Archive for the ‘Devils Kitchen Lake’ Tag



Fishing for Midwestern trout is usually a little different than in western or eastern waters.  This is due to the fact that most Midwestern trout are hatchery raised and often found in ponds as opposed to rivers and streams.  Such is the case with Illinois’ catchable trout season which begins in April.

With the exception of Devils Kitchen Lake in Williamson County, the local trout are placed in the ponds and small lakes of some 50 locations a week or so prior to the opening.  The fish are usually all caught by the arrival of the warm summer temperatures which raise the water temperatures beyond that habitable for trout.

Devils Kitchen Lake is a very deep lake and the water does not get as warm allowing the fish to survive.

Spin tackle in the main Midwestern choice for trout fishing.  Out west and east there is more fly fishing.

You want a relatively light rod to match the style of fishing you are doing.  Light to medium-light action is best because it is very soft and limber allowing the casting of very small lures.  The reason for the preference of the open spinning reel for trout is the use lighter line.   It works well with 4 to 6 pound test line.  Typically drag is better too.

The closed face spinning reel tends to allow light line to bunch up on the reel.  It does not cast as well if you get a snag or after you catch a fish.  Closed face reels are for use with heavier line and for more basic fishing.

Most trout respond to lures of 1 1/2 inch or less.  In stained water you might want to use something a little larger.

Some anglers like a camo-green line because it does not put off the fish.  You can also get away with a little heaver line.  You might up-grade to 6 to 8 pound line.  You might use the heaver line with a 2 foot leader of the lighter line.  Fluorocarbon line in the 2-lb and 3-lb size tends to be brittle.  Four pound monofilament line works.

For lures you can use anything from micro jigs up.  Pink and rainbow trout seem to go together.  Red, brown and orange are good colors for brown trout.  You can dress a jig by putting a bobber six or eight feet above it.  It is not as a strike indicator.  But, rather it gives the line additional weight for casting.  In clear water a clear bobber is best.  If you need to cast a long way you can put some water in the bobber or add split shot.  You adjust the bobber according to the water depth you are wanting to fish.

If you are getting short strikes because the fish is attacking the feather portion of the jig presentation, trim the tail making the whole presentation shorter and closer to the hook.

Using the floating micro-crankbaits you can make them go lower than two or three feet by adding a split shot.  Maybe you will want to put a large enough split shot on that the bait to make it actually sink.  Let them sink longer to really fish deeper and not as long to go shallower.

For larger brown trout try a minnow crankbait.  In deeper water you can throw a crankbait that has a larger bill on it.  The longer the bill on a hard bodied bait, the deeper it will go.  If it is one that suspends, you crank the bait down and then twitch it back.  It works in really deep water.

Spinners catch more fish than any other class of lure.  More people use them.  It is basically a piece of metal that goes round and round.  It creates a visual flash and a good deal of vibration.  Fish will pick up the vibration through the lateral line and will come from a long way away.  In clear water the flash is a big advertisement.

Spoons with a wide waddle, the wider lure, are good.  The width and weight of the spoon will determine what part of the water column you are fishing.  A wider spoon works better in the upper part of the column.  Buoyant spoons seem to have the kind of waddle preferred by trout.

The technique is simply to cast and retrieve it.  You can vary the speed of the retrieve or you can cast it and allow the spoon to sink.  Simple is good when trout fishing.  It is what you are going to do most of the time if you are to be successful.

Try natural bait.  Trout have an amazing ability to consume large baits when it comes to natural ones.  They are little Billy goats.  If they are hungry they are going to eat it.  They do often prefer only very tiny offerings but it they are hungry they will take almost anything in the tackle box.

If you are fishing highly pressured areas use smaller line, smaller presentations, and be a little quieter.  In an area with a lot of trout get out your favorite lure and make it work.

Dough bait is a big Power Bait that has is not pelletized.  Power baits work best on single hooks and dough baits work best on treble hooks.   They both can add scent and color.   Scented baits add not only a scent for the fish to follow but also cover your human scent.

A couple drops of unscented soap will clean unwanted smells from your hands.  Just apply rub hands together and rinse in the water.  Use anything without perfume in it.

In spring with muddy water start fishing with something that has more vibration as a presentation.  Use scented lures and worry less about the size of the lure.  The bigger the profile the more water moved and the more vibration created.  The scent is a bonus.

When the water is low use a hook with a piece of nightcrawler on it fish.

The best way to handle a trout if you plan to release it is to grab the lure without touching the fish and with the fish still in the water.  If you use a net, get one that is very fine mesh.  Large mess will damage the fish.  Dunk the net before using it to hold the fish.  Leave the net in the water as you remove the lure.  Forceps are best for removing the lure.


Devil Crappie

A summer of landscaping repair and interior remodeling sure does interfere with one’s fishing activity.  It does not even allow time to test out that new rod and reel combo from Shakespeare via Blue Heron Communications.  Today is time for a change.

Having heard of the Ugly Stick for years one wonders just how to improve on such a product.  This year at ICAST Shakespeare introduced the new Ugly Stick GX2.

According to the press release, the rod blends the old feel with a modern look and balance.    It has a new blank through the reel seat design.  The combination of graphite and fiberglass makes for a strong, sensitive and better balanced rod.  It still maintains the near indestructability of the original Ugly Stick.

In response to consumer demand, the rod has one-piece, stamped stainless steel guides providing durability and to avoid inserts popping out.  The GX2 works with all types of line, including the braided ones.

The clear tip delivers extra strength where needed yet it is sensitive to the lightest strike.

Spooled with some 8-pound mono, a local favorite, it sounds like the perfect combination for the bass, crappie and rainbow trout of Devil’s Kitchen Lake in southern Illinois.

Of all the wilderness lakes in southern Illinois, Devil’s 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.  There is no development on the lake and no marina services.  There are several boat ramps and a 10 horsepower limit on boat motors.

Taking its name from the sulfur fumes the builders noticed when constructing the dam that holds the water, this 810-acre lake stretches over some five miles.

Trout are one of the more popular species for anglers.  They placed in the lake each fall as 8 to 10 inch fish.  By spring they are acclimated to the water.  Most trout fishing takes place in spring and summer.  The best trout bait is a small piece of nightcrawler on a small bait hook fished beneath a slip bobber near the dam.  They are usually in the upper 15 to 20 feet of water despite the depth of water being over 90 feet.

Early in the year redear will feed on the bottoms of shallow coves.  The bluegills will be slightly deeper seeking food in the weeds.  Later they will both be in the submerged trees.  The bluegills are Six to 7 inches in length.  Redear (or Shellcrackers) in the 6 to 9 inch lengths are often found.  The wood in this lake is often standing trees.  What at first appears to be a submerged bush can be the top of a 60 foot tree standing upright beneath the surface of the lake.  Bluegills tend to relate to the vertical portion of the tree and the redear prefer the branches.

The crappies are not numerous but they are big.  Black crappies are in the 10 to 14 inch class.  Jig and minnow combinations are the most popular lures for this species.  Minnows and nightcrawler pieces produce the best crappie catches.

The lake tends to produce a lot of 10 to 15 inch largemouth bass with some 6 to 8 pound bass taken each year.  The latter are an exception.  Spinner baits and crankbaits near the flooded timber are the ticket for most bass.

Inclement weather cuts short this trip but there will be another day once the remodel is completed.


Clear water with shoreline weeds and an abundance of submerged wood makes for a blue gill factory. Devils Kitchen Lake is well known for its magnificent scenery and lack of fishing pressure.  As the water warms, anglers find this southern Illinois lake teaming with bluegills moving into the shallow coves at the south end. 

By casting into the woody areas in about two or three feet of water fishermen find plenty of action. 

This member of the sunfish family is a sucker for crickets on a small wire hook.  Later on we have to plumb the water as deep as 18 feet. 

The number three most popular fish inIllinoisis the bluegill.  It is surpassed only by largemouth bass and channel catfish.  In fact the bluegill is the official state fish. 

Bluegills do best in lakes or ponds containing clear water with some submerged vegetation.  This lake has all that in abundance. 

