Mick Thill Passes Away – Chicago Mentor

Mick Thill – He’s Our Teacher

Mick Thill, a huge influencer of local, regional and national fishing from the 1980’s until modern time has passed away, and will be sorely missed. Angling Hall of Famer, Mick Thill died in November 2018 in London, but will be missed here in Chicago where he called home. We were contributors to a recent Midwest Outdoors tribute article and will also do a tribute of our own coming up with the biggest Mick Thill photo gallery. I was honored to fish with Mick Thill in 2 of my 3 World Championships of fishing, traveling to Canada, China, Belgium, Portugal and fishing with Mick Thill as the Captain of Team U.S.A. This is the highest level fishing competition in the world. Here is the article which you can find in the February 2019 issue of Midwest Outdoors:


Chicago Fishing School – Mick Thill Tribute

Mick Thill was born in Skokie and traveled all over the United States teaching, no – preaching float fishing and trying to improve every single person’s fishing in the United States and even up in Canada. Mick Thill was voted into the Fishing Hall of Fame despite some influencers in the industry being either jealous, or put off by his teachings. While a few in the industry copied and even stole his fishing methods for their own, many dismissed him as a “European” or foreigner.

Compleat Angler - Mick Thill Favorite Book
Mick Thill’s favorite book recommendation – The Compleat Angler is considered #3 behind the Bible and Shakespeare. It is one of the most reprinted English books in the World. Photo from the Smithsonian.

European Prejudice or American Racism?

The prejudice against his different nature, accent, confidence were combined with the racist views against the fish he caught and the style of fishing were used against him (and float fishing). Bobber fishing in the U.S. has been put down for generations as being lower class. Lesser fishing – it has been written even in the late 1600’s as being views as a lower class pursuit. One of Mick’s favorite teachings was the The Compleat Angler written by Sir Isaac Walton. Another prejudice against Mick is that he was “smarter” than the average trade show speaker and many guides in terms of fishing. He COULD truly fish circles around them and would often challenge people that he would bet his truck – a float-filled limited edition Eddie Bauer – against anyone’s $10,000 that he could out fish you. Sadly, no one took the bait. We would have loved to see it.  Even in the 1680’s prejudice against fishing with live bait under a float was mainstream. Mick usually liked swimming against the current, and even fishing against it.

Racist Hate for Carp & Catfish

Racism in America is alive and well, and Mick took the lumps for it. He is a foreigner, trying to teach us to “N•gger fish” – people might say out loud or may think it subconsciously. I am positive Mick heard it. If they didn’t think the term, they at least had evil thoughts about this beastly-strong and careful-feeding fish.

Mick loved every fish that swims. He would use the common German imported carp to teach people to setup, hook and play large fish. This fish is the most readily available species in North America (stocked in the U.S. across country in the late 1880’s as a game fish and food – but mostly for Blacks, Chinese & Irish poor). This fish was available since it was stocked by the U.S. Fish & Game Commission for ANYONE to fish for who did NOT possess a new annual license privilege. While I don’t argue for White privilege – the carp to this day holds hatred, misinformation and is viewed as lower class here in the United States – while Mick Thill was upper class in fishing.

Carp and Any Fish Where His Favorite

Since he loved fish, loved carp, catfish – people passed some hatred and bias onto Mick and his teachings. While some were smart enough to realize what he taught was worth stealing and putting in their own classes (copying and plagiarizing directly from his seminars) – Mick told me who you are… , some didn’t approve of Mick because of this crazy fish hatred. The proof can be seen in the Hall of Fame entries that preceded him, it took years to get Mick Thill in the Hall of Fame.

Our own note- if it swims, is a challenge to catch, will bend your hook straight, bust your line and burn out a reel – not to mention, tear your arms off – isn’t that a good fish?

While Mick worked very hard forming local clubs, traveling to Boyscout events, meeting with DNR, working trade shows and even rubbing elbows with celebrities – he was all the time making converts. Getting fish on the hooks for others, it was easy for Mick. Most people fish with crap. Mick would provide hand-made floats from his workbench. Mick would set up perfectly-balanced live bait rigs and put them in the hands of his students. We draw much of our Chicago Fishing School passion and method from his teachings. Get fish on the line of people and they will be inspired to float fish. Mick was tireless in giving seminars, demonstrations and taking people out to convert them.

