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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 -December 15th, 2017
Crab Orchard Lake: Catfish action has slowed somewhat. Bluegill action also has slowed, although some fish are still being caught along the rip rap on crickets and wax worms. Bass action is good on a variety of baits fished around shallow cover.
Baldwin Lake: Catfish are on the move and those that are being caught are small. Anglers are tossing crankbaits around rip rap and catching a few bass. Bluegills are slow but will hit on meal worms or wax worms occasionally.
Carlyle Lake: 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, with a 24-pounder caught recently near the spillway. Cut bait also working as are slab spoons thrown up along the wall. Crappie fishing is good below the dam.
Kinkaid Lake: Muskie action has been excellent. Anglers trolling and casting are picking up fish. Spinnerbaits and shallow running baits are the most effective. Crappie fishing is rated fair. Anglers are taking fish at varied depths, from 2 to 18 feet. Minnows are the primary bait. Catfish and bluegill action has been slow. However, bass anglers are reporting good success on spinnerbaits.
Lake of Egypt: Crappie action remains slow. Some fish are being caught on curlytails and minnows. Most fish are in 8 to 10 feet in front of weedbeds. Bass are still rated fair on soft plastics. Catfish action picked up recently, fishing shrimp in shallow water.
Lake Murphysboro: Catfish action remains excellent, particularly in the morning and early evening. Most anglers are using chicken liver and nightcrawlers. Bass are also rated fair to good. Crappie anglers are finding fish are various depths. Minnows are the preferred bait. Bluegill action is slow.
Little Grassy: Catfish action remains steady throughout the lake. Nightcrawlers are the most effective bait. Crappie fishing has slowed somewhat. Fish are still deep. A couple of nice fish were taken recently, but numbers were down. Minnows are the primary bait. Bass action remains fair.
Rend Lake: Crappies are still rated good on minnows, chartreuse jigs, white jigs and pink/green jigs. Fish are being caught over Christmas tree sets and near bridge pillars in 6-10 feet of water. Catfish action also has been good. Catfish anglers are working rip rap areas, using shrimp and nightcrawlers.
WINTER OPEN WATER FISHING
By Don Gasaway
For those willing to forego a little chill in the air, there are countless angling opportunities in southern Illinois. Some are in large reservoirs while others are in rivers or cooling plant lakes.
Bass tend to go where the food is available. Warmer water attracts bait fish. Any water with temperatures above 50 degrees is likely to have feeding fish. Air temperatures can be in the 30's and 40's while the water temperatures can in 55 degrees or warmer.
Tailwaters provide fishing action for the intrepid angler who is careful. Water released from dams provides fish with water closer to their comfort zone.
Why is winter fishing so promising? There are several reasons. The fishing pressure is light, as most anglers have put up their tackle until spring. Fish begin to develop their roe during the winter months which translates to more body weight. And finally, smaller fish move deeper during the colder months. This leaves the big fish to attack tackle.
It is important that the angler prepare for the winter temperatures and practice safe boating procedures. Personal floatation devices (PFD) are vital to safety. Falling out of a boat in winter can result in hypothermia very quickly. It is a good idea to have extra dry clothing available in case of an accident. If one becomes wet, it is important to change into dry clothing immediately.
Hypothermia is deadly and can strike quickly. Simply stated it is a rapid cooling of the core body temperature. It can result in the loss of consciousness and drowning. Bringing high-calorie snacks and a thermos of soup, coffee or hot chocolate is a good idea. Do not use alcohol. It tends to reduce the body core temperature and can hasten hypothermia.
Water temperatures vary with those in the sunlight. There can be as warm as 60 degrees near a water discharge areas. These are good fishing locations. The secret is to find areas that offer the greatest degree of environmental stability. This often means the steepest drop‑off into the deepest water.
Bass anglers often like to use vibrating blade bait. Others use jigs preferring the 1/2 ounce to 5/8 ounce size. Pork frogs in the #1, or #10 sizes or a plastic crawfish imitation add bulk to the lure and slow the fall. Jigs work best around creek bends or at the junction of two creeks in 15 to 25 feet of water.
If one wants to use a spoon or blade bait, it is better to cast out and make short hops with the rod tip. Conventional wisdom has always been to fish it vertically. It works too. However, use of blade baits should be around main points or on top and along the sides of deep rocks. Something in the 15‑ to the 25‑foot range is desirable.
Fish tend to suspend near wood if possible in winter months. It tends to warm the water surrounding it as it absorbs sunlight energy. Bass can be found in water 10- to 35-feet deep. On long channel bends, they will stage in about 20 feet of water.
The number of bites tends to be fewer in the winter but the overall size of fish taken is greater. Remember that the metabolism of a bass is slower in winter and they are not very aggressive. Move your lure as slowly as possible to keep it in front of him. You may need to make many more casts than you would in warmer times.
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.
YEAR-END PUBLIC HUNTING ACCESS
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 landowners 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 from 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 whichever 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.