Fishing the Great Lakes of Williamson County

Fishing the Great Lakes of Williamson County
Crab Orchard Bass
From fellow outdoor writer, Don Gasaway.
Fishing is a proud pursuit of southern Illinois sportsmen and women as well as thousands of visitors each year.  In addition to numerous ponds and small lakes, the area is home to "The great Lakes of Williamson County. Each of them contains excellent size bass as well as other species.
Lake of Egypt is located about three miles east of Interstate 57 and 4 miles south of Marion, Illinois.  Owned by the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, it is 2,300 acres in surface.  The private/public ownership of the water includes some 1600 acres of the Shawnee National Forest.
The lake has an average depth of 18.5 feet. The maximum depth is 52 feet. In spite of the modest size of the lake the bass population is excellent.  Other fish available for the angler include bluegill, crappie and catfish. As a private lake, the IDNR does not conduct surveys of the fish populations.
Although a private lake, Lake of Egypt is accessible to the public for a launch fee.  Permits and site specific regulations are available at any of the three marinas on the lake.  Pyramid Acres (618-964-1184) and Lake of Egypt Marina (618-964-1821) are on the northeastern part of the lake.  Egyptian Hills Marina (618-996-3449) is also on the eastern shore but further south.  All are full service facilities.
By far the largest lake in Williamson County is Crab Orchard Lake.  It is also the most popular.  It is in the middle of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The lake is 8.5 miles in length with 6,965 acres of surface water.  It is a shallow lake with an average depth of six feet.  The lake straddles Route 13 which extends from Marion to Carbondale.  One end is about four miles east of Carbondale and the other end extends quite near the Marion city limits.
The lake gives up a number of 3 and 4 pound largemouth bass each year.  A few anglers catch 10-pound plus fish each year.  According to Chris Bickers, (618-993-7094) D-22 Fisheries Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, bass fishing prospects in this lake are very good for 2013.  The growth rate for bass is good and attributed to lake productivity and abundant gizzard shad and some stocking of threadfin shad when available.  Annual supplemental bass stockings contribute significantly to the bass fishery.  Bluegill, excellent crappie, redear sunfish, carp, bullhead, and catfish are available to both boat and bank fishing anglers.
There is one marina at the campground on the end of Old Route 13.  Refuge Permits and site specific regulations are available at the Visitors Center on Route 148, 2 miles south of the Williamson County Regional Airport.
Information about the lake is available from the USF&WS, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, 8588 Route 148, Marion, IL 62959 or by calling 618-997-3344.
Within the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge are two other Williamson county lakes that are popular with anglers.  These "sister lakes" are Devils Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake.  The fishing in both lakes is notable.
Devils Kitchen Lake is much deeper and also features Rainbow Trout.  Little Grassy Lake is larger in surface water, but shallower, also produces excellent catfish action. Both lakes feature undeveloped and beautiful shorelines.
Devils Kitchen Lake looks much like a Canadian-shield lake.  Because of its depth, the lake provides both a cold water and warm water fishery.  The lake averages 36 feet in depth with a maximum of 90 feet.  The cool deep waters provide an area for the trout to survive during summer.  In the warm water areas largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie abound.
There is no commercial development on the lake.  Site specific regulations are posted at all boat ramps.
Little Grassy Lake is just south west of Devil's Kitchen near Makanda, Illinois.  It has 1200-acres of water with 36 miles of shoreline.  The average depth is 27 feet with a 90 foot depth in the channel at the spillway on the north end of the lake.
The name of this lake originates from the creek that forms it.  The largemouth bass in this lake average about 2-pounds and it is not uncommon to find one that will hit double that weight.  A number of fish up to six pounds are present.  In the spring, crappie and bluegill are a favorite with anglers as they move into the shallows to spawn.
There are three boat ramps and one marina on the lake.  The Little Grassy Boat Dock is on the north end of the lake and provides live bait, tackle, gas, and boat rentals.  Site specific information is posted at the boat ramps and is available at the boat dock store.
For more information about this area contact:  Little Grassy Boat Dock, R.R.1, Box 340 Makanda, Illinois.  The phone number there is 618‑457‑6655.
One more place for information about the things that are going on in Williamson County is the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois.  Their phone number is 800‑GEESE‑99.  Ask for their free color fishing guide brochure.  For those with Internet access check out the Web page of Williamson County Tourism Bureau at www.visitsi.com.  Direct email inquiries to info@visitsi.com.
It won't be long before I return to southern Illinois.

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