Mick Thill Creates USA Match Fishing

Give Mick Thill someone who wanted to fish – and he can turn them into a competitor who would destroy and out-catch all those around that person. Mick Thill put together local match competition clubs, he put together international fishing teams and many times used regular to below-average fishermen (and women) to do the job. He formed Chicago’s oldest match league – the Marquette Bank Anglers with help and also the oldest area suburban match league Chicagoland Bank Anglers.

Mick’s teaching greatness could be seen by the teams he assembled, even on short notice. One year, a local bank competition club he formed, tried a mutiny. In this club were members of the USA Fishing Team – several of whom Mick had recruited and taught tried to form a secret uprising. They also were jealous and resentful of Mick’s fishing or behavior.

Mick Crushes the Coup

6 of them tried to do a secret boycott of a USA vs. Canada, trying to embarrass Mick by dropping out at the last minute after committing to fish. The plan failed as word got to Mick. The match with Canada was going to take place early in April. Mick got to work in March and with one month, he single-handedly recruited and trained 6 new match anglers – including myself to secretly crush the coup. He trained these adults and even a couple of teenagers to use 42-foot poles, had us practice in local events, and scrapped together gear for us to compete against Canada. Mick’s teaching, dedication and time resulted in a USA win using 6, brand-new month-old fishers on the 42-foot pole. We crushed Canada and the local match scene was also then fractured. We had 8 of the top 10 finishers out of a possible 10 – only two Canadians fished better than our best 8. We nearly had

Chicago Match Fishing Casualty

While local match fishing tapered off – Mick was no longer recruiting and bringing anglers into this group. The match group dropped in numbers and events eventually dropped to 3 people and small groups. When I had joined this group, it numbered in the 90’s for members and featured events with over 50 competitors.  We had 57 compete in the U.S. Open the year I had the lead on the field with the biggest weight on day one (using one of Mick’s poles he had sold me) only to have my teacher come from behind to win the overall. I had to settle for a second place over all – Mick was a champion. One of the best people at catching all fish everywhere – he was a champion at getting people energized in the sport of fishing.

More Mick Thill to Come

Chicago Fishing School has a large library of photos we unearthed and will feature in a permanent Mick Thill museum page on our sister site: Live Bait Tackle.com  This site was formed to bring you the most complete float and bobber fishing site in North America and to keep Mick’s efforts alive in promoting the sport of float fishing. We are also creating a museum that will support the sport and hopefully reinforce the concepts of good float fishing for years to come.

Rest in Peace Mick Thill

– we hope you were able to use the last of your bait and that it was a last great day of fishing for you before you left us. We would like to think you are waiting to draw a peg up in Heaven for the next match competition – Chicago Fishing School

Chicago Area Trout Season

Chicago Area Trout Stocking
Chicago Area Trout Season is here.  Fall trout fishing starts next month in Illinois and the state is stocking about 80,000 rainbow trout to prepare for the season.
You can improve your chances by taking a trout fishing class to catch more trout. This specialized fishing class will tell you how to attract the stocked trout and how to detect their fine bite. Our rig we teach you is THE BEST way to catch trout during the Chicago area trout stocking. Catch when the fishing is tough!

Chicago Area Trout Season Rules!

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the season starts Saturday, Oct. 21, at 54 ponds, lakes and streams statewide. For Chicago area trout season, there are about 8 fishing sites within a short drive of the city limits and suburbs. The department warns that any anglers who take trout from stocked areas before 5 a.m. on the day the season opens will be issued citations. Anglers who take more than 5 trout within get Chicago area trout season lakes, will be watched, ticketed and fined. Fines can go higher than $125 per fish so having a license and trout stamp is important to save you a lot of money.
Chicago Area Trout Season Draws a Crowd
Fishing during the Chicago Area Trout Season  can be crowded- but fun.


Anglers need a valid fishing license and an inland trout stamp to participate unless they are under age 16, blind, disabled or on active-duty leave from the military.

The daily catch limit for each angler is five trout. Anglers may Not catch fish and transfer to car to catch more – you are being watched at sites by Forest Preserve Police. 5 per DAY. Follow the rules if you are fishing anywhere near Chicago because the Forest Preserve and County officers will be concentrated on these few locations. The Fall & Spring Chicago Area Trout Seasons are the highest ticketed weeks of the year. Break the rules – you will pay on these days more than anytime during the year.

