Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Devils Kitchen Lake, Williamson County

Bass still drawing anglers to Devils Kitchen

By Ralph Loos
Editor

There were not any
“giants” pulled out of Devils Kitchen Lake last summer, according to DNR’s report on bass tournaments held on the 810-acre body of water in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

Then again, there were only four tourneys held.

Certainly there are larger bass than the 4.8-pounder that came in as the top catch in 2020. DNR has not released bass caught this summer, but many local anglers claim there are at least two that topped 6 pounds.

Those are likely not fish stories. DNR’s 2019 survey produced one bass that weighed almost 8 pounds. 

Devils Kitchen has historically contained a bass population consisting of abundant small fish and a few giants, without much in between.

During its most recent survey of the lake, DNR collected largemouth bass at a rate of 98 per hour and 22% were larger than 12 inches, while 3% were larger than 15 inches. 

Although most bass are generally 9 to 13 inches in length, it is not unusual for bass in the 5- to 10-pound range to show up in spring electrofishing samples and tournament weigh-ins. 

“Anglers are encouraged to harvest small bass to boost the average size of fish in the population,” DNR noted in its report on the survey. “Threadfin shad stockings are part of an ongoing plan for improving Devils Kitchen Lake bass growth rates, and annual spring stockings will be continued.” 

Meanwhile, DNR once believed that overfishing was the primary reason for past declines of the bluegill and redear populations at Devils Kitchen. Data taken from DNR creel surveys over the years paints a dramatic picture of the decline. In 1969, the average bluegill at Devils Kitchen was 5 ounces, the average redear 10 ounces. By 1992, the average redear had dropped to 7 ounces, while the bluegill remained at 5 ounces. The 2008 data showed the average bluegill had dropped to just 3 ounces and redear to 5 ounces.

During the 2014 Devils Kitchen survey, 81 percent of bluegills collected were larger than 6 inches, 69 percent exceeded 7 inches, and 50 percent were 8 inches or more.

In the 2019 survey, bluegills were less abundant than bass. The bluegill catch rate was 46 per hour of electrofishing. Quality of the bluegill population dipped just below management goals, as demonstrated by 36% over 6 inches and 6% larger than 8 inches.

The Devils Kitchen redear population remained fairly impressive in spring 2019. Redear abundance was good, as measured by a catch rate of 40 per hour, and average size of these fish was much larger. 

Seventy-two percent of redear were larger than 7 inches and 48% exceeded 8 inches.

As for the other fish in Devils Kitchen, DNR’s most recent survey provides a solid summary:

• Rainbow trout: Rainbow trout are stocked in Devils Kitchen Lake each fall to maintain the population, and there is no closed season. The Devils Kitchen trout fishery is very popular with the angling public. Possession of an inland trout stamp is required for harvesting rainbow trout..

• Yellow perch: Yellow perch were “officially” stocked in Devils Kitchen Lake in 2014 for the first time in the lake’s history, and additional stockings were completed through 2019. 

A small population of perch (of unknown origin) already existed, and was popular, but few fish ever entered anglers’ creels. 

Three perch were sampled in the 9- to 11- inch range in 2019, all good harvestable size. 

The goal of the yellow perch stocking program is to produce a viable, self- sustaining fishery, and additional fish will be stocked.

Regulations 

Regulations in effect at Devils Kitchen: Largemouth bass – no length limit, 6 per day creel limit. Bluegill and Redear – 8-inch length limit, 25 per day creel limit (in aggregate). Rainbow trout – no length limit, 5 per day creel limit. 

A 10 horsepower outboard motor limit is in effect. A user pass must be purchased prior to accessing Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge waters. 

Devils Kitchen Lake is one of three man-made lakes in the Crab Orchard National Wildife Refuge where you can fish and boat, and it’s the only place in the refuge to find rainbow trout. 

A tent-only campground at Devils Kitchen Lake nestles among rock outcroppings on a grassy point jutting into the lake’s north end. The campground’s sites lie in a circle around the grassy clearing.

Devils Kitchen Lake

Nearest town:  Marion

Surface area: 810 acres

Avg. depth:  16 feet

Species present:

Bluegills, redear sunfish, largemouth bass, channel catfish, rainbow trout, yellow perch

Lake information: 

618-997-3344

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