It would appear that Crab Orchard Lake produces many quality bass.  Whether it is a bass factory might be a stretch.  Results from local bass tournaments lend some credence to the idea that the lake is producing a large number of giant bass once again. 

Once know as one of the state’s premiere bass lakes, Crab Orchard Lake on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion, Illinois had a noticeable decline in production for a few years.  Through the efforts of fisheries biologists as well as a local bass fishing organization the lake’s production of large bass has come back.

This was made very apparent in mid-April with a tournament.  Despite difficult fishing conditions fish caught each day up to seven pounds.

 The fish being caught this year in this lake are some times referred to as “footballs” for their rather hefty size and general body shape.  Anglers competing in tournaments generally do not catch many 7 pound fish.  A number of such fish are brought in to the weigh station.

 Shocking surveys conducted by wildlife officials last fall show bass in Crab Orchard Lake are on the increase in size and numbers.  Why this return to the days of yesterday?

 The main changes in fishery management of the lake have been the supplemental stocking of Threadfin Shad and the movement of major bass fishing tournaments to the cooler months of April and May.  The tournament date changes and a limit on smaller tournaments have increased the survival rate of bass in the lake.  Stocking increases the food supply for bass.

 Crab Orchard is the largest of the three lakes within the boundary of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The 7,000-acre lake was built in 1940 by the forming of a fixed spillway that controls the water level to the extent that the lake level seldom varies more than a foot or two.  The lake has an average depth of 7 feet with a maximum depth of 35 feet.

 Although bass are point oriented, the successful angler remains flexible in his approach.  The bottom of the lake is relatively featureless.  Bass tend to concentrate in areas that do have some structure, be it wood or rocks.  Most are found in areas of water with a depth of a foot or less.

 The area and coves north of Highway 13 tend to hold the best fish structure.  Other areas popular with bass angler include, Grassy Bay and the rip rap areas in the western portion of the lake.  Anglers are cautioned to proceed slowly in Grassy Bass due to an abundance of stumps often concealed by emergent vegetation.

 Bass jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits are the most popular terminal tackle used to catch the largemouth bass of Crab Orchard Lake.  There are size and creel limits in effect on the lake.  Catch and release anglers are not effected.  Catch and release is practiced by most of the anglers plying these waters.

 More information about the refuge, the lake and the fishing available can be obtained at the Visitor’s Center, (618-997-3344) on Route 148, about a mile and a half south of Illinois Route 13.  The nearest tackle and bait is available at Cooksey’s Bait Shop on Illinois Route 148 just north of the Visitor’s Center.

 Camping facilities are available on the Refuge, and motel accommodations are available in Marion, Illinois, few miles to the east.  There is a nominal fee for visiting the refuge on a daily basis or longer if desired.  Information about the area and a free color Fishing Guide can be obtained from Williamson County Tourism Bureau (1-800-GEESE-99) in Marion, Illinois.



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