Free Fishing Days at Crab Orchard Lake in Southern Illinois

Free Fishing Days at Crab Orchard Lake in Southern Illinois
Young lady displays her catch Kids Derby catch. Photo submitted by Don Gassaway.

Outdoor writer Don Gassaway sent this over regarding the fun fishing opportunities that can be found in southern Illinois.  It’s a great close to home destination for a weekend or week long getaway.

Giggles, laughs, squeals of delight and even a few tears will fill the air on June 9, 2012.  The annual Free Fishing Days Derby is an event for the whole family.  The kids do the fishing but the grown-ups also enjoy the experience at Crab Orchard Lake in Williamson County.

Free Fishing Days in Illinois are from June 8, 2012 to June 10, 2012.  This does not mean that you can trespass anywhere you please.  It means that anglers can fish without a license during those days.  All other fish and game laws, such as creel and length limits, continue to apply.  Some of Illinois state parks will have special events during the weekend and many will waive the entrance fee.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (1-618-997-3344) will celebrate the day on June 9, 2012 in the morning at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge west of Marion, Illinois on State Route 13.

Fishing tackle, whether it is a rod and reel or terminal tackle, should be geared to the size and age of the angler.  Event sponsors will provide free use of tackle as well as supply the bait for this event.

The only expense to the family in attendance is the cost of gasoline to get to the site of the old marina on Route 13 that is now Prairie Creek Recreation Area.

Worms are the most popular bait among the young set.  They catch almost any kind of fish.  Worms are not difficult to put on a hook.  Adult assistance for fishing techniques and in baiting a hook will be available if required.

The first 200 children to register at the site will receive a free T-shirt and a package of goodies.  Other prizes are for the biggest fish, smallest fish and most fish in each of the age categories.  Fishing will begin at 8:00 A.M. and continue until noon when the participants get a free hot dog lunch and prizes awarded.

Some items to bring along on are common in all trips to the outdoors with the family.  They should include some sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, lawn chairs or a blanket and perhaps some snacks.  Lunch will be provided at noon during the awards ceremony.  A plastic bag with some veggies can be a welcome cure for the munchies.  There is something about adventure in the outdoors that stimulates the appetite

The idea is to have the total experience be a positive one.  Then the young ones will want to come back again and might even be willing to bring you with them.

For more information about this event, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Visitor Center at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The telephone number is 618-997-3344.  The center is located at 8588 Route 148, Marion, Illinois 62959.

Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99.  Information is also available online at, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website.  Their e-mail address is

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