Hunting & Fishing
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Williamson County is the premier destination for fishermen in Southern Illinois. We attract professional and amateur fishermen alike with our popular lakes, annual fishing tournaments and year-round fishing opportunities. From the well-known 7,000-acre Crab Orchard Lake and 2,300-acre Lake of Egypt to the 30-acre Arrowhead Lake and everything in between, fishermen relish in the abundance of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish and other popular species being caught here. 

Southern Illinois Fishing Report - June 16, 2017

Devils’ Kitchen: Bluegills are still holding around the beds. However, fishing has slowed. The standard bluegill baits are still effective.

Crab Orchard Lake: Bluegill action is still good near the beds. Catfish action is picking up. Anglers are reporting good success on cut bait, stinkbait and leeches. Crappies are holding over cover in 6-9 feet of water. Minnows and jigs are both effective. Bass anglers are still reporting good success using topwater baits and soft plastics over shallow woody cover.

Baldwin Lake: Largemouth bass have slowed. Bluegills are biting on worms in 6 to 8 feet of water. Fishing for crappies and catfish has been fair.

Carlyle Lake: Crappies and catfish best. Catfish taking shrimp, leeches, cut shad and shad guts off flooded trees. White bass hitting tube jigs and twister tails. Crappies slowing but biting on minnows, jigs, tube jigs by Hazlet State Park. Sauger hit and miss, if they can be found. Bluegill fishing is fair on worms. Carp spawning in shallows.

Pinckneyville Lake: Largemouth bass have slowed. Bluegills are biting on worms in 6 to 8 feet of water. Crappie and catfish fishing has been fair.

Kinkaid Lake: Catfish are still the best bet. Anglers are taking fish on nightcrawlers, stinkbait, liver, cut shad and leeches. Bluegill anglers are catching good numbers of fish, but most are running small. Crappies are scattered at 8-12 feet. Minnows and jigs are both effective. Bass action is spotty. Crappies picking up on minnows. Muskies improving on Rat-L-Traps, twitch minnows, spinnerbaits and soft plastics. White bass also taking crappie minnows, small crankbaits, small diving crankbaits. Walleyes taking deep diving crankbaits or jig and minnow combos by the rip-rap areas or the dam.

Lake of Egypt: Bluegill action is good on crickets, meal worms and wax worms. Crappie action has picked up in the past week. Most anglers are fishing with minnows in 18-22 feet of water. Bass action is spotty. Anglers are taking fair numbers of fish, although most are running slow. Jigs and soft plastics are most effective for bigger fish. Anglers are taking good numbers of smaller fish on shallow running baits. Catfish action has been fair.

Little Grassy: Bass action is excellent. Anglers are taking good fish on a variety of baits. Crappies are hitting on minnows. Most crappies are holding in 8-10 feet of water. Crappie anglers are catching good numbers of bass on minnows. Bluegill action has been excellent on crickets and meal worms. Catfish anglers are reporting good success on nightcrawlers and cut bait and biting on worms.

Rend Lake: Bluegills are still rated excellent. Sunfish are still bedding and can be caught in shallow areas on crickets and meal worms. Crappies and catfish were downgraded from excellent to good. The crappie spawn is essentially completed, and fish have retreated to cover in 6-14 feet of water. Jigs and minnows are still producing good catches. Catfish are still being caught around shallow rip rap areas. Cut shad, leeches and stinkbaits are all effective. Largemouth action is still good around woody cover, rip rap and bridge piers. Soft plastics, Rat-L-Traps, spinnerbaits and crankbaits have all been productive. White bass are also rated good on spoons, jigs and crankbaits near bridge piers and rip rap.

Lake Murphysboro: Catfish anglers are reporting good success. Fish are biting on virtually every natural bait. Bluegill action is good, but most anglers are reporting fish are running small. Crappie and bass action is spotty.

By Don Gasaway

Illinois is a state of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.  The state boundaries on the south and the west follow the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  The interior of the state is honey combed with waterways.  Early settlers used them for food and transportation needs.  Anywhere in the state one is just a short distance from some great ground pounding on a river bank.

Unless you have fished a river recently you have never fished it.  Rivers are ever changing as flooding rearranges the bottom structure.  It rearranges the deep channels and washes in new obstacles to current flow.

