Rend Lake is an 18,900-acre impoundment about five hours south of Chicago on Interstate 57. The general configuration of the lake is a broad “Y.” The main tributaries are the Big Muddy River and Casey Fork.
The main dam impounds the main branch of the Big Muddy River and its tributaries. With some 162 miles of shoreline, the lake is 13 miles in length and three miles wide. Rend Lake is 35 feet with an average depth of 9.7 feet.
Rend Lake is a “catfish factory” for the angler. The average channel catfish is 1.75 pounds. Most will be in the 2/3 to 3 pound range. The overall population of channel catfish in this lake is very high. Large channel catfish caught by anglers in this lake run 10 to 12 pounds in weight. Data about the flathead population in the lake is limited but suggests that most of the flatheads will be in 1.5 pound to 10 pounds classes.
The entire area of the lake from Route 154 north is a good area to find catfish. It is a good idea to fish coves, areas with sticks up and other shallows. In late summer and early fall, catfish relate to structure. In spring and early summer the best action seems to come from stumps, weed beds and brush areas.
Line and pole anglers work the shoreline and the river channels for channel catfish. The sub-impoundment areas, usually very good in the spring, are dry in late summer and fall. Flathead fishermen tend to rely on jug fishing for taking their quarry. They anchor their jugs to shoreline wood with rubber bands made from truck inner tubes. Favorite bait for this kind of fishing is hand size bluegills.
Those line and pole anglers who do seek big flatheads fish suspended bluegills near the top of the water. Flatheads are not a bottom feeder and tend to feed above their location. No float is used for flathead fishing. The line is placed on free spool allowing the bluegill or a large shad to display an injured picture.
Some rod fishermen seeking flatheads suspend a minnow or bluegill 3 feet below a large float in water containing some current. Although they do take some fish the ones taken are smaller than those taken by other means.
Most line and pole anglers prefer a stiff 6 foot rod for both species of catfish. The line is usually 10 to 20 pounds test and tipped with a 1/0 hook. The sinker is tied about a foot above the hook on the main line. The sinker falls to the bottom and allows the bait to float just above it. Some anglers do tie the sinker with a drop line at the same location so that if snagged the sinker can be broken off and still not lose any fish.
The preferred baits, for channel catfish include: cheese (stink) baits, cut shad, shad guts, leeches, chicken livers and minnows.
Gun Creek in the northeast part of the lake is also good catfish habitat. It is protected and fish like protection. The main lake can get a strong north or south wind which makes it choppy. The fish are driven deep and they are difficult to locate. Because the fish like the protection from the wind these are the days to fish Gun Creek and other protected shelter areas.
Site specific information can be obtained from the Site Superintendent, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park at 618-629-2320. The Rend Lake Management Office/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is located at R.R. #3, Benton, IL 62812. Their phone number is 618-724-2493.
Marina facilities are available at Rend Lake Marina (618-724-7651) and the Rend Lake Resort (800-633-3341). The later also has overnight facilities on the water in Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. Camping is available in the state park as well as a number of Corps operated campgrounds around the lake. There are also 25 boat launch areas around the lake.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has prepared a fishing booklet on the lake. It is available upon request at no fee. Contact the IDNR, Office of Public Information, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271 or any regional office of the Department through out the state. License and fishing regulations can be obtained at the same address. Just ask for the 2011 Illinois Fishing Information booklet. Lake maps are available in the booklets on the individual lakes and also in local bait shops.