Williamson County fishing prospects promising

February 26, 2011 at 01:57 AM

Recent surveys of the fish populations in Williamson County lakes shows that the Prospects for fishing success this year is very promising.

Three of the larger bodies of water in Williamson County are found in the Crab orchard National Wildlife Refuge about 4 miles west of Marion.  Owned by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the fishery is managed by D-22 Fisheries Manager Chris Bickers of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Chris finds the bass fishery doing well in 7,000-acre Crab Orchard Lake.  The lake is the largest of the three lakes in the refuge area.  His surveys find that 24 percent of the fish are longer than the 16-inch minimum for keeper bass.

The bluegills in the lake are doing well too.  Fifty percent are over 6-inches in length and 15% are over 6 inches.

The white and black crappies are about evenly divided.  Thirty percent of the white crappies are over 10-inches in length.  About 7 percent of the black crappies are in that class.

The white bass are getting established in the lake with two classes of fish coming on.  One class is 5 to 7 inches in size and the other is 10 to 13 inches.

Then there are the catfish.  Both flathead and channel catfish thrive in this lake.

Over in 1,000-acre Little Grassy Lake, 30 percent of the largemouth bass are over the 15-inch minimum size limit.

Bluegills are not as promising with only 9% over the 7-inch mark.  However, the Redear Sunfish, often called shellcrackers, are coming on strong.  Fifty-four percent of them were over 7-inches and 36 percent are over 8-inches in length.

Between these two lakes is 810-acre Devil’s Kitchen Lake.  Chris finds the largemouth bass are predominately 7 to 13 inches in length.  But it is not unusual to find some fish in the 7 to 9 pound class.

Seventy percent of the bluegill population is over 7-inches.  Ten percent are over 8 inches.

A bonus in the lake is the seven to twelve thousand rainbow trout that are stocked each October.  During the winter they scatter and then congregate during the summer near the dam in the deep water.

For those seeking the solitude of small lake fishing, there are Herrin Lake Number One and Herrin Lake Number 2, south of the city of Herrin.  Both are about 60-acres.

Herrin Lake Number One contains largemouth bass and bluegills.  65 percent of the bass were larger than 12-inches and 19 percent exceed 15 inches.  Eighty-one percent of the bluegills are over 6-inches in length.  Some redear sunfish, channel catfish and crappie are also present.  Some supplemental stocking of channel catfish took place last year.

In Herrin Lake Number 2, the bass are smaller with most fish shorter than 13-inches, but 13 percent are over the 15-inch minimum size for keeper fish.  Good size bluegills are to be found and the black crappie range in length from 6 to 11-inches.

To the north of Marion and along Interstate 57 is the community of Johnston City.  On the eastern edge of the city is 30-acre Arrowhead Lake.

Although bass numbers in this lake are up significantly, the quality of fish is down.  Chris finds that this is an indication that the bass population is somewhat overcrowded relative to the available food supply.

On the positive side, the bluegills and redear sunfish population has improved.  Their size and body quality is excellent.  Other species included are white crappie in the 8 to10-inch lengths and black crappie in the 6 to 10-inch size.  The channel catfish are in the 18 to 24 inch class.

Free information regarding motel accommodations, a color fishing guide brochure,  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: Visitsi.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website.  Their e-mail address is: sjohnson @visitsi.com.