Southern Illinois'™ '˜Other'™ Bass Factories

The southern portion of the Prairie State offers up plenty of fine, less-known largemouth waters where bass fishing after the spawn holds its own. (May 2009)

Fishing guide Jason Johns of Whittington says his best days of bass fishing on Pinkneyville City Lake in Perry County have seen him hook more than 100 largemouths, many of those in the 3- to 5-pound range.

Photo courtesy of Jason Johns.

When south Illinois largemouth bass move out of the spawning period, the bass anglers who chase them tend to focus their fishing on the best-known lakes. But the southern portion of the Prairie State offers up plenty of fine, less-known largemouth waters where bass fishing in the post-spawn period holds its own.

PINKNEYVILLE CITY LAKE

In 2003, Pinkneyville City Lake suffered a die-off of bass in 2003, but the bass population has been improving steadily since then. Those in the know say the 190-acre lake is a real sleeper in bass fishing. A recent fisheries survey found 44 percent of the lake's largemouth bass measured longer than 15 inches; 35 percent of the bass stretched more than 16 inches; and 15 percent of Pinkneyville's largemouths measured more than 18 inches, the legal minimum-length size limit for anglers keeping bass at the lake.

Fishing guide Jason Johns of Todd Gessner Outdoors in Whittington describes the bass-fishing action as unbelievable at times. He has fished the lake for about five years and has seen numerous 6- and 7-pound fish caught. His best days fishing the lake's deep water, shallows, weeds, laydowns and standing timber have resulted in hooking more than 100 fish, with many of those in the 3- to 5-pound range. He also finds late-spring bass busting shad on the surface when the wind blows. Shad can be found almost anywhere in the lake on any given day, he adds.

Pinkneyville City Lake is a former municipal water-supply reservoir, located on Illinois Route 149 just north of the city of Pinkneyville in Perry County. Its lone boat ramp is on the south end of the lake and features an excellent facility for disabled anglers next to it. A small sign on Route 149 marks the turn-off to the ramp. Boats are restricted to 10-horsepower motors, which helps maintain the water quality.

For more information about the fishery, contact the Division 21 office of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources through the agency's Web site at www.dnr.state.il.us. Fishing guide service can be obtained from Jason Johns at Todd Gessner Outdoors, phone: (618) 927-3432 or online at www.ToddGessnerOutdoors. com. Lodging options include the Main Street Inn at 112 South Main Street (Route 127) in Pinkneyville, phone: (618) 357-2128.

KINKAID LAKE

Kinkaid Lake is best known for its muskie fishery, but rest assured: It's one of south Illinois' up-and-coming bass lakes and is expected only to improve! In 2008, the local Boy Scouts, the IDNR and the Kinkaid Water District combined efforts to build and place bass-rearing beds in the 2,750-acre lake that features boulder and timber cover along its shoreline.

IDNR fisheries official Shawn Hirst says the agency's fish surveys in 2008 discovered the best bass sample on record for Kinkaid. Thirty-two percent of the largemouth bass collected measured more than 15 inches; 25 percent stretched longer than the lake's 16-inch minimum-length limit for bass; and 13 percent measured longer than 18 inches. He adds that most of the bass sampled, caught during sanctioned fishing tournaments on the lake, were in the 3-pound range.

Local fishing guide Alan Nutty of Kinkaid Lake Guide Service in Murphysboro -- phone: (618) 694-4897 -- describes the water clarity this time of year as excellent for using shad-imitating crankbaits and light-color plastic worms. Although bass are found throughout the lake, the shallows hold the best numbers, especially in summertime when large recreational boats disturb fishing action in deep water.

Kinkaid Lake is located in Jackson County, five miles northwest of Murphysboro. It can be reached via Illinois Route 149, then Route 3 and finally Route 51. Marina service is available at two sites: Johnson Creek Recreation Area, phone: (618) 763-4233); and Kinkaid Marina, phone: (618) 687-4233. Bait and fishing reports can be obtained at the Top-Of-The-Hill Bait Shop in Murphysboro, phone: (618) 684-2923. For local accommodations, contact the Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau in Carbondale, phone: (800) 526-1500 or online at www.cctb.org.

CEDAR LAKE

Bass fishing in the clear water of Cedar Lake is coming into its own. Located just off Illinois Route 51 south of Carbondale, Cedar Lake is a municipal water-supply reservoir for the city of Carbondale. Its shoreline features no development other than a couple of boat ramps and a pumping station. A 10-horsepower motor limit appears to keep boat traffic to a minimum and fishing pressure light.

The IDNR's fish survey in 2008 collected good numbers of largemouth bass in all sizes. Hirst says 34 percent of the bass collected measured longer than 14 inches, 19 percent measured in the 14- to 18-inch protected slot-length limit, and 15 percent measured longer than 18 inches.

Nutty (see guide service contact information above) says he finds a lot of 2- to 4-pound fish, with occasional catches of 5- to 7-pounders. This time of year, he tends to fish about 4 to 8 feet deep in the lake's north-facing bays, where he believes some bass are still spawning. He says he fishes the laydowns with plastic worms and lizards in electric-blue and tequila-sunrise color patterns.

In other areas, Nutty says, Cedar Lake's bass are in the early post-spawn period and are beginning to school up, relating to deep dropoffs where schools of shad are gathering. The bass haven't moved entirely off the banks, Nutty adds, but they're more likely to be found near schools of shad than near structure and vegetation. Al finds that the entire lake can produce fish at this time of the year for anglers casting shad-imitating crankbaits.

For accommodations, fishing guides and bait and tackle shops, see the information above for Kinkaid Lake service. Fishing information is also available at Cooksey's Bait Shop, phone: (618) 993-3366, on Illinois Route 148, one mile south of the Williamson County Airport near Marion.

DEVIL'S KITCHEN LAKE

Devil's Kitchen Lake is an 810-acre gem located in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion. According to Chris Bickers, IDNR Division 22 fisheries manager, Devil's Kitchen keeps bass fishermen busy with its significant number of small bass. Bickers encourages anglers to harvest the small bass to enhance the growth rates for the rest of the population. The IDNR also stocks a significant number of threadfin shad in the lake each year.

Still, a number of large bass do fall to anglers at Devil's Kitchen. Its water quality is very good. The shoreline contains a significant number of submerged trees; in fact, boaters are warned to proceed with caution to avoid damage to motors.

Local anglers report good fishing along rock ledges on the lake's eastern shore, just south of the dam where the water falls away to more than 90 feet deep. Look for bass, too, in the timber-filled back bays along the entire length of the lake.

Marina services are not available at Devil's Kitchen Lake. Boats can be launched from a ramp near the dam at the lake's north end. Signs on Spillway Road clearly lead to both the lake and the ramp. For more information about the lake, contact the Crab Orchard NWR Visitor's Center, phone: (618) 997-3344, at 8588 Route 148 in Marion. It stands two miles south of Williamson County Airport.

For information on accommodations and bait and tackle shops, contact the Williamson County Tourism Bureau -- phone: (800) GEESE-99; Web site: www.WCTB.org; email: info@WCTB.org. Ask for its new free fishing guide, which features contact information for area bait and tackle shops, local fishing guides and a complete list of local motels.

South Illinois holds well-known bass-fishing lakes, for sure. But savvy bass anglers looking for good fishing, light fishing pressure and clear, clean waters find these and many more little-known lakes to be great alternatives to the pressure-packed impoundments everyone knows.

Southern Illinois' small lakes: Fish 'em!

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