There's collecting around here. It's not like collecting in MO, AL, etc., but it's still fun. In the local creeks and rivers there are a variety of natives, big and small, and if you drive just a little bit west you can get into some pretty good diversity, with several darter species and lots of other fishes. If you go through my album in the gallery, you'll notice fish from Cook, Will, Kendall, Kane, Grundy and other northeast IL counties. http://gallery.nanfa.org/v/members/Olaf/ Uland Thomas's gallery is also full of stuff from around here.
Here are some from nearby:
In a couple months the suckers will be spawning. The most visible will be the Shorthead Redhorses:
All of the above are from one small creek in Kane/Kendall counties, so about an hour west of the city. Closer to Chicago, in the suburbs, you'll find fewer colorful darters, but there's still some fun to be had. I made a poster for a local Meet the Creek event (Salt Creek, which enters the Des Plaines in Riverside/Lyons) and some species I included or considered including were Northern Pike, muskie, walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, white and black crappies, white sucker, chubsucker*, freshwater drum, bluegill, pumpkinseed, orangespotted, green, and warmouth* sunfishes, black and yellow bullheads, channel and flathead* cats, creek and hornyhead chubs, blackside and johnny darters, blackstripe topminnow, freshwater drum, gizzard shad, spotfin shiner, golden shiner, common shiner, striped shiner, central stoneroller, fathead minnow, bluntnose minnow, and probably more shiners and minnows I’m forgetting. * means I'm not sure it's in Salt Creek, bold means I've personally found it on a hook or in a net (except muskie, which I've seen verifiable Salt Creek photos of, and chubsucker, which I'm pretty sure I've seen but have no proof of).
We'll have to try to get a group of Chicagoland nanfans together this spring for some exploration with seines and dipnets. A lot of the waters around here are rebounding from the horrors of most of the 20th century, and as the water gets cleaner and the dams go away, the fishes are returning.