Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Illinois Woods & Waters – Centralia Lake, Marion County

 

Centralia, Raccoon lakes retain solid bass populations

 

By Ralph Loos
Editor

 

The reliability of Centralia Lake’s bass population shows up not only in DNR’s samplings  of the Marion County lake but in results of regular fishing tournaments.

 

In 2020, there were 20 DNR-sanctioned fishing tournaments on Centralia. A total of 513 bass were caught, with the biggest three weighing in at more than 5.5 pounds. Several in the 5-pound range were also caught during the year.

 

Lake Centralia, which sits just south of Highway 50 and west of Interstate 57, is 260 acres. Raccoon Lake, which is about 6 miles east of Lake Centralia, is 970 acres.

 

Quite a downsize from the 26,000-acre Carlyle Lake.

 

Anglers who find themselves weary of massive Carlyle Lake, have a pair of viable options just 30 or so miles  to th south and east.

 

Fishing – especially bass fishing – in both Centralia-area lakes is very good. In fact, DNR reports show that during 2018 tournaments, fishermen caught three bass over 6 pounds and two that were just under 6 pounds.

 

Centralia Lake has a maximum depth of 23 feet, and a mean depth of 10 feet. The lake has 12.9 miles of shoreline. The sport fish population in Centralia Lake is comprised primarily of largemouth bass, bluegill, white and black crappies, and channel catfish. Other common species include redear sunfish, common carp and yellow bullheads. The fish population is surveyed annually, and summaries below are based on the results of the most recent population survey and four-year trends in the population indices. 

 

DNR’s most recent sampling of Centralia Lake provided a number of insights:

 

Largemouth bass – The overall size structure of the bass population is good. Bass population indices remained relatively stable. 

 

There was a slight increase in the number of bass in the 12- to 15-inch size range, but nearly one quarter of the adult bass in the sample exceeded the 15 inch minimum length limit. 

 

The catch rate improved and is still well above the management goal. Body condition improved for all sizes of bass. Fishing prospects for the coming year should be very good with most keeper bass ranging from 15 to 20 inches in length and weighing between 1.5 to 4 pounds. 

 

Bluegills – The size structure of the population remains fair. The number of larger bluegill was well below optimal. There were, however, large numbers of 5- to 7-inch bluegills and their body condition was good. 

 

“If mortality is low and growth rates remain average, these fish should help improve the size structure over the next 2 to 3 years,” DNR noted. 

 

Crappies – Crappie catch per unit effort improved, but body condition remained just below target for both white and black crappies. 

 

White crappies continued to look good with 27% of the adults in the sample exceeding 10” in length. The size structure of the black crappie population remains poor. Most black crappie were in the 8- to 10-inch range with few fish exceeding 10 inches in length. 

 

“Crappie fishing should be fair to good in the coming year with the best fish ranging between 0.5 to 1.25 pounds,’ DNR reported. 

 

Channel Catfish – As a result of recent stocking efforts, the channel catfish population density is improving but remains low. The current population exhibits excellent growth rates and body condition. Fishing in the coming year should be fair to good with the majority of fish ranging from 1 to 5 pounds.

Raccoon Lake

Raccoon Lake was constructed in 1942 to serve as a water supply reservoir for the city of Centralia. 

 

Raccoon Lake has a maximum depth of 17 feet, and a mean depth of 3.9 feet. The lake has 16.4 miles of shoreline. Status of the Sport Fishery: 

 

The sport fish population in Raccoon Lake is comprised primarily of largemouth bass, bluegill, white and black crappies, and channel catfish. Other common species include common carp and yellow bullheads. 

 

The fish population is surveyed annually, and summaries below are based on the results of the most recent population survey and four-year trends in the population indices. 

 

Largemouth Bass: Data from the 2019 DNR population survey showed that all of the population indices met or exceeded the target goals. The condition of all sizes of fish remained very good. Approximately, 22% of the adult bass exceeded the 15-inch minimum length, a decrease from 35% in 2018. 

 

However, there was an increase in the percentage of 12- to 15-inch bass in the 2019 sample. Poor bass reproduction and recruitment continue to be a major concern in this lake. Following significant improvement in 2012 and 2013, bass catch rates plummeted in 2014, and had remained below the target ever since. 

 

To help improve numbers, over 35,500 largemouth bass fingerlings were stocked in the lake in June of 2017. This helped the 2017 catch rates improve to well above the target level for the first time in 5 years. 

 

Despite dropping to just 31 bass per hour in 2018, the bass catch rate in the 2019 sample improved to 82 bass per hour. 

 

Crappies: Both black and white crappies are present in Raccoon Lake, but white crappies comprised nearly 83% of the sample. Data collected from the annual population survey indicated 10% of the adult white crappie population exceeded 10 inches in length and an additional 32% of the population was between 8 and 10 inches in length. Nearly 85% of the adult population was in the sample between 6 and 9 inches in length. 

Centralia Lake

Nearest town: Centralia

Surface area: 260 acres

Avg. depth:  10 feet

 

Primary species present: bluegills, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappies.

 

Lake information: 618-393-6732

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