This 18,000-acre southern Illinois lake was once the premiere crappie location in the state. In the late 1990’s it experienced a decline in quality of fish.  Site specific regulation changes and stocking of shad have turned that situation around to the point where the fishery is back. 

Approximately 13 miles in length and three miles wide, Rend Lake is an 18,900-acre impoundment managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  It is formed by damming of the Big Muddy River approximately 11 miles south of Mt. Vernon, Illinois in Franklin County. Easily accessible from Interstate 57 Rend Lake is a popular vacation spot. 

In 2002 some changes were made by the IDNR and the Army Corps of Engineers that effect anglers and the crappie of Rend Lake.  The size of crappie that may be kept and number of fish in a creel have been set by regulations.  There are several reasons for this change. 

The lake has matured.  As with all reservoirs, silt has become a factor in the planning for the future of the lake.  Originally filled in 1970 the lake was a fantastic fishery in the 70’s and 80’s as it developed. 

In the 90’s the vegetation began to decline and with it the fishery.  Fishing pressure continued at a high level, especially for crappie.  The reputation for great fishing the lake enjoys took a toll.  It took a little while for word to get out that fishing was in decline.  Anglers continued to take up to 200 fish per day from the lake hurting recruitment for years.  

Now anglers are limited to 25 crappie per day.  Of these fish no more than ten can be greater than 10 inches in length.  The theory is that if anglers can not keep more than ten big fish they will be more inclined to keep the smaller ones.

 This keeping of small fish depletes the competition for forage within the lake.  It is hoped the result will be faster growing fish.  The end result is better fishing for the sportsman and a healthy fish population. 

Early on, Rend Lake anglers reported smaller fish were caught. There were fewer fish over ten inches in the spring harvest. 

In the fall of 2002 anglers began to see the number of fish over 10 inches increase.  Since those fish fell in the class of fish that anglers where only a limited number were allowed to be kept many were returned to the water.  Their subsequent reproduction promoted the fish population. 

Local anglers seek out locations where the crappie shallow water that begins to warm before the main lake.  These can be coves or brushy backwaters so long as they are shallow.  Such water is a magnet for bait fish and provides just the right forage and a place to spawn.

Fishermen slowly maneuver their boats into the brush until they can reach pockets of open water in the brush area.  Good crappie anglers have the most scratches on their boat.

The most popular way to fish for crappie is to use a small leadhead jig floated below a bobber or lightweight float.  A plain jig tipped with a small minnow will work.  Light line on a long jigging rod or fly rod facilitates the dipping of the jig into small openings that often house the largest crappie. 

Rend Lake has a history of crappie excellence.  With continued care and cooperation from sportsmen it will have an equal future.



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  1. Hey Donald Gasaway i praise your blog well done!

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