Hunting & Fishing
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Williamson County is the premier destination for fishermen in Southern Illinois. We attract professional and amateur fishermen alike with our popular lakes, annual fishing tournaments, and year-round fishing opportunities. From the well-known 7,000-acre Crab Orchard Lake and 2,300-acre Lake of Egypt to the 30-acre Arrowhead Lake and everything in between, fishermen relish in the abundance of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish and other popular species being caught here. 

Southern Illinois Fishing Report - September 8th, 2017

Devils’ Kitchen: Bass action has been good around shallows with spinners and plastic worms. Bluegills good on worms and crickets.

Crab Orchard Lake: Crappie anglers are holding in water 8-10 feet over cover or around bridge pillars. Minnows and jigs have been equally effective. Catfish are hitting throughout the lake on cut shad, leeches and stink baits. Some bluegill anglers are still reporting success around the rip rap on wax worms and crickets. Bass anglers are picking up some fish early and the mornings and late in the evenings working soft plastics or topwater baits around the weed beds.

Horseshoe Lake: Catfish anglers are still reporting good success drift fishing nightcrawlers throughout the lake. Crappie action has improved a bit in the past few weeks. Anglers are fishing brush piles on the outer edge of the tree lines. Minnows or chartreuse jigs are the primary baits. Bass and bluegill action has been slow.

Carlyle Lake: The white bass are biting well below the spillway, with a few fish coming from near the trestles and the silos. Whites are also biting on the main lake on the flats. Channel cats are good on the lake for anglers drifting or jug fishing with cut bait or leeches. Good catches reported near Keyesport and Boulder. Flatheads are also biting near the spillway on bluegills. Cut bait also working as are slab spoons thrown up along the wall. Crappies good below the dam.

Lake Murphysboro: Catfish are the best bet. Catfish are being caught throughout the lake on nightcrawlers, chicken liver, large minnow, and stinkbait. Bluegills remain fair in 6-8 feet of water. Wax worms, crickets, and red wigglers are all producing good catches. Crappies have been fair at best. Fish are holding in deep areas. Bass anglers are reporting fair to good success on spinnerbaits and soft plastics.

Kinkaid Lake: Anglers are still catching some crappies over cover at 10-15 feet. Minnows are preferred over jigs. Catfish anglers are still reporting good success. The best catfish action has been on nightcrawlers, chicken liver, large minnows, and stinkbait. Bass action remains fair. Bluegill action has slowed down during the past week. There were no reports on walleyes or white bass.

Lake of Egypt: Fishing has improved, particularly in the late evening and through the night. Anglers are working around the weed beds and drop-offs with Rat-L-Traps. Crappies are still slow. Some catfish anglers are reporting limited success on chicken livers. Bluegills are being caught in good numbers on the typical baits, but most fish are running small.

Little Grassy: Catfish action has been good throughout the lake. The best action has been on nightcrawlers. Bluegill action is spotty. Most bluegills are holding in 6-8 feet of water and can be caught on crickets and wax worms. A few crappie anglers have taken some nice fish in 15-20 feet. The best crappie action has been on minnows. Bass anglers are reporting fair numbers of fish, although most are running small.

Rend Lake: Fishing is rated good across the board. Catfish anglers are still working the dams and are drift fishing in Gun Creek, rip rap areas and shallow humps. Chicken livers, nightcrawlers, leeches, stinkbait, and shrimp are all producing good catches. Bass are rated good on a jig and pig, black buzz bait and spinnerbaits around Illinois 154, Jackie Branch and Gun Creek. Crappies also earn a good rating. Minnows, chartreuse jigs, white jigs and pink/green jigs are producing fish in 6-10 feet of water over Christmas tree sets and near bridge pillars. Anglers are also drift fishing north of Route 154 and around the Gun Creek bridge. Bluegills are still being caught on wax worms, crickets and red wigglers in shallow coves. Some white bass anglers are reporting good success fishing slab spoons, Little Georges and curly tail jigs near shallow areas.

By Don Gasaway

Illinois is a state of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.  The state boundaries on the south and the west follow the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  The interior of the state is honeycombed with waterways.  Early settlers used them for food and transportation needs.  Anywhere in the state, one is just a short distance from some great ground pounding on a river bank.

Unless you have fished a river recently you have never fished it.  Rivers are ever changing as flooding rearranges the bottom structure.  It rearranges the deep channels and washes in new obstacles to current flow.

