Of all the wilderness lakes in southern Illinois, Devils Kitchen Lake is the one most closely akin to Canadian shield lakes in appearance.  Clear water and submerged timber provide good habitat for trout, bluegill, redear, largemouth bass and crappie.

The lake takes its name from the sulfur fumes the builders noticed when constructing the dam that holds the water.  The lake, located in the Crab Orchard Natural Wildlife Refuge, is some 90 feet deep and has an average depth of 36 feet.  It is about 810-acres stretched over some five miles.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is in Williamson County just off Interstate 57 near the city of Marion, Illinois.

Trout are a popular species with anglers and are an interesting story.  Trout are introduced each October in the 8 to 10-inch length.  Some believe that they reproduce naturally in the lake but Biologist Chris Bickers of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not believe that to be the case.  He explains that they stock the fish in the fall so that they become acclimated to the lake by the time anglers begin to fish for them in the spring.  By that time, the trout are feisty enough for trout anglers.  The trout are best caught using pieces of nightcrawler on small bait hooks fished beneath a slip bobber near the dam.  They tend to congregate in the upper 15 to 20 feet of water.

Bickers reports that the bluegill population of the lake is good with fish in the 6 to 7 inch class taken regularly.  There are also redear (or know locally as shell crackers) in the 6 to 9-inch class.  Both species will be caught using worms, nightcrawlers and crickets.

According to Bickers, the crappie population is not big but the fish are.  The black crappies are in the 10 to 14-inch class.  Jig and minnow combinations are best for crappie fishing.

Devils Kitchen Lake has a reputation for large bass.  Bickers reports that there are Largemouth bass taken each year in the 6 to 8-pound range but finds them to be the exception rather than the rule.  He finds in his surveys of the lake that there are many skinny 10 to 12-inch fish.  He urges anglers to take the little ones home to eat and leave the big fish in the lake.  The bass like the standard spinner baits and crankbaits near the flooded timber.

In years past, there were marina facilities available with boat rentals at the north end of the lake across from the dam.  No more.  The marina was closed will not reopen according to Refuge officials.  The docks will remain as will a primitive campground.  There will be no facilities on the lake other than the boat ramps.  Boaters beware that there is a lot of standing timber just beneath the surface of this lake.  For more information about the lake and the daily use fee for the refuge area, contact the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, 8588 Route 148, Marion, IL 62959.  The phone number is 618-997-3344.



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  1. I’m surprised you overlooked the amazing spillway for this lake. Great place to take the kids and fish, as well as beautiful scenery. Also the trout in this lake go nuts for canned corn on a hook. I know it sounds crazy but just try it.

    • It was pretty dry down there last year. I do not reccommend it much as I have found too many snakes in the spring in those areas below the spillway. But, you are right it can be good fishing. A friend of mine caught his biggest trout in those creek waters down stream from the spillway. But, that was during winter.

  2. Don I haven’t fished this lake in a number of years. where can I get a map that shows the point numbers, # 6, #8, #9 etc. The fishing map and all the maps I can find do not show this. I think the boat ramp on the west side is on # 6 but where do I go from here? Thanks as I was wanting to start fishing this lake again. but would be nice to know where I’m at while on the water.

    • Fishing Hot Spots has one. You may find it a local bait shops or Walmart. You might check with the people at the Visitor Center on IL Route 148 just south of Old Route 13. Good luck. I spent many great days on the lake before they took out the Marina by the dam.

  3. Hi guys,

    Does anyone have any tips for summer fishing on DK? I am headed there next weekend for the first time. Also, I have a 25hp motor on my Lowe, do I have to use trolling motor only or can I just keep it at no wake with my motor?


    • No you cannot use the 25 hp motor. You have to have it tipped up out of the water and use your trolling motor. With all the trees beneath the surface you are probably better off doing that anyway. Keep your speed down to avoid damage to your trolling motor. If you do get hung up you can usually rock the boat and get off. Those branches are the tops of trees that can go down 60 feet. It is still a great fishing experience. Good luck. Don Gasaway

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