Archive for the ‘Carlyle Lake’ Tag


big hill 24 Carlyle Lake offers some of the best white bass fishing in terms of quantity and quality.  The fish average about one half pound.  The total population runs 10 to 15-inches in length with 62 percent over 12-inches.  Fish over 13-inches will run over one pound.  The fish are in excellent condition and scattered throughout the lake.

The lake is located on the Kaskaskia River near Carlyle, Illinois.  It is 50 miles due east of metropolitan St. Louis.  The lake stretches through parts of Fayette, Bond and Clinton counties.  Owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contains some 26,000-acres of water.

White bass are cousins to the saltwater striped bass and as such have much of the savage instinct of their brethren.  They will hit light tackle ad give an angler more then he can handle.

Following the warm rains of April, these water tigers go on a feeding frenzy that lasts into June.  White bass become more active as water temperatures rise above 50-degrees.  Once at that level the fish move out of staging areas and into spawning areas.

Catching white bass is one thing, finding them is the tough part.  In spring the pre-spawn fish position themselves on sand bars and gravel banks in fast water.  During the spawn they make runs into the major feeder streams looking for suitable gravel beds.  After the spawn they head down stream into creek channels or roam out into the main body of the lake.

If fish are not in the spawning stages a good pattern is to troll over sunken islands and humps with small crankbaits.  Look for sign of shad clouds on the fish locator.  The schools of white bass are usually nearby.  Often they are on deeper sides of the islands or flats.  They wait to ambush some hapless shad as he swims past.

The active white bass is a constant feeder.  They prefer to spend their time in water deeper than 10-feet but will often move into the shallows to feed.  Their favorite meal is shad.  A sure sign of white bass presence is water that appears to be boiling.  Shad breaking through the surface gives the appearance of boiling water as they try evading the bass.

When feeding on the surface concentrations of seagulls pinpoint the location for anglers.  At close range they find the shad boils by spotting splashing water caused by the feeding white bass as they chase the shad.  At times the fish will stay up for ten to 15 minutes.  More often they feed for only a minute ort tow and then dive back to the safety of deeper water.  Usually they surface again a hundred yards or so away.

Early morning and late evening hours are best to find white bass.  When they are actively feeding they are catchable in the heat of the day as well.

Anglers should position their boat in the general area of the feeding and wait for white bass to come to them.  You can anchor under bridges to avoid the direct sunlight and to await the action.

Light tackle is ideal.  Small crankbaits, spinners and jigs are good with line in the 4- to 8-pound monofilament line.  Small tube jigs tipped with a minnow or plastics with contrasting dark and light color work well.  Match the size of your bait to the size of the shad in the lake.

Angling success is dependent upon year hatches.  A year with incredible numbers can help carry the population over more lean years.  The best fishing is likely to be about 2 years after a large hatch year.


IMG_0013Three species of “bass” inhabit the tailwaters below the Carlyle Dam.  The three are Yellow Bass, Largemouth Bass, and White Bass.

The 26,000-acre impoundment that is Carlyle Lake is on Illinois 127 and US 50 at the midway point between Interstate 64 and Interstate 57 in Clinton County.  The city of Carlyle is located at the south end of the lake near the dam.  The 15-mile long lake is 3.5 miles wide.  The deepest part is 40-feet deep.

The most popular fishing location for shore anglers is the tailwaters area below the dam.  Often anglers are almost elbow to elbow along the shoreline on both sides.  The least fishing pressure comes during the week.  Weekends are busy virtually all year.

With a regular stocking of fingerlings of largemouth, a number of very successful bass tournaments have returned to the waterway.  It is host to the High School State Championships in the spring.

Although the best bass fishing is in the oxbow lakes, adjacent to the river current, largemouth bass are in the entire waterway.  They like the abundant woody cover to avoid the current.  Local anglers report commonly catching fish in the 3 to 5 pound class.

Habitat development by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has brought the smallmouth back from the brink of elimination.  The best locations to find them are north of the Carlyle area but some fish are finding their way down to the tailwaters below Carlyle Dam.  Fish in the 2-4 pound range are usually in areas with rock or gravel bottoms.  Look for them in the slower water.

The lake areas are usually home for the white bass.  But in the spring the greatest numbers of fish make spawning runs up river from below the dam until their path is blocked by it.  Anglers often catch fish in the 10 to 15 inch class.  Look for them in the gravel bottom areas with the swift running water of the tailwaters.


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Beginning with its headwaters in Champaign County, the Kaskaskia River flows some 280 miles to the southwest to join the Mississippi River.  The upper reaches of the river above Lake Shelbyville do not produce large catfish.  According to Trent Thomas, Region III Streams Biologist for the IDNR a survey in 2007 produced channel catfish up to 2.5 pounds and only a single flathead.

Today channel catfish in the 2 to 5 pound class are common throughout the river.  Some fish in the 10 to 15 pound class are available to anglers.

