For anglers in the know, the silver run is on. Tens of thousands of tightly schooled white (or silver) bass are forging through Illinois waters in their annual spawning ritual. Unlike some of the salmonids, the white bass has a voracious appetite and will strike beetle spins, streamers, small crankbaits and Shysters. Live bait is also productive, with night crawlers and minnows topping the list.

The white bass begins spawning in May or early June when the water temperature is around 61 degrees F. Females deposit as many as 500,000 eggs over rocks, sand and gravel bars near shore, rather than in a nest like bluegills or largemouth bass. White bass in large lakes often move upstream to spawn in shallow moving water. The fish mature in their second or third year to a length of 10-12 inches.

Following the warm rains of late April, the fish go on a feeding frenzy lasting into June. White bass become more active as the water temperature rises above 50 F. Once the water is above 58 degrees, the fish move out of staging areas and into spawning areas. Rivers and streams feeding into reservoirs are a top location. When the run is right, I have witnessed 100-fish days using a weighted white streamer on a weight forward line on a 4-weight fly rod.

Top locations to target for white bass include larger rivers, their backwaters, and adjoining bottomland lakes and major tributaries. They are also found in some natural lakes in northeastern Illinois. White bass, while not as widely distributed throughout the state as the yellow bass, are also commonly found in the Great Lakes.

My friend Don Gasaway, who is also an outdoor enthusiast and writer, reported in an article for Midwest Outdoor magazine that, “Carlyle Lake offers some of the best white bass fishing in terms of quantity and quality. The fish average 2-3 pounds in size, and there are good quantities available. Located on the Kaskaskia River near Carlyle, the lake is 50 miles due east of St. Louis in Fayette, Bond and Clinton counties. It is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir containing some 26,000 acres of water. White bass are scattered throughout it.”

The Illinois River used to be a hotbed for white bass fishing, but it changed several years ago with the invasion of the filter-feeding Asian carp. The carp sweep up all the microscopic forage needed by young white bass, leaving little food for the newly hatched fish.

There are no daily harvest or minimum size limits for striped bass (ocean rockfish), white bass, yellow bass and their hybrids, which are less than 17 inches in total length, except in waters listed under site-specific regulations. For fish 17 inches in total length or longer, the daily limit is three fish, either singly or in the aggregate, except in the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri, where there is a 30-fish daily harvest limit for all striped, white, yellow or hybrid striped bass. In the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa, there is a 25-fish daily harvest limit.

The 2023 Illinois Fishing Digest is available and can be downloaded at It is also available in many local gas stations and bait shops. You will find updated sport fishing regulations for your favorite spots, pictures of common Illinois sportfish, places to fish and amenities offered, current state record fish and more.

In select locations across the state, there will be good white bass fishing until June. My advice is to drop by the local bait and tackle shop and ask for directions to the nearest “silver run.” Oh, and by the way, white bass are delicious.

To learn more about fishing in Illinois and to update your fishing license, go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Fisheries website at