FISHING FOR CRAPPIE ON REND LAKE   Leave a comment

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In 1971, the US Army Corps of Engineers constructed a two mile long dam across the Big Muddy flood plain creating the lake for purposes of flood control, water supply to local communities and recreation. The result was a reservoir of 18,900-acres.  It stretches across parts of Franklin and Jefferson counties.  Rend Lake sits astride Interstate 57 about 6 hours south of Chicago.

The maximum depth of the lake at full pool is 35 feet with an average depth of 10 feet. Rend Lake is 13-mile in length and three miles wide.  The shoreline measures some 162 miles.  It is the second largest impoundment in the state.  There are two marinas, one at the dam and the other in the state park north of Highway 154. Numerous boat ramps are available at marked locations.  There are no speed or horsepower restrictions on the lake.

The crappie population, according to Fisheries Manager Mike Hooe from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is in very good condition. In fact over the past two years he reports it as outstanding.  The condition of all the year classes is good.  With excellent recruitment the success ratio of catches compared to angler effort increased dramatically during the same period.

Both black and white crappies are present in the lake.   The percentage of crappies over 10-inches in length increases some 19% last year.  Hooe reports a strong year class of 2-year old fish in the 6- to 8-inch length.  At present the crappies in the 10- to 12-inch class average 1/2 to 1+ plus pound range, remain abundant for quality angling.  They represent 35% of the total population.  Fish in the 10- to 14-inch class remain abundant.

Wet springs mean good reproduction as the high water levels produce a great spawn.

Two sub-impoundments on the north end of the lake serve as settling basins creating relatively clear water condition despite spring flooding from melting snow and rains. Visibility is from 10 to 18-inches.

The area north of IL Route 154 is the more shallow part of the lake. It is loaded with snags and stick-ups causing problems for boaters but providing the best crappie fishing.  Much of the shore line contains water willow.  In high water conditions these areas are popular spots for spawning crappies.

South of IL Route 154 the main lake is deeper with some shallows near shoreline woods and man-made structures. The area near the Visitors Center at the east side of the dam contains a lot of brush and submerged wood.

The Sailboat Harbor on Route 154 is an excellent place from which to launch. It has ample parking space and a wide concrete ramp.  Just outside the harbor, along Route 154, is an extensive rip rap causeway with two bridges.  Crappie fishing along the rip rap and under the bridge is popular due to the numbers of fish present.

The south side of the causeway is better fishing than the north side due to the sun warming the water earlier in the season. On windy days, bait fishes wash up on the south side due to predominantly south west winds.

Although the most popular times to fish for crappies in the lake is April through June or October and November, the fish are still present the rest of the year. You just need to know where to look.

The fish relate to structure, it is just deeper water structure, perhaps 12 to 15 feet. They will roam in schools in water adjacent to old creek channels as they wait in ambush for schools of shad.

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