The Best 10 Crappie Lakes In Southern Illinois 2022

Crappie Fishing Southern Illinois, Best Lakes In Southern Illinois for Crappie,

Not to boast but southern Illinois is one of the best areas to find enough crappie for a grand fish fry!

Passing Through Southern Illinois With A Boat On Back Or Need To Get Away From Chicago Or St. Louis For A Weekend To Catch Some Delicious Crappie?


Each year Southern Illinois gets tens of thousands of visitors to golf, camp, travel the wine trails, or take in the beauty of the Shawnee National Forrest.  Many angler’s may not realize when passing through that in just about every county is a quality fishing lake that holds populations of many species. One of the most popular being crappie!

Crappie are a staple here in southern Illinois.  We have a great stocking program in most lakes and reservoirs some of which yield incredible numbers along with size.  I’ve fished all of our top lakes and am still discovering some hidden gems which you can always read about in my Illinois Lakes section.


Ranking The Best Crappie Fishing Lakes In Southern Illinois You Need To Fish in 2022!


For this article we use two units of measure from my experiences fishing them.  First off is the number of crappie you can catch at a lake.  Following that up will be the biggest average crappie’s caught.  Ranking will be determined by finding the perfect average between both variables, and try to forecast next years numbers based off of last year’s hatch.  Further more these lakes have to be accessible to everyone.  Some may have a horse power limit but it’s impossible to have a top ten list without putting certain lakes in otherwise I wouldn’t be holding my end of the deal in ranking these amazing little lakes.

I will also give hints on when to fish these lakes as some really shine better than others during warmer months as well as fall (all are extremely productive in winter). So let’s dive in!


10.) Mermet Lake

Lake Mermet in Southern Illinois is an outstanding panfish fishery, especially for crappie



If you’re talking southern Illinois it’s hard to get much farther south than Lake Mermet in Massac County.  Known for being a shallow grassy lake it reminds me of a miniature version of Reel Foot Lake in Tennessee. 

You will see plenty of cedar trees growing out off the shore where unsuspecting crappie can stack up.  Depending from your launch point you can fish the deeper end down by the dam where some hidden brush piles are or stick to the shallow flats.  Use caution as large grass flats can beach your boat quickly. Numbers are here in this lake for sure but you should have no problem wading through them to catch quality fish.  There was a die off in 2021 but it doesn’t seem to have had too significant of an effect on them.  The lake does close in late fall so check your dates to avoid driving out of your way!

If you’re driving up from Kentucky you can get off at the Metropolis exit and follow route 45 right on up.  If driving from the north get off at the Vienna exit (mile marker 16) and enjoy the absolutely beautiful drive!

Thank you Elbert Spears of The Crappie Shack in Paducah Kentucky for this great photo!


9.) Dolan’s Lake

Dolan's lake is one of the best crappie lakes in southern Illinois


In the early 2000’s all hope had been lost on Dolan’s lake in Hamilton County.  Gizzard shad along with other rough fish had overpopulated leaving the lake as little more than a beautiful place to camp and hike. It was a real shame too as my family was from the area and twice a year we’d go there for a family picnic and to fish.  I remember catching huge bluegill and shellcracker!

The IDNR made the drastic decision to drain the lake and start completely over.  A few short years later and a limit had to be put on the fish as word got out of the bounce back.  Angler’s were driving in from over an hour away daily to catch huge crappie and were actually taking too many out of the lake.  This is one of the true success stories that if you hadn’t fished here in the past 15 years you wouldn’t believe it!

The lake is not as prominent as it once was and had I done this article a decade ago Dolan’s would easily make my top 5.  Still yet expect good quality catches!


8.) Glen O Jones

Glen O Jones makes the top 10 crappie lakes in Southern Illinois

A lake that gets little attention from outsiders due to the fact that it’s an hour off the interstate is a must for campers!  Located near Equality Illinois, “Jones Lake” sits in the heart of the Shawnee National Forrest and is only a few miles from the famous Garden Of The Gods!

The lake has amazing contour which helps feed the crappie populations.  When you put in at the boat ramp you’ll be right next to the dam.  Check it out first unless you’re fishing the spring time, in which case head back to the flats on the far side of the lake! 

Across from the boat ramp sits hidden laydowns and brush in deep water drop offs for summer and winter slabs.  Crappie sets have been placed along the north shore to accommodate bank anglers so make sure to check all locations!


7.) Big Grand Pierre Creek


The only creek to make my list (though there are other quality ones) Grand Pierre sits a few miles south of Rosiclare and feeds the Ohio River.  Use extreme caution because of the underwater stump fields that can sit on hidden flats.  This is just one of those places that are absolutely beautiful and you’re grateful to be present whether the fish are biting that day or not.  There is so much standing structure that you can quickly check each spot to see if a feeding crappie has set up shop. 

One thing I’ve learned from my experience fishing here is that many spots are a one and done.  I rarely can sit on one tree and catch multiple crappie so don’t get discouraged and keep on fishing!  The size is there and almost every fish caught will be plate sized but you likely won’t catch huge numbers.


