Tuesday, February 7th, 2023
Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

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Kinkaid Lake, Jackson County

Bass and sizable crappies bringing anglers to Kinkaid

By Ralph Loos

The number of 2- and 3-pound crappies being pulled out of Kinkaid Lake has intrigued and excited anglers across the region – so much so that boat trailer license plates from Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana are part of the parking lot scramble each weekend.

Attention actually spiked back in March 2017, when a state record 4.55-pound hybrid crappie was caught at Kinkaid. 

But bass and muskie anglers also have a soft spot for the 2,750-acre lake in Jackson County, just northwest of Murphysboro. 

In fishing tournaments during the summer of 2020, several largemouth over 6.5 pounds were weighed in, with the largest topping 7.25 pounds.

DNR’s most recent survey of Kinkaid yielded good numbers, too. Largemouth bass were collected at a rate of 123 fish per hour. Of the 489 bass collected during the survey, 22% were over the minimum 16-inch size limit and 9% were over 18 inches. Fourteen percent of all largemouth bass collected were between 15-16 inches – just below the minimum length limit. 

The largemouth bass population continues to look very good,” DNR biologists noted in the report.

As for other fish in Kinkaid, DNR offered the following assessments from its most recent survey:

Smallmouth bass – DNR first stocked smallmouths into Kinkaid Lake in 2005. The first documented legal-sized (over 16 inches) smallie was observed in 2010. 

Several legal-sized smallmouths have been caught  since,with the largest reported fish measuring 18 inches. 

DNR did not sample any smallmouths during its recent survey.

“They do not appear to be recruiting in Kinkaid Lake and no additional smallmouth stockings are planned,” DNR offered. 

Crappies – As previously mentioned, Kinkaid Lake is known for producing large crappies. 

An amazing 87% of the crappies collected during DNR’s most recent survey were over the nine-inch length limit, 76% were over 10 inches, and 13% were over 12 inches. 

Along with white crappies, blacknose crappie were first stocked in the lake in 2010. Legal-sized blacknose crappies were first caught in 2013. 

Muskies – Kinkaid is one of the premier muskie lakes in the state. The fish is stocked annually and many are caught each year in excess of 40 inches. 

During its most recent survey, DNR collected 172 muskies up to 45.5 inches in length. 

Anglers reporting a tagged muskie in Kinkaid will receive information on the history of that fish. DNR requests that tags not be removed.

Anglers are encouraged to not fish for muskies in the warmer summer months as angling mortality is believed to be very high at this time.

Walleyes  – DNR annually stocks walleyes and has collected walleyes up to 11 pounds during netting surveys. 

“Walleye numbers are not high but trophy-sized fish can be caught,” DNR noted. “The best areas are in front of the dam and spillway during spring high water events.”

During its most recent survey, DNR collected five walleyes, with the largest fish measuring 23 inches. 

Catfish – Kinkaid has an excellent and underutilized channel catfish population. Surveys indicate that a small number of flathead catfish are also present. 

Bluegills – The bluegill population structure can only be described as poor. During its survey, DNR failed to collect a bluegill over 8 inches. 

Redear Sunfish – The redear population is average. Redear sunfish over 8 inches are present in small numbers.

There are three public boat launching facilities around the lake, has a shoreline length of 82 miles, and a maximum depth of 80 feet.

The upper northwest portion of Kinkaid Lake is referred to as the Johnson Creek Area (shown on map above). About 3 miles of this area is a no wake zone that gets very turbid after heavy rain events. 

Kinkaid Lake

Nearest town Ava

Surface area 2,750 acres

Shoreline 82 miles

Avg. depth 25 feet

Max. depth 80 feet

Primary species present

Bluegills, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappies, sunfish, muskies, walleyes

Fish regulations

Anglers who catch a tagged muskie are asked to email at shawn.hirst@illinois.gov with the following information: date of catch, length of fish, and tag number (5 digits). 

Bass: 3-fish daily limit; 16-inch minimum length limit.

Muskies: 1-fish daily limit; 48-inch minimum length limit.

Crappies: 25-fish daily limit; 9-inch minimum length limit.

Walleye: 6-fish daily limit; 14-inch minimum length limit.

Lake information: 


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