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Lake Information

County: Alexander

Acreage: 1890

Recreational Amenities

Boat Fishing? 10hp

Boat Ramps? Yes

Boat Rental? No

Skiing? No

Swimming? No

Picnicking? Yes

Camping? Yes

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There are no zebra mussels in this lake.

Lake Status Summary  ( Full PDF Report )

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Fish Status



Only 31 Bluegill were collected during 2022 surveys, of which 2 were right at 8 inches in length. Body condition was very good, as the mean relative weight of Bluegill in the sample was 111. Horseshoe Lake used to harbor one of the premier Bluegill fisheries in Illinois. However, a variety of environmental factors and an influx of riverine species have severely impacted the Bluegill fishery.



Bowfin are numerous in Horseshoe Lake and should provide good opportunities for bow fishing and anglers with the proper gear. Bowfin are aggressive predators and very strong fighters. Similar to Gar, Bowfin are a native species and should not be viewed in the same context as invasive species.



Five Channel Catfish were collected during the electrofishing survey, the largest weighing nearly 7 lbs. Anglers report that the lake supports a good fishery for catfish.



Horseshoe Lake contains a crappie population consisting of both Black and White Crappie. Anglers report that the lake supports a good crappie fishery. During 2022, a total of 21 Black Crappie and 33 White Crappie were collected, ranging up to 14 inches in length. The size structure of crappie in Horseshoe Lake is very good, as 43% of crappie in the sample were over 10 inches and 11% were over 12 inches. A total of 20 Black Crappie and 26 White Crappie from the fall trap net survey were aged using otoliths. Black Crappie generally reached 10 inches at age 3.5 and 12 inches at age 5.5. White Crappie demonstrated slightly faster growth and reached 11 inches at age 3.5 and 12 inches at age 4.5.



Spotted Gar are numerous in Horseshoe Lake and should provide excellent opportunities for bow fishing. Individuals over 5 lbs have been collected during surveys. Similar to Bowfin, gar are a native species and should not be viewed in the same context as invasive species.



The bass fishery in Horseshoe Lake is essentially non-existent at this point. Only two were collected during the 2022 electrofishing survey.

Location: Horseshoe Lake is located in Alexander County at the Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area just south of Olive Branch, IL.

Description: Horseshoe Lake is 1890 acres in size with a maximum depth of 5-6 feet. There are several boat ramps and campgrounds around the lake. The lake resembles a southern swamp with bald cypress and tupelo gum trees growing throughout

History and Status of the Sport Fishery: The recreational fishery in Horseshoe Lake has been severely degraded due to environmental and biological factors associated with increased frequency and severity of flooding in recent decades. Of particular note is the decline in the Bluegill fishery, which used to be one of the best in the state. Fortunately, the lake still harbors good fishing opportunities for crappie and catfish. Non-traditional anglers will also find great opportunities to target Gar and Bowfin.

Biennial fisheries surveys on the lake are conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. During survey years, an electrofishing survey and trap net survey are conducted.

Additional Lake Information: There is a 10hp motor limit on Horseshoe Lake. Only trolling motors are allowed in the refuge from October 15 through March 1. All fish: 2-pole and line fishing only.

Site Regulations:
Largemouth Bass: 6 fish daily limit, 14" minimum length limit
Channel Catfish: 6 fish daily limit

Contact Information:
Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area
IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Nick Abell