Bass hit their stride in tranquil Cedar Lake
By Ralph Loos
In its most recent sampling of Cedar Lake, DNR discovered that 48% of the lake’s largemouth bass were within the 14- to 18-inch protected slot limit.
That represented the highest number and percentage of bass within the slot limit on record.
Of the 579 largemouths collected in that 2019 survey, 14% were over 18 inches in length.
“Cedar Lake has one of the best largemouth populations of any lake in Illinois, with respect to the total number of fish and fish over 18 inches, DNR Fisheries Biologist Shawn Hirst noted.
Catches during bass tournaments on Cedar Lake in 2020 confirm that notion. The 50 tournaments sanctioned by DNR produced 2,279 largemouth bass, with several weighing in at over 6 pounds. The largest one recorded by DNR was just a fraction of an ounce under 7 pounds.
In the spring 2019 sampling, DNR caught 145 largemouths per hour.
A program implemented at Cedar to foster bass growth appears to be paying off.
“Anglers are encouraged to keep their daily limit of five largemouths under 14 inches to help thin out the smaller bass,” Hirst explained in the report. “This will increase growth rates, allow more largemouths to reach the protected slot limit, and lead to more trophy-sized fish in the future.”
Hirst maintains a map of 30 permanent fish attractors in Cedar and is willing to share them for anglers who email him at email@example.com.
Cedar is a deep, clear and often tranquil 1,750-acre body of water.
The lake is located five miles southwest of Carbondale in Jackson County. The City of Carbondale boat access area is located at the end of Cedar Creek Road off of Old Route 51 South. Another boat access area can be found south of Murphysboro off of State Route 127.
The northern half of the shoreline is owned by the City of Carbondale. The southern half of the shoreline is surrounded by Shawnee National Forest which is owned by the US Forest Service. There is no marina on Cedar Lake.
According to regular bass anglers at the lake, flipping jigs early in the season is a good way to catch bass. Dark color jigs tipped with plastic craws is all it takes to get the fish in the boat.
Anglers explain that by getting the jigs up on the banks and bouncing them off wood works most of the times. Sometimes swimming the jigs or short dragging movements creates a good strike from the lake’s bass population.
Spinnerbaits, white spinnerbaits in particular, are also very good. Some anglers put a twister tail grub on the hook for some added attractant and vibration. White or red grubs tend to work in the spring season.
DNR’s most recent survey of the lake revealed some interesting results:
• DNR stocks striped bass into Cedar Lake when available. Nearly 23,000 fingerling stripers were stocked in 2020.In November 2019, DNR stocked 584 fish averaging 14.5 inches.
“Anglers have reported catching striped bass in excess of 20 pounds and in the spring of 2013, DNR collected a striped bass during an electrofishing survey for the first time,” the DNR report stated.”That fish measured 31 inches in length and weighed 18 pounds.”
During the 2019 survey, one striper was caught that measured 23 inches and weighed 5.4 pounds.
• Cedar Lake has an excellent crappie population consisting of both black and white crappies. Crappies over 2 pounds are caught each year. Of the 189 crappie collected in the 2019 spring survey, 87% were over 9 inches, 81% were over 10 inches and 52% were over 12 inches. Seventy-four percent of the crappie collected were white crappies.
• Despite the high density largemouth bass population, the bluegill population structure can only be described as average. A few bluegill over 8 inches were collected in the 2019 spring survey.
• While the bluegill population can only be described as average, the redear sunfish population is outstanding for a larger lake. Fifty-two percent of the redears collected during the 2019 spring survey were over 8 inches. Seventy-nine percent were over 7 inches, and 10% were over 10 inches.
• Two channel catfish (18 to 23 inches) were collected in the 2019 survey. No flathead catfish were collected in the 2019 survey. Neither catfish species have ever been collected in great numbers in previous surveys, according to DNR’s report.
There is a 10 horsepower motor limit on Cedar Lake, which receives very little recreational boat traffic throughout the year. Aside from the slot limit on largemouths, there is a limit of 1 largemouth over 18 inches.
For striped bass, there is a 17-inch minimum length limit and a limit of 3 fish daily.
Crappies have a 25-fish daily limit.
Nearest town: Carbondale
Surface area: 1,750 acres
Max. depth: 60 feet
Primary species present: bluegills, largemouth bass, striped bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappies.
Lake information: 618-549-8441