Chicago Area Trout Season – Fall 2017

Get your resident or non-resident fishing licenses and your inland trout fishing stamp at the Illinois DNR Online License Site

Separately, the state is holding a fall catch-and-release trout fly-fishing season at nine sites on Oct. 7. No trout may be kept that day.

Illinois Fall Trout Fishing Season

CHICAGO, IL – The 2017 Illinois Trout Fishing Fall Season will open on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 54 ponds, lakes, and streams throughout the state. Trout are stocked around the Chicago area and Northern Illinois for catch-and-take fishing. The trout can not live long-term in most of these waters- they are just there for sport and food to offer more catchable fish twice each year.

The Fall Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing-Only Season Opens October 7 at nine sites. Two weeks prior to the fall trout opener, the Fall Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing Season will open at nine sites (locations marked with an asterisk (*) in the list below) on Saturday, Oct. 7.  Fly fishing anglers can use fly fishing gear to catch and release trout beginning Oct. 7 at those nine sites. No trout may be kept during the fly fishing period, but anglers can keep trout after the opening of the regular fall trout season beginning Oct. 21.

The Illinois catchable trout program is funded by those who use the program through the sale of Inland Trout Stamps. For the fall season, the IDNR stocks approximately 80,000 rainbow trout into bodies of water where trout fishing is permitted.

No trout may be taken from any of the stocked sites from Oct. 1 until the fall trout season opens at 5:00 a.m. on Oct.21 (not all sites are open at 5:00 a.m. on opening day). Anyone attempting to take (harvest) trout before the legal harvest season opening will be issued citations.

All anglers – including those using fly fishing gear who intend to release fish caught before Oct. 21 – must have a valid fishing license and an Inland Trout Stamp, unless they are under the age of 16, blind or disabled, or are an Illinois resident on leave from active duty in the Armed Forces. The daily catch limit for each angler is five trout.

Illinois fishing licenses and Inland Trout Stamps are available at DNR Direct license and permit locations, including many bait shops, sporting goods stores and other retail outlets. For a location near you, check the IDNR website at this link:
Illinois Fishing License and Trout Fishing Stamp Purchase Online

Fishing licenses and trout stamps can also be purchased by using a credit card through DNR Direct online via the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov, or by calling DNR Direct toll-free at 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648).

Want Trout Fishing Bobbers & Floats? Best trout-catching floats can be found on this fishing tackle site.

Chicago Fishing School will be featuring a trout fishing class – details coming soon! The trout fishing classes will be end of September, beginning of October, right before the trout fishing season. Learn how to limit out on stocked trout.

We will be adding a tips article to help you catch more trout and enjoy your Illinois Trout Fishing a whole lot more. These fish have a very subtle bite and Chicago Fishing School can show you the best trout-catching rig (beats PowerBait rigs on a regular basis!). Destroys lures, PowerBait on tough bite days and usually limits out on first three weeks of trout fishing season!

NOTE: Not all fall Illinois trout fishing sites open at 5:00 a.m. on opening day. Anglers are reminded to check the opening time of their favorite trout fishing location prior to the season. For more information about all site regulations, anglers should contact individual sites that will be stocked with catchable-size trout.

The 54 Illinois Trout Fishing locations that will be open for Fall Trout Fishing Season are listed below.

2017 Illinois Fall Trout Fishing Locations

(*) Denotes Sites Open for Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing Early Season

Illinois Trout Fishing Chicago Area Trout

Illinois Trout FishingChicago Area and Northern Locations:

Bureau County: Hennepin Canal Parkway
Cook County: Axehead Lake, Cook County Forest Preserve District
Cook County: Belleau Lake, Cook County Forest Preserve District
Cook County: Busse Woods North, Cook County Forest Preserve District
Cook County: Green Lake, Cook County Forest Preserve District
Cook County: Sag Quarry East, Cook County Forest Preserve District
Cook County: Wolf Lake, Wm. Powers Conservation Area
DuPage County: Silver Lake, DuPage County Forest preserve District
Jo Daviess County: Apple River, Apple River State Park (*)
Kankakee County: Bird Park Quarry, Kankakee
Kankakee County: Rock Creek, Kankakee River State Park (*)
Kendall County: Big Lake at Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area
Lake County: Banana Lake, Lake County Forest Preserve District
Lake County: Sand Lake, Illinois Beach State Park
LaSalle County: Illinois and Michigan Canal, Lock 14
McHenry County: Spring Grove Hatchery Pond
Ogle County: Pine Creek, White Pines Forest State Park (*)
Rock Island County: Prospect Park
Warren County: Citizen’s Lake
Whiteside County: Centennial Park Pond, Rock Falls
Will County: Lake Strini
Will County: Van Horn Woods