They prefer lakes with simple fish populations.  Lakes with shad and carp populations tend to have small bluegill populations.  Devils Kitchen is basically a bass, shell cracker (redear sunfish), bluegill, crappie and trout lake.  Each of these species tends to move into their own habitat during the year and do not conflict with one another. 

The closest competition is between the shell crackers (redear sunfish) and bluegills.  They can be found in the same water but will be relating differently to the structure.  Bluegills relate to vertical structure and shell crackers to horizontal. 

Early in the year, shell crackers will be feeding on the bottom of shallow coves.  The bluegill will be slightly deeper and seeking food in the weeds or along vertical tree trunks.  Later, they can both be found on the same submerged tree.  Bluegills will relate to the vertical trunk and the shell cracker on the outstretched limbs. 

Some good locations for early season gills are area “17″ in the southeast portion of the lake.  Another is the Panther’s Den area at the south end of the lake.  It has tall bluffs and deep water. 

This lake contains lots of bass.  The hungry bass eat enough to control the numbers of bluegills.  With controlled numbers in place the forage is not over utilized.  The control of bluegill populations also means a population of healthy bluegills. 

Due to the unusual water clarity light clear line is advisable.  If using a float, one that is small and light is preferable to the traditional large bobber.  Lightweight wire hooks come in handy as they can be pulled loose from submerged wood.  It is important to periodically check the point of the hook as they dull or break from time to time.  The hooks should be the size appropriate to trout fishing, a number 10 or 12 hook works well. 

Natural bait is best for bluegill fishing.  Crickets or one inch piece of nightcrawler works well. 

Bluegill fishing this time of year involves finding the beds.  During the May and August spawns, Bluegills tend to give a kind of moderate effort at reproduction.  During the June and July spawns they make a strong effort.  The spawn in each of these months consists of those five days on either side of the full moon. 

A good way to pattern the spawning beds before actually fishing them is to scour the shore making notes of the locations of beds in eight feet of water or deeper.  The clarity of the water makes this a simple task.  It is best done between 9:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M.  Polarized sunglasses and a baseball style cap make seeing the beds easier on the eyes. 

Once a half dozen beds are located, return to the first one and begin fishing it.  As the fish move off a bed, move to the next one.  By the time all the beds have been fished it is okay to begin the cycle over again.


April brings showers, but before then, the crappie move into the staging areas in preparation for the annual spring spawns.  Knowledgeable anglers know that Williamson County contains some of the premiere crappie lakes in Illinois.  For some helpful information about the lakes and fish, read on.

 The largest single recreational area in Williamson County is the 43,500-acre Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge located near Marion, Illinois.  More than a million people visit it each year.  Many of the visitors partake of the fishing available on the refuge’s three lakes:  Crab Orchard, Little Grassy and Devil’s Kitchen. 

The sprawling 7,000-acre Crab Orchard Lake is a popular one.  The lake’s 125 miles of shoreline contain weed beds which are home to the white and black crappie.  The adult fish stage just off shore and move in to the spawning beds as the water warms.  Additional action is found along the rip rap and causeways.  Small jigs and jig/minnow combinations are the baits of choice.  These small leadhead jigs are floated below a bobber or just jigged up and down.  The jig tipped with a small minnow is used to entice the reluctant bite. 

By the end of the spawn the fish scatter but remain catchable.  Many fish can be found relating to brush piles and beaver dams. 

To the south of Crab Orchard Lake, but still within the refuge property, Devils Kitchen Lake can be found just off Spillway Road.  Here too the crappie will be staging and soon move into the spawning beds.  This 850-acre lake contains a good population of crappie.  Action in the pre-spawn can be uneven but the areas near the beaver lodges in the southern reaches of the lake are usually a good bet. 

Later during the spawn the shallows are the best bet as fish move in to the lay their eggs and later to defend the nests.  As the fry hatch the adult fish tend to scatter to other parts of the lake.  Again jig and jig/minnow combos are the ticket to success. 

Two miles further south on Spillway Road one finds the third and final lake on the refuge.  Little Grassy Lake is a 1,000-acre lake waterway with wooded shoreline.  Crappies stage in about 8 to 12 feet of water before moving in to the brushy areas for the spawn.  Following the spawn, they move back out to the 8 foot level.  After a brief respite they continue into deeper water of six to 20 feet for the rest of the year.