The area between Lake Shelbyville and Carlyle Lake produce channel catfish in larger numbers and are somewhat larger.  The larger channel catfish come from the tailwaters at Carlyle Lake and the deeper pool with cover along the length of the river.

Flatheads up to 60 pounds are in the oxbows.  Near Cowden fish near 40 pounds are reported.

The area below Carlyle Lake begins at the dam tailwaters, a popular angling hot spot.  This is the province of IDNR Stream Biologist Randy Sauer.  The 95 miles of river has a lot of 1-5 pound channel cats and some 25 pound flatheads.  The best flathead area seems to be in the rocky section near the Gen Dean suspension bridge.  Occasionally a large blue cat caught.

Blues are a big river fish.  They are most often in the river proper in sizes up to 25 pounds.  The deep navigation channel affords year round habitat but some spawners are found near shoreline rocks and brush in late spring and early summer.  Two good locations seem to be near Venedy Station and just above New Athens.

The deeper pools near root wads and brush hold cats during daytime.  They move to the rocky fast water stretches to feed at night.  Most are in the 5 to 25 pound size range but some of the older and much larger are caught each year.

The meandering channel between Carlyle Lake and Fayetteville does not receive a lot of pressure.  But there are usually some bank sets and hoop nets, especially near the many clubhouses along the shore.

This area is typical of many Illinois rivers in summer.  Boating can be a tricky experience.  The lower summer flows and the amount of structure in the water can be hazardous.  In-stream habitat of bank holes, brush piles and wads of roots provide great fishing for both channels and flatheads.  Sauer recommends anglers in summer probe the holes on the outside of bends.  They are usually 10 to 15 feet deep and the best fishing is on the upstream side of the hole.

According to Sauer, the 36-mile navigation channel below Fayetteville is the best fishery in the river.  “The steam flow is virtually non-existent,” says Randy.  He explains that not having to contend with current, the catfish devote more energy to body growth.  They feed on the abundance of shad and young sunfish.

While the central channel holds water in the nine foot depth range, there are a number of oxbows connected to the main river at their downstream ends.  The channel catfish like to feed along the shore of the main channel and the flatheads prefer the oxbows deeper holes.  The largest blue cats tend to hang in those oxbow holes as well.


058063-R1-82-82Private, public land and private hunting clubs offer waterfowlers a buffet in Illinois.  Public land offers hunting on big water, small water, river and green tree hunting.  Early season duck hunters find: pintails, teal, gadwall and wood duck.  Later the mallards and other species arrive.  By the time the mergansers and golden eyes arrive the season is almost over.  The peak of the migration tends to be about the middle of November.

Later in the season geese begin to arrive.  Most of the flock is Canada geese, but snows and blues are taken as well.

Teal and wood ducks are taken early in the season.  Teal hunting is exceptional on Rend Lake and Carlyle Lake because of the exposed mud flats in both locations.  The flats attract a great number of blue-winged teal.

Rend Lake Wildlife Management Area contains some 7,690 acres near Bonnie, Illinois in Franklin County.  Site specific information is available from the IDNR office at 618-279-3110 or writing to them at RR1, Box 168G, Bonnie, Illinois 62816.  Carlyle Lake Wildlife Management Areas is about 8,764 acres in Fayette County near Vandalia.  The address for the Site Superintendent is RR2, Box 233, Vandalia, Illinois62471 and their phone number is 618-425-3533.

Private water also holds birds.  It can be difficult and/or expensive to gain access for hunting.  That does not mean that the average hunter has to have second rate hunting.  Not at all!

Good areas for duck and goose hunting are on many state management areas such as Oakwood Bottoms, Rend Lake and Carlyle Lake.  The past couple of years, the latter two have held birds right on through the season.  Some have even overwintered.

Oakwood Bottoms is about 3400 acres of flooded timber in Jackson County near Murphysboro, Illinois.  For information about it, contact IDNR at 618-687-1731.

Far southern Illinois is famous for the goose hunting but excellent duck hunting is also available.  Although Illinois as a whole ranks low in the amount of public land available southern Illinois has a lot of good waterfowl areas.

Ducks are present in areas near both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  Both rivers enjoy good harvests.  Waterfowlers with boats concentrate on areas off sandbars and wing dams for the best results.

Fewer public hunting areas are along the eastern part of the state.  One public area on the eastern border of the state is Dog Island Wildlife Management Area in Smithland Pool.  It is 220 acres in size.  For site specific information contact the IDNR office at Dixon Springs State Park.  The address is RR2, Box 178, Golconda, Illinois62938.  The telephone number is 618-949-3394.

In recent years the focus of waterfowlers has been around the Union County Conservation Area, Crab Orchard Refuge and Horseshoe Lake.  Commercial goose hunting clubs have taken to managing crops in a way that is not baiting and does not run afoul of the laws on baiting.  Yet they do attract ducks to their areas.

