With all the hoopla about the bass of Crab Orchard Lake do not overlook the crappie fishing. Although locals find the fishery a bonanza it can be a mystery to visitors.

Crab Orchard Lake is a 7,000 acre watershed lake located within the boundary of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County, Illinois.  The lake was formed in 1940 by the damming of Crab Orchard Creek.  The fixed spillway controls the water level so it seldom varies more than a foot or two.  Siltation has become a problem in the upper reaches of the lake to the east.  The lake depth averages around 7 feet with the maximum depth of about 30 feet.

As a watershed lake, Crab Orchard is a very fertile lake with a lot of stored nutrients.  Unlike other lakes, there is no thermocline.  Later in the summer, fish will relate to the oxygen level in the deeper water.  In the spring it is not a consideration.

The shoreline of the lake is about 125 miles covered with hardwoods, pines and some meadows.  A severe storm in a past spring caused many trees on the western shores to fall into the lake.  On east facing shores, one can find uprooted trees with the root balls visible from the water.

Rip rap covers many areas to cut down on erosion.   Where visible on the shore, the rip rap will continue under the surface.  The only development on the shoreline is boat ramps, campgrounds, picnic areas and marinas.

Crappies usually found at Crab Orchard are about fifty-fifty white and black crappie.  Most take a leadhead jig and a small minnow.  The minnows are available locally by the name of “crappie minnows”.  Those not wanting to use minnows will use “Crappie Nuggets” made by Berkeley Baits.

Crappie fishermen prefer 10 to 14 foot fiberglass extension poles, but boat anglers often use light weight rods in the 6 to 8 foot length.  Line strength in the 4 to 6 pound test is best.  Hooks are usually light wire hooks so they can be pulled from brush.  The wire hooks merely straighten out and bend back into shape quickly.

The lake is in two basic sections, dissected by Wolf Creek Road.  The area to the east of the road is the most silted area of the lake and has marginal crappie action.  The west area is the main part of the lake from an angler’s point of view.

A good topographical map will guide the angler to the best structure for crappie fishing.  Fish locaters are good for finding submerged structure and the fish cribs.  A map of the fish shelters place in the lake by the IDNR is available from them by contacting the District 22 Fisheries Manager at 9043 Route 148 – Suite B, Marion, IL62959 or at 618-993-7094.  The map is free.

Anglers wanting to fish for crappie from shore usually fish the Wolf Creek Road where it crosses the lake at the causeway.  Both sides of the causeway are good fishing locations and floating docks are near the bridge.  There are sunken brush piles at a number of locations along the shore.  Just to the west, a dock and a handicap access pier are available.

Another shore fishing location is either side of Route 13 as it crosses the north end of the lake where the Cambria and Long Necks enter the lake.  There is a lot of rip rap along both sides of the road which extends down into the water.  Additionally, fish cribs are along the area.  You can cast to from shore.  Locating them is the trick.  Watch the boats

To see where they are fishing and mark the points.  Then when they leave, cast to the same areas. The boat anglers locate the cribs with electronics.

Further to the west along the spillway road a lot of rip rap shoreline can yield crappie.  Down at the spillway on the southwestern corner of the lake, good crappie fishing is right up at the dam.  However, there is boat only access to the fishing at that location.

For further information about Crab Orchard Lake and the surrounding refuge, contact the Visitor’s Center located on Route 148 about two miles south of the airport.  The phone number for the center is 1‑618‑997-3344.  There is a nominal user fee charged dependant upon the number of days one plans to fish.



Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: CLUES FOR CRAB ORCHARD CRAPPIE FISHING | Don … :: shore-fishing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: