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Water temperature, structure, and water level are the keys to fishing for fall crappie at Rend Lake.

The best action comes when the water temperature drops to 60 degrees or lower.  At that point, anglers concentrate on the “sets” to be found around the lake.  There are probably thousands of them.  In the fall most of the crappie are relating to structure and not suspended.

A set usually consists of brush piles composed of Christmas trees and weighed down with cement blocks or some other heavy object.  Some of the sets are placed in the lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, owners of the lake.  These sets are marked with a white buoy that identifies it.

Perhaps most of the sets have been placed in the lake by locals.  Some of them are the Christmas tree style and others are made of wooden stakes driven into the bottom of the lake about 6 inches apart in an area about 4 feet by 4 feet.  They can be located by use of electronic fish locators or by watching other anglers on the water.

Most sets will be found in the coves of the north end of the lake.  However, some are also to be found in deeper water along the old river channels.

Additionally, anglers will fish a lot of stumps in the fall.  The best ones are those right off the river channels.  Big Muddy River Channel, Atchecinson Creek, and Gun Creek as some of the better locations.  Gun Creek is a very good place to fish in the fall.  “It is loaded with stumps so caution is a good idea.  The entire north end of the lake, north of U.S. Route 154 has stump fields.

The normal pool level of the lake is 405 feet.  It is the point at which water flows through the notch in the dam.  If the lake is above 408 or 409, then it is possible to go pretty much where you please.  The water level at the top of the dam is 410.  Below that water level, it is a good idea to check maps and with local anglers to find out where the stumps might be encountered.  Electronics are a must as it can be pretty treacherous.

Rend Lake crappie are a half to three-quarters of a pound in weight.  A lot of the fish will go up to a pound to a pound and one-quarter.  In recent years fish over 2 pounds up to 3 pounds have been caught.  The normal crappie is about 10 to 11 inches in length.  Although an occasional black crappie is caught, the majority are white crappie.

In the Fall, most fish are caught by jigging leadhead jigs in 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce size.  Light colors are preferred and chartreuse is a favorite.  Chartreuse combined with other colors are also effective combinations.  Most are rigged as a single hook set, but some anglers get into fish out on the main lake and turn to double hook rigs at that time.

Long jigging poles are the preferred rod for crappie anglers.  They are particularly effect during a two week period each fall when the water level floods the buck brush shoreline.  The poles are effective in getting a jig into an area where the boat won’t go.  Ten, 11, or 12 foot rods are preferred.

Ten to 12 pound line with extra light wire hooks and 1/8th ounce sinker makes for a good rig on these waters.  The sinker is allowed to slide up and down the line to the hook.  The set-up is suspended below a slip float.  This combination is effective in brush.

If fishing with minnows, the above rig slows down the minnows action.  If the hook becomes snagged, it can be popped a little and the movement of the sinker will make the hook come lose.  Additionally, the extra light wire hooks will straighten out if all else fails.

Rend Lake is a 18,900-acre lake in south-central Illinois.  Located in Franklin and Jefferson counties, the lake is less than three hours from both Springfield and St. Louis on Interstate 57.  At normal pool of 405 feet, RendLake has a shoreline length of 162 miles.  It is 13 miles long and three miles wide.  Except for two marinas, the shoreline is undeveloped.

Portions of the lake north of Route 183 are relatively shallow with depths running less than 10 feet.  South of Highway 154, the lake is much deeper, but there are some very shallow areas.  Boaters should exercise caution.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a free booklet available entitled Rend Lake Fishing Guide that is helpful to the angler seeking information about the lake.  It contains maps and information about services and recreational facilities.  It is available upon request from the IDNR Public Information Office, 524 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL62701-1787.

Fall may be a time when many of us look to upland game hunting, and it is available in the area, but don’t pass up some fine crappie fishing on Rend Lake.  Make plans today to fish the wood of Rend Lake this fall.

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