Fish can only manage the battle against the current for a short time.  They look for obstacles behind which they can rest out of the current.  They wait there in search of some forage to come to them.  Heavy current or a lack of it usually means no fish.
Spots where the river flows slows and stops temporarily provide fishing opportunities.  That is where the fish are likely to rest.  These include areas such as eddies behind snags, below sandbars, or those sections of the river with a cut in the river bank.
Fish prefer areas where the vegetation or other structure cast shadows on the water.  It might be a tree hanging over the water, a boat dock or in the shadow of old boats or barges abandoned.    Wooden structures are best.
In warm water, bass cannot remain active for long periods without undergoing stress.  They are inactive for a while and then feed in short "feeding frenzies."  In cool water of rivers flowing and mixing action of the current oxygenates the water and allows fish to feed for more extended periods.
Water clarity is important to river fishing.  Seldom is water really "clear."  Subtle presentations are poor ideas in clear water.  Big bright, noisy lures seem to work better.  Big bass in rivers likes to take advantage of wounded baitfish or unfortunate creatures that fall into the river.  They strike fast and hard in order to beat another fish to them.  For this reason, jointed minnow, buzz baits and occasionally rubber frog lures are effective.
In larger rivers crankbaits and plastic worms are effective.  Work the plastics slowly to keep the slack out of the line and allow the working of the lure over the bottom.  Set the hook when anything unusual happens in the movement of the line.  In the live bait category, the ever popular minnow hooked through the back allows a free fish action that attracts predatory fish.
Long medium action rods are best in river situations.  This is especially true in snaggy areas.  Bait cast reels are preferable as they contain clickers.  Spooled with a 12-pound line is equivalent to the super lines, these lines can be cast out and allowed to work with the current.
Lakes and impoundments are usually crowded on weekends.  Rivers and creeks can be a refuge from the crowds.

Click here to view our 2017 Fishing Guide


Williamson County has some of the finest game bird, waterfowl, deer, turkey, and small game hunting in the Midwest, thanks to our mix of popular flyways, lakes, hardwood forests, cropland, wetlands, river bottom topography and nearby Shawnee National Forest and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Ducks and geese have long been the most popular species to hunt here, and public hunting grounds abound. There are also at least 5 private hunt clubs operating in Williamson County that provides a wide range of services for the optimum waterfowl hunting experience.

With so many hunters on private land there often is not a lot of public land hunting available.  Such is not true in southern Illinois where much of the prairie state's public hunting is located.  Unfortunately, many of us do not take advantage of this opportunity and continue to complain that there is no good public hunting.
In southern Illinois, numerous public lands are available for hunting.  In fact, within one hour drive of Marion, Illinois there are approximately 500,000 acres of public hunting land.  Much of it is accessible via interstate roads.
One problem with hunting in public areas is the perception that early season hunting has ruined the possibility of good hunting later.  However many public lands are actually overlooked or just plain not hunted at all.  Areas near roads and parking lots get the bulk of hunting pressure.
Late in the upland game seasons, agricultural practices can batter much of the prime habitat.  Sometimes land owners clear the land from roadway to roadway.  The result is that game birds such as pheasants and quail seek out the better habitat situations in public hunting areas.  This happens at a time when the human use of the same land is decreasing.  The same applies to deer.
It is wise to hunt during the week when hunting pressure is usually less.  Public land is a good possibility following a snowstorm as the game move from open grain fields to the security of more hospitable habitat.
On public hunting ground, there are usually site-specific regulations the hunter should check them before taking to the field.  Hunter orange is a wise investment for the public land hunter.  In some areas, it is required.  It is a good idea even if not required.  It helps keep someone for mistaking you for a game animal. It is also useful in keeping track of the people in your party as they move through tall grass and brush.
A copy of the regulations is usually available from the site superintendents or from the offices of which ever governmental agency is responsible is responsible for the management of the area.
There are maps of the most public hunting areas available either on site or from the offices of wildlife officials.  In some areas, the local county highway department may have maps available. It pays to use a map to find areas not readily accessible from roads and trials.  Mark the map and scout the area.  Look for protected areas with good cover and food sources.  Keep notes from year to year as to where the game is located.  Keep the maps and they will save valuable hunting time next year.
A wise hunter scouts through the poor prospects to the good areas beyond them.  Get to know the land intimately.
Regardless of where one lives there is usually public land hunting available.  All one needs to do is find it.  With a little advance work and some common sense, one can have a great late season hunt on public land.
Do not give up after an unsuccessful hunt in one particular area.  The nice thing about public land is that others will come through and move the game around.  The game that was not present one day may well be present the next time you visit.
Southern Illinois Waterfowl Survey will be found here when waterfowl season approaches.

Click here to view the 2017 Hunting Guide


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