Central Illinois Trout Fishing Locations

Adams County: Siloam Springs State Park Lake (*)
Cass County: Gridley Lake at Jim Edgar Panther Creek SFWA (*)
Christian County: Manners Park Pond, Taylorville Park District
Coles County: Eastern Illinois University Campus Pond, Charleston
Douglas County: Villa Grove West Lake
Hancock County: Horton Lake, Nauvoo State Park (*)
Macon County: Rock Springs Pond
Macoupin County: Beaver Dam Lake
McDonough County: Argyle Lake
Morgan County: Morgan Lake, Nichols Park, Jacksonville (*)
Sangamon County: IDOT Lake, Springfield (*)
Sangamon County: Southwind Park Pond, Springfield
Sangamon County: Washington Park Pond, Springfield
Shelby County: Forest Park Lagoon, Shelbyville
Tazewell County: Mineral Springs Park Lagoon
Vermilion County: Clear Lake, Kickapoo State Recreation Area

Southern Illinois Trout Fishing Locations

Bond County: Greenville Old City Lake
Crawford County: Crawford County Conservation Area Pond #6
Jefferson County: Mount Vernon Game Farm Pond
Johnson County: Ferne Clyffe State Park Lake
Madison County: Highland Old City Lake
Marion County: Boston Pond, Stephen A. Forbes State Park
Massac County: Fairgrounds Pond, Fort Massac State Park, Metropolis
Randolph County: Derby Lake, World Shooting and Recreational Complex, Sparta
Randolph County: Randolph County Lake
Saline County: Jones State Lake Pond
St. Clair County: Frank Holten State Recreation Area main lake
St. Clair County: Jones Park Lake, East St. Louis
St. Clair County: Willow Lake, Peabody River King State Fish and Wildlife Area (*)
Wabash County: Beall Woods Lake, Beall Woods State Park
Wayne County: Sam Dale State Fish and Wildlife Area Trout Pond
Williamson County:  Devil’s Kitchen Lake

Next Fishing Classes January 6th

Fishing Classes – JANUARY & FEBRUARY

Take our fishing classes – and see just how many and how much bigger fish you can catch! You would be shocked at how you can improve your fishing. Fishing class that we offer is built for all levels of fisher. Beginner to expert fisher, you will learn so much and improve your fishing – no matter your experience. Ages 6 and up can take a fishing class with the Chicago Fishing School and our expert instructors.

Next Chicago Area fishing classes – SATURDAY – JANUARY 6th.
Registration is open and can you register here using PayPal, Visa, MasterCard or American Express.


The class all about fishing the October + April inland trout stocking seasons.

Register for Chicago Fishing School classes here:

Classes will be taught by U.S.A. Fishing Team member Johnny Wilkins. Our 3-class series F1 – F3 is for all levels! The system you will learn is easy for anyone to learn and will help you catch so many more fish. Enjoy the sport, spend less money and fish close to home. You will also enjoy your vacation fishing so much more! We teach inexpensive, easy-to use system that fish can’t ignore. Say goodbye to piles and piles of equipment you don’t use and save a lot of money. Discover great fishing with this system all around Chicago.

Mark your calendars, Save the Dates (bold classes – register now)

F1 Fishing Classes – January. 6th (1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.) ( Lee’s Bait & Tackle)
F2 Fishing Classes – January 6th (4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.) ( Lee’s Bait & Tackle)
F1 Fishing Classes – February. 4th (9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.) ( Lee’s Bait & Tackle)
F3 Fishing Class – February. 4th (11:30 am. – 1:00 p.m.)(Elk Gr ove)

Registration Opens Soon for Spring Classes:
• Trout Fishing Class
• Bass Class
• Muskie Pike Class
• Monster Fish Class – Carps & Cats
• Panfish Bluegills, Crappie & Perch

Directions to F3 Fishing Class: (will change for Winter)
42.016869,-88.018333 are the GPS coordinates…
South Pool of Busse Woods – 1st parking spaces when you see the water) The entrance is of the road right by Alexian Brothers Hospital – Beisner Road Entrance off of Biesterfield – take Beisner road to first entrance on left – take that to first parking spaces on left. Water and class is on your left.

