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Lake Information

County: Williamson

Acreage: 6965

Shoreline Length: 125 miles

Recreational Amenities

Boat Fishing? Unrestricted

Boat Ramps? Yes

Boat Rental? Yes

Skiing? Yes

Swimming? Yes

Picnicking? Yes

Camping? Yes

large map link Pump House Boat Club Refuge Headquarters West End

    Click on area names for a more detailed map.
    Pump House Neck, Refuge Headquarters, Boat Club,
    West End Boat Ramp

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Maps are not intended for navigation.

Fish Attractors:

There are no zebra mussels in this lake.

Lake Status Summary  ( Full PDF Report )

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Fish Status



The abundance of Crab Orchard Lake bluegill in 2022 increased to a level not seen in 5 years, but the proportion of fish over 6 inches in length decreased from 62% to 38%. Abundance however still exceeded the management goal for the sixteenth year in a row. 12% of the bluegill population was over 7 inches and bluegill body condition remained excellent, indicating another good forecast for bluegill anglers.



Crab Orchard Lake channel catfish quality and body condition, similar to previous years, was excellent, and 66% of the fish collected were larger than 22 inches in length.



Fall electrofishing and trapnetting surveys indicate strong Black and White crappie populations in Crab Orchard lake, with high numbers and phenomenal growth. Body condition of both white and black crappie has improved to within the management plan goal range.


Very Good

The bass fishing forecast for Crab Orchard Lake is good to very good. In 2022, the percentage of bass larger than 16 inches decreased slightly (19%), likely related to the substantially higher number of young of year bass sampled. This is important to note because Crab Orchard Lake is normally plagued by weak bass spawns. Largemouth bass abundance in the 2022 sample increased substantially (78/hr). Body condition of largemouth bass in Crab Orchard Lake has remained excellent. General good condition of the Crab Orchard Lake bass population in recent years can be at least partially attributed to a combination of more stringent harvest regulations, increased bass fingerling stocking, habitat enhancement (through fish attractor installation, hinge cutting of shoreline trees, and vegetation reestablishment), establishment of a spawning refuge area with artificial spawning substrates, and drawdown activities. 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.



White bass were collected at a rate of 47/hr during the fall 2022 survey, which represented the highest rate since 2004. The proportion over 10 inches (46%) was impressive. Fish in the sample ranged in size from 5 to 15 inches, and 28% were larger than 12 inches. White bass body condition easily met the management plan goal.

Location: Crab Orchard Lake is a 6965-acre impoundment located in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge between Marion and Carbondale in Williamson County Illinois.

Description: The Crab Orchard Lake fishery is cooperatively managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A user permit is required to access the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Information can be obtained by calling the refuge visitor center at 618-997-3344.

History and Status of the Sport Fishery: No sampling was conducted in 2021 because of a 4ft lake drawdown begun July 5th 2021 and maintained until early March 2022. This drawdown was necessary for much needed dam and boat ramp repairs. IDNR biologists and USFWS staff worked cooperatively to take advantage of this drawdown and conducted multiple habitat optimization projects beginning before the drawdown and continuing through till the lake was returned to normal pool. Beginning in late 2020, approximately 175 snagless fish attractors were sunk in optimal locations for boat and bank anglers. These structures were built from recycled HDPE fiber optic cable conduit donated by Clearwave communications. Before and during the drawdown nearly 500 large sycamore, maple, birch and sweet gum trees were dropped in areas with optimal spawning or year round use habitat. During the peak of the drawdown 1250 water willow plugs were planted in 7 sites in an attempt to reestablish the massive water willow beds the lake was once known for. These sites were selected for varying depth, substrates, and prevailing wind patterns to determine optimal planting parameters for future planting projects. Additionally, 80 Largemouth bass spawning bench structures were constructed in optimal LMB spawning habitat. The efficacy of these efforts will be assessed in the coming years and it is my intention to continue habitat and population mitigation efforts as Crab Orchard continues to age and available habitat degrades at an ever-expediting rate.
These efforts, in conjunction with sediment restabilization, and nutrient reallocation associated with a large scale/long term drawdown are likely to contribute to a mini “new lake effect” in Crab Orchard over the next few years. The additional benefits of forage species concentration are likely to lead to improved growth and condition in sportfish species. The resulting change in size structure of forage species, especially Gizzard shad, will hopefully lead to smaller individuals making up larger portions of these populations, thereby providing more forage of optimal size to a variety of important sportfish. IDNR/refuge staff are hopeful in the benefits and impacts this drawdown will have on such a storied, aging, and in some ways troubled fishery.

Additional Lake Information: A user permit is required to access the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Information can be obtained by calling the refuge visitor center at 618-997-3344.

Largemouth bass have a 16-inch minimum length limit and a 3-per-day creel limit. No other size or creel limits are in effect.

Contact Information:
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge:
IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Luke Nelson

There were 20 tournaments held on this waterbody in 2020.

Species Total Fish Caught
Crappie 59
Largemouth Bass 480

Top 5 Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2020 tournaments:

1     6.88 lbs
2     6.88 lbs
3     6.56 lbs
4     6.50 lbs
5     6.41 lbs

Top 5 Bag Weights of Largemouth Bass caught on this waterbody in 2020 tournaments:

1 339.27 lbs
2 173.38 lbs
3 126.19 lbs
4 117.57 lbs
5 108.69 lbs

Multiple day tournaments are listed with *end date and

Interested in participating in one of these public tournaments? Contact us with tournament ID for more information.

2020-2021 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date ID Approval Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Max Boats Species Youth? Open to Public?
June-2226532ApprovedWest End Ramp boat
20Largemouth Bass
July-0626796ApprovedWest End Ramp boat
20Largemouth Bass
August-1026507ApprovedGreenbriar Ramp boat
20Largemouth Bass
August-1826070ApprovedGreenbriar Ramp boat
August-2526140ApprovedGreenbriar Ramp boat
10Largemouth Bass
September-0126222ApprovedGreenbriar Ramp boat
20Largemouth Bass