6.) Lake Du Quoin

Du Quoin City Lake has one of the best crappie populations in Southern Illinois


A true hidden gem, known for it’s shellcracker but don’t overlook the well balanced crappie population!  The banks are lined with thick lily pads and crappie can be caught there especially in the spring!  

For the other three seasons I head out and look for deeper structure and brush piles which are scattered throughout.  You will be really surprised when you find a school of large fish as nearly every one will be over the ten inch mark!  You will catch some small ones too but that’s just part of it.  I’m looking forward to being here next March and will bring a blog on it after I clean and cook my fish!



5.)Crab Orchard Lake

Crab Orchard Lake in Illinois is an excellent top crappie destination
Crab Orchard Lake in Illinois is an excellent top crappie destination. Photo courtesy of Scott Biggs

Crab Orchard is another lake that sees its most success in the spring and winter.  Only about 15 minutes west of Interstate 57 down Route 13 you will drive across the north end.  When the crappie bite is on it’s obvious as cars will be parked along the road leading to the bridge.  You’re likely to also see boats out lifting crappie as you pass by.

In the spring fisherman will target the backs of pockets in less than a foot of water to catch some absolute giants!  This lake is also one of the better summer spots to make the list!  Check drop offs near the dam and main lake points.  If you have a good graph you will also find many man made structures along those channel drops.


4.) Lake Of Egypt

Lake Of Egypt is a top crappie destination in southern Illinois
Lake Of Egypt is a top crappie destination in southern Illinois

The Power Plant that heated this lake has partially shut down which took some of the shine off of this lake.  A couple years back Egypt would be number one on the list but their are still more than enough slabs to go around.  I was fishing a bass tournament a couple weekends ago and there had to be over 50 boats just crappie fishing.  While the numbers aren’t like Crab Orchard or our number one spot, often the bite is worth the wait.  The population of huge black crappie makes this a place you must visit.

Bring a good graph with you and you’ll find all the brush piles you could possibly want to fish.  Don’t get discouraged if you sit on a school of crappie and don’t get bit.  Often times you’ll only catch a couple out of each and need to move on.  Revisit those spots later and you might come back to them in a feeding mood!

In the winter and spring the grass beds and flats will payoff huge.  The fish will be pushing shad onto them to feed and if you’re in the right place at the right time it’s literally every cast and they are big!


3.) Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake is one of Southern Illinoi's best crappie fishing lakes
Cedar Lake is one of Southern Illinoi’s best crappie fishing lakes

Up until now we’ve mentioned lakes that usually have either a dominant population of either Black Crappie or White Crappie.  With Cedar lake both can be found in large sizes and numbers making it fish larger than the others on this list.  You can fish both visible structure around the bank and catch more whites or head out to deeper brush piles and drops looking for blacks.

If targeting black crappie I think you should pack a few slip corks.  Whites can still be vertically jigged and is my preferred method.  If you love nature shots then you’re in for a treat so be sure to bring your camera!


2.) Kinkaid Lake

Kincaid Lake offers some of the largest Crappie in the state!


How can I not list a lake that sat the new state record a couple of years ago for a hybrid crappie?  If you’re looking for a shot at a 4 pound crappie than this is it!  Kinkaid sits west of Murphysboro off of route 13 about a half hour drive from Crab Orchard. 

A deep clear lake with lots of grass, anglers visit here more for the size than quantity but there are times when you can catch both!  Local guides have dropped plenty of brush into the lake and there is large chunk rock that often times hold huge slabs.  

In spring like with most lakes you head to the bank.  Slip corking is really popular here because you need to back off of the fish due to the extremely clear water and the possibility of spooking the fish.  Don’t be surprised if you accidentally hook a musky as they are prolific in this beautiful lake as well!


1.) Rend Lake

Rend Lake is one of the best Crappie lakes in Illinois


This one should come to a surprise to no one familiar with the area.  There aren’t many places providing an opportunity to catch a large limit of crappie on any given day.  

The lake has been fished to death with locals and out of state anglers but it just keeps on cranking them out.  The limit at the time of this writing is still ten fish over ten inches and fifteen under ten inches.  We to this day have more trouble getting our under fish then our overs.  Don’t think that you can just catch them anywhere though as the lake is a ghost town in places nine months of the year.  In the spring we like to target buck brush in less than three feet of water.  In the summer months you have to go deep and structure is a must.  The fish will usually shut down after the first couple of hours.  Fall they’re on the move towards the bridges and in the winter you can find them all over the lake in the six to twelve foot depth range as long as you’re close to the channels. 

In conclusion:

Southern Illinois is not just a beautiful pass through area going up Interstate 57.  Any serious crappie angler can go to anyone of these lakes and come home with a nice meal.  The scenery is always amazing and the fish are always biting somewhere.  On the bigger lakes you can secure fishing guides if you don’t have a boat.  Most of these folks have been fishing the lakes their entire lives and will work very hard to put you on the fish.  I hope to see you out there some time!

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