A quick look at creel surveys for Kinkaid Lake shows that Muskie action seems a forgone conclusion for the crankbait angler. This is probably due to a variety of reasons, stable water conditions, less recreational boat traffic, and cooling temperatures that bring on bait fish activity. Regardless Muskie hunters should take a look at this fishing opportunity.
Muskies were first stocked into this 2,750-acre lake in 1985 and a number of supplemental stockings have taken place since that time. The combination of deep water with cool temperatures and huge forage base of gizzard shad and spotted sucker provides good habitat.
For those who have never fished for this “alligator with fins” they are easily distinguished from any other fish swimming in southern Illinois waters. Muskies have an elongated body with a duck like mouth full of large teeth. The gill covers are only scaled on the upper half. They may grow as large as 50 inches in length and weigh more than 40 pounds.
Located in Jackson County, five miles northwest of Murphysboro, this lake is reached via Illinois route 149, then on route 3 and finally route 51. An irregular shoreline of 82 miles is covered with boulders and timber cover. The average depth of the lake is 18 feet.
Two marinas, in addition to two U.S. Forest Service recreation areas, provide ample camping, beach and picnic areas. Camping and a boat ramp are available at Johnson Creek Recreation Area (618-763-4233). Another ramp and marina services are available at the Kinkaid Marina (618-687-4914.) Bait supplies are available at Top of the Hill Bait Shop (618-684-2923.) Veteran Muskie guide Al Nutty can also be reached at the bait shop.
Jerkbaits seem the most productive if fished around shallow weed edges. Over the top of the weed beds try small bucktails. Most successful anglers will concentrate on the main lake points and humps while trolling. For those who prefer to use live bait, an 11 to 12 inch sucker on a slip bobber rig is a good idea.
Nutty recommends that angler fish “northern style.” He explains that such fishing entails fishing off the banks and over deep structure. Nutty recommends live bait and heavy line. He fishes over that deep structure that is as deep as the 70-foot bottom near the dam area. He also finds fish over the soft bottom with old plant material and narrow areas which increase current flow.
Al will try topwater baits along the wed edges and over the points during low-light conditions. He uses diving crankbaits or jerkbaits throughout the day.
As the water cools and fall approaches the weed beds are dead and gone. Then one can move into the backs of bays with standing timber. The muskies corral the shad and feed heavily as the school of bait is trapped. Short casts, aimed directly at the main trunk of exposed timber will help you to avoid hang ups. Look for lanes where you can get a clear retrieve. As the lure hits structure, pause to allow it to float free before continuing. Pick your way through the timber slowly.
According to Nutty one should pick a bait and stick with it. He prefers to keep throwing or trolling the lure until the fish take it.
By fishing deep Nutty reports clients regularly pick up a few walleyes. Nutty is intrigued by the whole experience of Muskie fishing. It combines thousands of casts and the opportunity to fish one of the most beautiful lakes in the state. He equates it to winning the lottery. “When one wins, he wins big.”
There is a one fish per day limit for keepers. Keeper fish also must be a minimum of 48 inches in length.