Your Instructor is World Class 
3-Time U.S. Open Fishing Medalist, 3-Time World Championships (Team U.S.A.) competition specialist. Johnny will use his experience from traveling the World and competing in bank fishing competitions to help you jump-start your fish catching. Not just your fishing, but he will immediately put you on catching – something books, videos, tackle stores & “Pros” neglect to do. They do a great job of making you buy lures – Johnny will help you gear up with fish-catching equipment (NOT LURES).

The fishing experience learned in 10 years of fishing highest level competitions will help your shore and boat fishing – no matter your level of experience.  He teaches you how to get simple, inexpensive gear and how to out-catch others with many more years of experience.

Our fishing class series is built to make sure that you can catch fish on your own and build your own fishing equipment. If you take a fishing class with us at our Lee’s Bait & Tackle location – you can hang around some classes after and we will help you pick out items you need. You will also save 10% off your fishing equipment purchase with any fishing class.

We hold our fishing class series indoors for a good portion of the lessons so that everyone can focus on learning to catch fish. Outdoors we have a lot of distractions and – if we were to fish, the fish themselves would be a distraction. Just trying to focus on the gear while catching would be too much.

Fishing Classes – We’ve Taught for Over 10 Years

After over 10 years of teaching classes we have the best fishing class you can buy at a massive value. Not only are the classes inexpensive, but knowing what equipment to buy and how to set up your gear to catch- and have a ton of fun. Within each fishing class, you will learn the knots you need, the line you should use and the best gear you can buy (and best bargains). By getting expert advice, you will eliminate purchasing piles of fishing equipment that you might not use or that won’t catch.

Fishing stores are filled with equipment that might work nationally – but doesn’t help you here – or on tougher fishing waters. The waters of Chicago are more challenging and require gear to match the conditions. By simply selecting the gear to match local fish – you will open up local waters to your brand new fishing adventures. Our waters ARE filled with lots of fish and also big fish. Unfortunately – our fish don’t match what you might see on tv or on YouTube. Using the experience of the school’s founder – Johnny Wilkins and his competition fishing internationally – you go from new to successful.  Immediately start catching more and larger fish.

Students Love our Fishing Classes Series

Our students consistently send us photos of their catches and even have big catches on their first time out. Our fishing classes have been modified to make certain that our excellent fish-catching system is fully understood from top to bottom. The confidence you leave with from our fishing class – will also help you to score fish.

Our local ponds and lakes are empty most weekends, because many don’t know how to fish or what gear to use. You won’t need a boat – you can catch a lot from shore! You will need a camera, and a camera helper – or someone to shoot the pics. The downside of our fishing class is that your hands will be busy – handling fish!! See you at the next fishing class.

Winter Fishing Class

Did you miss out last season or want to get an early jump on the 2017 fishing season? The Chicago Fishing School will be offering winter fishing classes to get you set to catch this Spring! Classes start in March and are mostly held indoors where we can learn in warm conditions. Our class takes place in Elk Grove Village.  To get in on these classes – call 630.235.2162.

You will learn:

  • Catching More Fish
  • Catching Larger Fish
  • Fishing Setups (Rigs)
  • Fishing Tackle (Note – we offer a free tackle shopping session and fishing tackle discount!).
  • Casting
  • Speedfishing
  • PowerFishing
  • What NOT to buy. (Taking this class will save you $100s of dollars and tons of lost time).
  • Learn why you are not catching fish
  • Inexpensive and awesome fishing gear (None of our equipment is expensive or cost-prohibitive!).

Ice Fishing?

If you are interested in trying ice fishing – you can book a session on the ice. All gear is supplied (except for warm boots). We’ll drill the holes, show up with gear and even a warm place to fish! Shelter provided along with great fishing gear (pro ice fishing rods) and all the excitement of pulling fish through a hole in the ice.

We have select ultra-safe lakes and only go when conditions are completely safe for us as a group.

Our warm hut even comes with a floor to keep your feet warm. We will fish in a 55 degree environment on most days. Groups up to 3 can book a trip with us. Larger groups can participate but will need to share the warming house and fish outside. Call 630.235.2162 to book an ice fishing trip around the Chicago suburbs.