As the fishing traffic increases on larger lakes in Illinois anglers in the southern reaches turn to smaller lakes. They can fish for the same species and practice their techniques without heavy competition. A variety of locations are available with little fuel expense. Techniques for catching fish do not vary from large lakes or rivers to small ones. Only the fishing pressure changes. Often it is possible to have a location without any other people around.

To find small bodies of water one can look at a road map. Most maps show creeks and rivers as blue lines. Locate where a blue line crosses a roadway and you have a fishing place that might yield hours of enjoyment.

Small bodies of water may require lighter tackle. Ultra light rods are a great way to fish the skinny water. The smallest of fish can seem like a real tackle buster on two pound line. Small bodies of water can be fished very effectively from shore using fan casts.

By making a single location home away from home for a weekend it is possible to fish a variety of locations with a minimum of travel and the resulting fuel savings. For example, in Williamson County Illinois on Interstate 57 anglers find small ponds on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and two lakes near Johnston City in the northeast part of the county.

Johnston City Lake is 80 acres of water stocked with channel catfish, striped bass, black bass, crappie and sunfish such as bluegill and redear. There is a boat launch and trolling motors are allowed. Camping is permitted but there are no facilities at the lake. A permit is required which can be obtained from the city clerk.

Arrowhead Lake is another Johnston City lake of about 60 acres. It too has a boat launch and a fishing dock. Trolling motors are allowed. This lake is also stocked with the same species of fish. Fishing is free at both lakes. Camping is also permitted at this lake. There are some 45 pads, water, electricity, bathrooms, showers, general store and a laundry.

To the south in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge a number of ponds are available for fishing on a walk-in basis. Nearby parking is available. A refuge permit is required and available on a daily, weekly or year basis. The permits can be purchased at the Visitor’s Center on Route 148, about two miles south of the Williamson County Regional Airport. After business hours it is possible to buy a permit at a stand outside the main entrance to the Visitor Center.

The ponds of Crab Orchard Refuge are spread throughout the area. The people at the Visitor Center can direct you to pond fishing areas within the refuge. They have refuge maps for assistance in locating the many waters.

For more information about lodging accommodations in Williamson County, contact the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 6102 Sioux Drive, Marion, IL 62959. Their phone number is 1-800-GEESE-99. For those with Web access, Williamson County Tourism Bureau has a web page at: Their e-mail address is:

Site specific information about the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is available by contacting the Visitor Center, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 8588 Route 148, Marion, IL 62959. The phone number is 618-997-3344. The center is located on Route 148, two miles south of Illinois Route 13 and the Williamson County Regional Airport.

Small waters abound in Williamson County and most have public access. Want to get away from the crowds of summer and experience fishing the way it was meant to be? Try the great lakes of Williamson County or a skinny water location near home.


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