You are hereUS / Illinois / Illinois Lakes / Lake Information for Crab Orchard Lake

Lake Information for Crab Orchard Lake


Crab Orchard Lake is a 6,965-acre (28.2 kmĀ²) artificial lake in Williamson County, Illinois. It is the centerpiece of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. It is fed by Devils Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake, which are also within the National Wildlife Refuge.

Crab Orchard Lake was created when Crab Orchard Creek, a tributary of the Big Muddy River in southern Illinois, was dammed in the 1930s for purposes of recreation and flood control. The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge was established August 5, 1947 following the transfer of all land previously held by the Crab Orchard Creek Project and the Illinois Ordnance Plant to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fishing Description: 

Adequate numbers of largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass, and white and black crappie were collected for analysis of the fish population in 2007, but no hybrid striped bass were included in the sample. Hybrid striped bass were probably not found because 1999 and 2001 are the only years significant numbers have been stocked since 1991, thus the remaining population consists of a few old individuals.

The proportion of largemouth bass larger than the 16-inch limit has been above 20% since 2004, and 2007 was no exception, indicating the existence of a quality population. Largemouth bass catch-per-unit effort was 109 fish per hour in 2007, a significant increase compared to 70 the previous year; both numbers easily exceeded the lake management goal of 60 bass per hour. Body condition of largemouth bass in Crab Orchard Lake also has remained excellent and was 102 in 2007 with a goal range of 90 to 110. Improvements in the Crab Orchard bass population in recent years can be at least partially attributed to a combination of more stringent harvest regulations, increased bass fingerling and threadfin shad stocking, habitat enhancement, and establishment of a spawning refuge area. The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is also limiting each bass club to one fish-off event per year to reduce angling pressure and angler conflicts.

The quality of Crab Orchard Lake bluegill exceeded the management goal for the fourth year in 2007, and bluegill body condition met the goal for the tenth year in a row, indicating another good forecast for bluegill anglers ; however the proportion of bluegill larger than six inches and seven inches decreased somewhat as compared to the previous year.

Crab Orchard Lake channel catfish quality and body condition, similar to previous years, were excellent, and 42% of the fish collected were larger than 22 inches in length.

Black crappie outnumbered white crappie in the fall 2007 Crab Orchard Lake survey by a factor of four. Black crappie abundance, length-based quality, and body condition all increased in 2007, and 76% of the fish collected were larger than eight inches long. White crappie abundance and body condition decreased slightly compared to the previous year, but length-based quality increased, and 66% of collected fish were larger than 10 inches.

Fishing Tips, Tactics, How-To info: 

Bluegill fishing is best in May and June along the stumps, brush, and spawn beds.

Carp fishing is best in March through November over the entire lake.

Channel catfish fishing is best in April through October in Grassy Bay, Wolfe Creek, and Cambria.

Crappie fishing is best in the spring and fall along the points, drop offs, and submerged structures.

Largemouth bass fishing is best in March through December along the brush piles and points.

White bass fishing is best in May through October along the points, flats, and humps.

Channel Catfish
Largemouth Bass
White Bass
Optional Information
Surface area: 
Crab Orchard Lake
Lake type: 

Businesses Located Nearby

Boat Rental

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

Vacation Rental

    Crab Orchard Campground
  • 10067 Campground Dr - Carbondale, IL
  • (618) 985-4983

Bar and Restaurant

    Smokin Joes Barbecue
  • 601 W Herrin St - Herrin, IL
  • (618) 942-3144
  • 1237 E Main St, #1030 - Carbondale, IL
  • (405) 549-2191
    Pulley & Sons Barbecue
  • 1301 E Main St - Marion, IL
  • (618) 997-5225

Cast Your Vote

Your vote has been recorded.

Hot Lakes