You are hereUS / Illinois / Illinois Lakes / Lake Information for Carlyle Lake

Lake Information for Carlyle Lake


Carlyle Lake is a man made lake or reservoir largely located in Clinton County, Illinois, with smaller portions of the lake within Bond and Fayette counties. It is the largest man made lake in Illinois and the largest lake wholly within the state.

The lake was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built Carlyle Dam across the Kaskaskia River, thereby creating a reservoir filled to a mean elevation of 446 feet (136 m) above sea level. The region of Southern Illinois where Carlyle Lake now stands is relatively flat, and the lake is relatively shallow. Construction of the dam began on October 18, 1958 and it was dedicated on June 3, 1967.

Grouped around the lake are the Dam West, Dam East, Coles Creek, Boulder and Coles Creek Recreation Areas operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area, South Shore State Park, and the Carlyle Lake Wildlife Management Area operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Fishing Description: 

Crappie fishing in spring and fall also can be excellent at times. Trophy largemouth bass lurk there, and white bass fishing can be fast and furious during the late summer months after the shad spawn. A walleye population is building, and good bluegill fishing occurs during spring and summer months. Yellow bass, often called “streakers” also are found there.

Fishing Tips, Tactics, How-To info: 

The upper one-third of the lake offers some of the best fishing opportunities for crappies, bluegills, largemouth bass, bullheads and channel catfish.
There are two public access areas for easy entry to this portion of the lake; Tamalco on the west and Patoka on the east.

Below the railroad tracks, the lower two-thirds of the lake is quite open except for some timber left standing in three of the major bays.

Prime fishing areas in the area include West Branch, Burnside Bay, Allen Peppenhorst, Bond, Branch, Coles, Gibbes and Brewster creeks. There are six access areas, and two (Keysport and Boulder) offer good access to the upper portion of the lake.
Some of the better fishing spots in the lower section are the bays, river and creek channels, points, rip rap areas and around the islands.

Good crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, drum, bluegill and white bass fishing can be found in the lower portion of the lake.

The East and West Spillway Access Areas are directly below the Carlyle Lake dam. Another fisherman access spot is east of the easy access to the Kaskaskia River and the old river bed.

Excellent fishing is available at times in the tailwater area directly below the spillway. Spring offers opportunities for walleyes, white bass, crappies, bluegills and bullheads. Carp, drum and channel cat provide most of the summer fishing action. Angling for most species picks up again in the fall.

The popular channel catfish bites best in the main lake when there is a rise in the pool level. Areas that produce good catches are quite variable from month to month as are the baits they prefer. River and creek channels, flooded timber and shorelines are good spots to set trotlines. Some trotlines probe the open lake around islands or over the river channel. At other times, open fields above the railroad produce best.

Pole-and-line fishermen usually find the best channel catfish action in the creek, river channels, bottomland lakes or areas with hard mud or sand bottoms. Choice of baits vary but would include large shiners, gizzard shad, crayfish and leeches or cut baits from carp or shad. Nightcrawlers, stick baits or cheese or blood and soured clams and shrimp also are good at times.

Some anglers set their sites on the large “flatheads.” They use mostly trotlines with big hooks (No. 2/0 to 6/0), big baits and strong lines. Baits range from live green sunfish, bullheads, carp, large shiners and shad to leeches, chicken guts and large hunks of cut baits from bowfin to carp. Most flatheads are taken around or in the old channel in the lake. This species also is occasionally taken by pole-and-line fishermen along rip rap areas or in the tailwaters.

White bass fishing is usually a hit or miss situation. When an angler finds this spunky fish feeding on surface schools of shad, action can be torrid. Any small spinning lure, jig or spoon thrown into a feeding school of white bass frequently will provide a fish on every cast. But such a spree can end as quickly as it starts, and the angler must search out another school.

Fishing for white bass has been along the rock rip rap of the dam, drop off areas of creek and river channels and around islands.

Walleyes have been stocked in the lake annually since 1974. Anglers haven’t quite yet learned how to catch these excellent-eating fish in the main lake. Best fishing for this species usually occurs in the tailwater area from February to mid-June. Most walleyes are taken from along the spillway wing walls, along the rock rip rap of this area or from the low-head dam just north of the Route 50 bridge over the Kaskaskia River at Carlyle.

Spring and fall generally produce most of the crappies, since these fish drop into deeper water during the summer.

Channel Catfish
Largemouth Bass
White Bass
Bass Family
Catfish Family
Optional Information
Maximum depth: 
Surface area: 
Carlyle Lake
Lake type: 

Businesses Located Nearby

Boat Rental

    Lakeside Boat & Motors
  • 2501 S 10th - Mt Vernon, IL
  • (618) 242-2600

Vacation Rental

Cast Your Vote

Your vote has been recorded.

Hot Lakes