THOSE CRAB ORCHARD LAKE LARGEMOUTH   Leave a comment

Crab Orchard 0001

Quietly trolling the shoreline, anglers pass one another with silent acknowledgment.  Lures are flipped into the shoreline vegetation in search of the fish missed by they angler just ahead.  Line watchers peer into the water in hope of seeing the line travel the wrong way.  Then it happens, the water explodes with the fish that has been aggravated or tempted once too often.

Due in part to the rather shallow nature of this lake, the lures and patterns used in spring on Crab Orchard Lake tend to be effective all summer long.  Anglers experience some degree of success with just about any bait or lure.

Crab Orchard Lake is the largest of the three lakes within the boundary of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  Located near Marion, Illinois in Williamson County, this 7,000-acre lake has benefitted from a combination of limited bass tournaments, a well‑financed program of propagation and a well‑entrenched philosophy of catch and release.

The damming of Crab Orchard Creek in 1940 gave birth to the lake.  It has a fixed‑sill spillway that controls the water level so that the level of water 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 about 7 feet, with a maximum depth of about 30 feet.

Being a watershed lake Crab Orchard is very fertile with many stored nutrients.  The shoreline is about 125 miles and contains hardwoods, pine and some meadows.  Many rip rap areas cut down on erosion.  The riprap continues to just under the surface.

Development on the shoreline is limited to boat ramps, campgrounds, picnic areas and marinas.  The south end of Grassy Bay and the south part of Wolf Creek is off limits due to nesting eagles.

The area west of Wolf Creek Road is the main part of the lake and the best fishing area.  It contains large necks and vegetation in the form of lily pads and water willows.  Grassy Bay, Cambria Neck and Long Neck are popular fishing locations.

The average large bass seems to be in the 4 to 5 pound area with an occasional 8‑pound fish reported.  Biologists report that the angler spending a day fishing can catch at least one 4‑pound fish.

Anglers should be flexible in their approach to fishing.  Fish seem to be point orientated.  The relatively featureless bottom of the lake makes bass seek out any structure they can find.  The angler can begin by using a spinner bait to cover a lot of water.  Once the fish are located, it is time to slow down and fish the area with a variety of presentations.  Most fish come from less than a foot of water.

Another pattern is to fish a Rat‑L‑Trap and hop from point to point around the lake in search of fish.  Occasionally anglers take a big fish with this method.

Grassy Bay on the south side of the lake is popular because of the expanse of lily pads.  The vegetation conceals the real attraction ‑ stumps.  The stumps are scattered throughout the bay.  Very few anglers know where the stumps are located, so caution is good when boating into the bay.  Some of the largest fish taken on this lake are near those stumps.

Some other bass‑holding areas are main‑lake and secondary points, riprap, logs, shallow‑water rock piles, bays with emergent vegetation and drop‑offs.  Each requires different lures and patterns.

Further information about Crab Orchard Lake and the surrounding refuge can be obtained from the refuge manager or in person at the Visitor’s Center, located on Route 148 about two miles south of the Williamson County Airport.  A nominal user fee is charged.  Season, weekly and daily permits are available.  A special box of payment of daily fees is available at the entrance to the Visitor’s Center for use when the center is closed.

Want a chance at a big fish?  Why not try Crab Orchard Lake?

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