Are you a passionate angler looking for a thrilling fishing experience? Look no further than the Rock River! Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Wisconsin and flowing all the way to the Mississippi River at the Quad Cities in Illinois and Iowa, the Rock River offers an incredible fishing adventure that you won’t want to miss.
An Unforgettable Location
The Rock River spans a whopping 325 miles, beginning just west of the village of Brandon in Metomen Township, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. As it winds its way southward, it passes through several major cities in Illinois, including Rockford, Dixon, Sterling/Rock Falls, and Rock Island. With its rich and diverse ecosystem, the river boasts a drainage area of 10,280 square miles, with half of it located in Illinois.
A River of Diversity
As one of the main tributaries to the mighty Mississippi River, the Rock River provides an awe-inspiring fishery that will captivate anglers of all levels of expertise. With its fast and turbulent waters, thanks to the various low-head dams along its course, this river is a treasure trove for avid fishermen.
Picture this: you’re casting your line into the crystal-clear waters of the Rock River, surrounded by the stunning scenery of towns like Rockford, Oregon, Dixon, Sterling, and Rock Island. The river’s depths range from an average of 15 feet in the main channel to an astonishing 50 feet between Dixon and Sterling. Beneath the water’s surface, you’ll encounter a mix of bedrock, gravel areas, and even pockets of mud or silt.
Where should you cast your line for an unforgettable fishing experience? Let’s explore some of the prime spots that anglers swear by.
Rockton and Rockford Dams
Starting from its departure point in Wisconsin and heading towards the mouth of the Kishwaukee River, the Rock River presents an abundance of fishing opportunities. The dams at Rockton and Rockford, along with the nearby tributary streams such as the Pecatonica River and Willow Creek, are ideal locations to reel in some impressive catches. Traveling anglers will appreciate the conveniently located ramps at the Forest Preserve in Rockton, Harlem Road south of North Park, and Blackhawk Park south of Rockford.
Dixon and Oregon
Moving south, the Rock River continues to offer excellent fishing spots. The pools where the Leaf River joins the Rock River south of Byron are particularly promising. Additionally, both the water above Oregon and the dam itself are known to be fruitful locations. Ramps can be found at Byron and Lowden State Park at Oregon, where camping facilities with electrical hookups are also available. Other ramps are located at Lowell Park, Page Park in Dixon, and Oppold Marina north of Sterling.
Sterling and Beyond
As you venture further downstream, you’ll encounter the charming towns of Sterling and Rock Falls. Here, ramps are conveniently located in these towns, making it easy for you to launch your boat and embark on an unforgettable fishing expedition. Further downstream, a roadside park along Route 2 and Prophetstown State Park offer additional options for anglers to access the river and try their luck. Camping facilities with electrical hookups are available at Prophetstown State Park, providing the perfect opportunity for a multi-day fishing getaway. The Erie Boat Club is yet another accessible location to launch your boat and explore the fishing possibilities.
Exploring the Farmlands
South of Erie, the Rock River meanders through low farmlands, giving anglers the chance to explore its lesser-known nooks. As you journey further, the Green River enters below Green Rock, and this is where the fishing action really heats up. The stream’s flow is punctuated by small islands, creating enticing spots for fish to gather.
A Thriving Fishery
The Rock River is home to a variety of species that will put your angling skills to the test. Bluegill can be found throughout the river, with hotspot locations including Rockton, below the dam in Rockford, and Moline. While most of these fish measure less than five inches, you might come across a few larger specimens ranging from six to seven inches. The dams in Rockford and Dixon, as well as the Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve, have proven to be the best spots to catch these feisty bluegills.
Walleye, crappie, and northern pike are also present in the Rock River, although they tend to be less abundant. State-record walleye have been caught near Rockton on multiple occasions, as well as in the mouth of the Pecatonica River. To ensure the sustainability of the walleye population, they are not typically collected during daytime electrofishing surveys and are usually sampled after dark. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources conducts walleye surveys every other year, providing valuable insights into the fishery.
Protecting Indigenous Species
In our quest to preserve the delicate balance of nature, it’s essential to be mindful of threatened and endangered species that call the Rock River home. During a recent survey, three threatened species—the Gravel Chub, Banded Killifish, and River Redhorse—were found in the main-stem of the Rock River. Additionally, the Weed Shiner, an endangered species, was also discovered. These discoveries demonstrate the importance of maintaining the river’s ecosystem and protecting these vulnerable species.
Get Ready for an Epic Fishing Adventure!
Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner looking to cast your first line, the Rock River offers an incredible fishing experience that will leave you hooked. From the breathtaking landscapes to the diverse fishery, every moment spent on the Rock River is an opportunity to create lifetime memories.
So, pack your fishing gear, grab your boat, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey along the Rock River. But before you go, make sure to visit East Coast Paddle Sports for all your fishing equipment needs. Happy fishing!