Fish can only manage the battle against the current for a short time.  They look for obstacles behind which they can rest out of the current.  They wait there in search of some forage to come to them.  Heavy current or a lack of it usually means no fish.
Spots where the river flows slows and stops temporarily provide fishing opportunities.  That is where the fish are likely to rest.  These include areas such as eddies behind snags, below sandbars, or those sections of the river with a cut in the river bank.
Fish prefer areas where the vegetation or other structure cast shadows on the water.  It might be a tree hanging over the water, a boat dock or in the shadow of old boats or barges abandoned.    Wooden structures are best.
In warm water bass cannot remain active for long periods without undergoing stress.  They are inactive for a while and then feed in short "feeding frenzies."  In cool water of rivers flowing and mixing action of the current oxygenates the water and allows fish to feed for more extended periods.
Water clarity is important to river fishing.  Seldom is water really "clear."  Subtle presentations are poor ideas in clear water.  Big bright, noisy lures seem to work better.  Big bass in rivers like to take advantage of wounded baitfish or unfortunate creatures that fall into the river.  They strike fast and hard in order to beat another fish to them.  For this reason jointed minnow, buzzbaits and occasionally rubber frog lures are effective.
In larger rivers crankbaits and plastic worms are effective.  Work the plastics slowly to keep the slack out of the line and allow the working of the lure over the bottom.  Set the hook when anything unusual happens in the movement of the line.  In the live bait category the ever popular minnow hooked through the back allows a free fish action that attracts predatory fish.
Long medium action rods are best in river situations.  This is especially true in snagy areas.  Bait cast reels are preferable as they contain clickers.  Spooled with 12-pound line or is equivalent in the super lines, these lines can be cast out and allowed to work with the current.
Lakes and impoundments are usually crowded on weekends.  Rivers and creeks can be a refuge from the crowds.

Click here to view our 2017 Fishing Guide


Williamson County has some of the finest game bird, waterfowl, deer, turkey, and small game hunting in the Midwest, thanks to our mix of popular flyways, lakes, hardwood forests, cropland, wetlands, river bottom topography and nearby Shawnee National Forest and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Ducks and geese have long been the most popular species to hunt here, and public hunting grounds abound. There are also at least 5 private hunt clubs operating in Williamson County that provide a wide range of services for the optimum waterfowl hunting experience.


If you can cope with the heat and mosquitos moving quietly, but swiftly, through the lush green of the brush and trees squirrel hunting is for you.  Giving a cursory glance into the overhead canopy it's possible to find some squirrels for dinner.

Look for the yellow leaves.  This time of the year there is only one species of tree that has mature nuts, Hickory!

In late summer the first species of trees to change color is the hickory.  This change in color also means that it is dropping the hickory nuts that are a favorite with treetop rodents.  The bright yellow stands out in the southern forests among the other hardwoods that remain their summer green.

Within an hour drive for Williamson County there is an estimated half million acres open to free public hunting of squirrels.

Squirrel season in southern Illinois begins August 1st.  A hot sticky task, it is the first chance hunters have to take to the woods and sharpen skills.  It is a time to sit tight and let the quarry give away his position.  Vocalizations are an important factor.

Because squirrels are difficult to spot in the treetop canopy, one cannot rely on sight alone to find a target.  A vocal squirrel is an aggravated one.  He will sound off and display a flickering tail as a threat to potential enemies or rivals.  The noise and tail movement give away his position.

Early season squirrels have a feast of food from which to choose.  The greedy little creatures are busy storing up food for the winter.  Hunters seek travel lanes from the nest to nearby food supplies.  Claw marks on the bark of trees are a sign of activity.

Another good location to find squirrels is near standing corn.  Squirrels love ripening corn and will raid fields if given the opportunity.

If the squirrels do not want to vocalize try a call.  Calling squirrels, unlike other game calling, is not to get the animal to come to the hunter.  Squirrel calling to aggravate the animal and get him to expose his position.

The two basic types of squirrel calls on the market consist of a reed call with a small rubber bellows attached and a squirrel whistle.

The hunter strikes the reed call on the bellows end making a clucking sound.  The idea is to imitate the sound of another squirrel trespassing on the territory of the quarry.  The resident’s response then gives away his position.

The whistle is to imitate the distress call of a youngster.  It is a small metal whistle.  As the hunter sucks air through it, he rattles branches or swats branch on the ground.  This imitates the sound of a hawk catching a squirrel.   The idea is to sound like a hawk striking and the squirrel crying out in fear.

The exact routine consists of five whistles with the first being longer than the following four.  The first whistle is about three quarters of a second and the rest about a half second each in length.  The hunter strikes the branch on the ground during the first three whistles and continues with the last two.  A green, leafy limb is best.

Calling works best in the morning after the squirrels have fed.  The little rascals become very excited and run around giving away their location.

Even if a squirrel is spotted, chances are that he will move quickly and the hunter will have to change positions.  Squirrels are notorious for moving around a tree keeping the trunk or limb between himself and the hunter.  A hunter in full camo can move around and get a good location for a shot.  It is best to move slowly.  When the squirrel is barking away, he does seem to lose any fear.

Early season squirrel hunting is a great getaway and a good way to tune up for the other upcoming hunting seasons.

Southern Illinois Waterfowl Survey will be found here when waterfowl season approches.

Click here to view the 2017 Hunting Guide


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