Union County Conservation Area is about 2800 acres near Jonesboro, Illinois in Union County.  The refuge office is at 2755 Refuge Road, Jonesboro, Illinois 62952.  Their phone number is 618-833-5175.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  The 23,000 acres near Marion, Illinois are a Mecca for waterfowl with parts of the refuge closed to humans.  There is still ample waterfowl hunting areas in refuge blinds or independently from boats in the west end of the lake.  For more information about waterfowl hunting at the refuge contact USF&WS, Carterville, Illinois62918 or call the refuge office at 618-997-3344.  Additional information is available from the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959.  Their phone number is 800-GEESE-99.

Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area operates by the IDNR from an office at Box 85, Miller City, Illinois 62962.  Their phone number is 618-776-5689.  The Alexander County hunting area contains some 4,190 acres and is open to waterfowl hunting with special hunts for Disabled persons in addition to regular hunting programs.

Traditionally there are a lot of ducks held in the Cache River area and there is public hunting available.  Cache River State Natural Area, in Johnson County, is an unusual cypress swamp hunting area.  The 9,507 acres is different from the more traditional hardwood hunting areas found around Illinois.  For information about the hunting program contact the Site Superintendent at 930 Sunflower Lane, Belknap, Illinois or call the office at 618-634-9678.

Moving to the big waters areas, ducks are hunted from boats with boat mounted blinds.  Rend and Carlyle reservoirs are excellent examples.  Both also have excellent walk-in opportunities.

Other walk-in areas include LaRue Swamp and Oakwood Bottoms.  LaRue Swamp Federal Land is 1000 acres in Union County near Wolf Lake.  For information call 618-833-8576.

The above areas combine to provide over 60,000 acres of waterfowl hunting in the southern tier of counties.  They do not include the several hundred thousand acres in the Shawnee National Forest that also has populations of waterfowl visiting each winter.

Although regulations vary from one area to another, the minimum number of decoys allowed in most public areas is 12.  Some of the areas also have daily assigned blinds while others permit hunters to find their own hunting area after a certain time of the day.  It is best to contact the site, prior to actually planning a hunt.  They are happy to inform the public as to the restrictions in the area.  The IDNR is dedicated to providing a safe and quality hunting experience on public land.  Public land waterfowling is alive and well in southern Illinois.



Carlyle is the largest inland lake in Illinois. Located about 50 miles east of St. Louis in Clinton, Bond and Fayette Counties, it is accessible via Interstate 64 and U.S. Route 50. The lake is a reservoir formed by the damming of the Kaskaskia River near Carlyle, Illinois in 1966. This Corps of Engineers lake is 24,580 acres in size with a shoreline of about 85 miles.

Rectangular in shape it is 15 miles long and 2 to 3 miles wide. Maximum depth is 35 feet with an average depth of 11 feet. During August the lake becomes chemically and thermally stratified and the dissolved oxygen level is low below 12 feet. This causes fish to be concentrated above that level. The area north of the railroad tracks that bisects the lake is shallower with an average depth of about three feet. It can be as deep as eight feet. Most of the better catfishing habitat is found there.

Good baits for this lake include: cheese baits, leeches, crickets, cut shad, shad guts and nightcrawlers. Good locations are the main lake points were creeks meet the main lake. If water is flowing past the dam, then the tailwater below the dam can yield good results.

Channel catfish from this lake tend to average 2 to 5 pounds with most being in the 1 to 3 ½ pound sizes. During some of the annual surveys taken by the IDNR 13 pound fish are found. Net catches done by the IDNR indicate that the abundance of channel and flathead catfish is at or above the mean for the last 10 years. Flatheads in the 3 to 7 pound class dominate the fall surveys. Flatheads up to 20 pounds are collected by biologists.

The flatheads in the lake tend to be 5 to 10 pounds in weight and the current State Record flathead catfish was 78 pounds was caught in this lake. It is mounted and on display in the Information Center at Eldon Hazlet State Park. Big catfish can be found in the spillway area from the dam to the swinging bridge.

There are four marinas on the lake. One is at the north end, just south of the railroad tracks. Two others are at Keyesport on the west and Boulder on the east. They all provide access to the main lake and the best fishing areas of the north end. For access to the southern tip of the lake, there is a marina at the Dam West Recreation Area. The Visitor Center is also located in this area.

The Corps maintains some 800 campsites in eight public campgrounds. Motel accommodations are available in nearby towns. Advance reservations are a good idea due to the popularity of the lake in late summer. Contact the Carlyle Lake Management Office, R.R. 1, Carlyle, Illinois 62231 618-594-2484 for information.

There are daily use fees in place on this lake. They are payable for use of the 14 parking and launch facilities. Self-deposit boxes are located in the fee areas and additional information can be obtained from the Visitor Center at 618-594-LAKE. Camping and cottage rental information is available at Eldon Hazlet State Park 618-594-3015.

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