 The fourth major lake in Williamson County is Lake of Egypt,  a 2,300-acre power plant cooling lake.  Located about seven miles south of Marion and three miles east, this lake is famous for its bass and crappie fishing.  Due to the warm water discharge from the cooling of electrical turbines this lake tends to be slightly warmer than surrounding bodies of water.  As a result crappies tend to stage and spawn a couple of weeks earlier. 

Most of the larger crappie (up to two pounds) are found in the brush just off the points.  Smaller fish will be hanging around the banks in the southern parts of the lake where water is shallower.  Following the spawn crappie move out into the main creek channel and are usually found relating to wood structure and drop-off in up to 20 feet of water. 

Wherever one decides to fish for crappie this year chances are they will be there.  Locate a school of fish and have a ball. 

Local bait shops and sporting goods stores are an excellent source of information.  The people are happy to steer you toward where they are biting.


Steve Timzak, the former concessionaire at the Devil’s Kitchen Boat Dock introduced me to the garden hackle and its use on that lake. Both Steve and the boat dock are gone now but I am still using the garden hackle.

The combination of a small wire hook on 8-pound test line seems a bit strange. As drops down into the Devils Kitchen treetops I jiggle it slowly along the limbs. The bit of nightcrawler threaded on the small hook is called a “garden hackle.” It has become a combination of the techniques of small terminal tackle, like that preferred by fly fishermen, and the basics of panfish bait fishing.

Moving the worm vertically along the tree trunk attracts bluegills. No action. Then working it horizontally along the limbs in search of shellcrackers (redear sunfish) produces success!

Although the name Devils Kitchen Lake allegedly comes from the sulphur fumes experienced by construction workers during the building of the dam, the lake has more in common with heaven than hell.

Located 12 miles southwest of Marion in Williamson County, Devils Kitchen Lake is an 810-acre, clear water reservoir on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Because it is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there is no development on its shoreline except for a primitive campground on the north end. The rest of the shoreline is composed of steep, sloping cliffs that are wooded down to the water line.

Regardless of the many advances in lure and bait development, the “garden hackle” is my choice in this southern Illinois lake. It does not matter if one is using a fly rod, ultra light rod, standard casting rod, or a long crappie rod.

The garden hackle is a small wire hook with the piece of nightcrawler threaded onto it. The wire hook is used due to the amount of submerged wood in the lake. If the hook becomes imbedded in some wood, the strong line allows the angler to pull it straight and out of the tree. Once retrieved, the hook can be reshaped and a new crawler piece is re-threaded.

The trout, stocked into the lake each fall, will also go for the garden hackle. Suspended below a slip float, the bait can be allowed to fall to a depth of 15 to 20 feet where the trout tend to congregate in the hot weather of summer.

When the lake was originally flooded, most of the standing timber was allowed to remain. Some pathways were cut through it and today are the areas of choice for the boater wanting to get through without hanging up. But the trees are the place to go. Some are sticking up from the surface of the lake. Most of them lie somewhere beneath the surface. The tops of the submerged trees in the deep water appear to be hands reaching up to grasp the careless angler.
Anglers complain of getting hung up in the trees. But, with a little effort it is possible to get loose without much of a problem. It is just an annoyance. The trees are really the angler’s friend.

In general the water is clear with some vegetation in the form of coontail and pondweed. Because of the water clarity, it is possible to view the vegetation down to a depth of 10 or 12 feet.

In shallower waters, the redear sunfish feeds on the bottom. The depth of Devils Kitchen (up to 95 feet) has caused them to modify their feeding habits. The redear in this lake like to feed on the outspread tree limbs in depths of eight to 12 feet. They will sometimes be found feeding on the same tree as a bluegill. The gills like the vertical portion of the tree. Namely the trunk is their favorite area. The redear tend to stay with the outstretched limbs.

In some of the more shallow areas of the lake the redear will look for the hard bottom. If there are some weeds nearby, all the better. In these areas, one can cast the garden hackle and allow it to sink to the bottom. A split sinker will help but is not entirely necessary. Then jig the bait across the bottom and the wood as you retrieve it.

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