishing License Information
We are not responsible for errors or omissions.
When boating, regardless of water depth, wear a PFD!

Fishing Licenses

Illinois Fishing Licenses can be purchased online at General information is available at the Illinois DNR fishing page.

Note: Trout fishing requires a license AND an Inland Trout Stamp. Likewise, salmon fishing on Lake Michigan requires a Lake Michigan Salmon Stamp in addition to a regular fishing license.

If you spot a someone illegally taking Illinois Fish, Game, or other Wildlife, report them as soon as possible to the IDNR either by calling the IDNR at 1-877-236-7529 or by filling out the form at

Note: IDNR recently was successful in convicting mussel poachers on the Rock River. In addition to being imprisioned, they were fined the largest amount ever for poaching!

Boat Licenses and Taxes

Note: Some of the sales tax info may have changed. indicates that canoes and kayaks may not be subject to the RUT taxes. We are trying to verify this information. Our Super Snark sailboat (purchased in 2008) was not taxed but our Discovery 119k was (purchased in the 90's).

To register a boat in Illinois, you'll need a watercraft registration form and one of several types of sales tax form. The basic idea is to mail these forms (along with a check or two) to the the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

See the Illinois DNR site for watercraft information and a online version of the watercraft registration form. (Instructions)

If you bought the boat from an Illinois dealer, you should have received sales tax form ST-556. Otherwise, the Illinois Department of Revenue is not too helpful in supplying form RUT-25 or RUT-50 online, saying "Forms RUT-25 and RUT-50 for vehicle use tax are multi-part (carbon) forms and cannot be faxed or downloaded", but adding "you can request copies to be mailed to you by calling the Illinois Department of Revenue's 24-hour Forms Order Hotline at 1-800-356-6302". (Too hard to do that online, I guess.) As described below, Secretary of State offices are an alternate source of these forms.

Based on experience, here are the procedures to actually register your boat, depending on where you bought the boat.

Human powered boats do not need registration numerals near the bow.

Note: I once gave an older canoe to my brother for free. It took over a week to pin down what forms we needed to avoid a ticket. We still had to file the RUT-50 form and pay $8 for a family transfer (the least expensive tax option).

If you purchase a boat out of state and do not register it right away, the Illinois Department of Revenue will charge a fine plus interest on the amount you owe when you get around to registering. Register on time to avoid extra fines and interest.

Depending on how large you boat is, you may also need to register with the U.S. Coast Guard. As far as we know, the Coast Guard is not currently concerned with canoes, kayaks, and rowboats.

Submarines and nuclear-powered vessels may require additional forms and taxes.

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