Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sangchris Lake, Christian/Sangamon counties

2021 tournaments produce big numbers at Sangchris Lake

By Ralph Loos

Spring bass fishing is a only few weeks away, which means there are plenty of eyes on Sangchris Lake, which has earned its place as one of the state’s top largemouth lakes.

But anglers tend to forget that Sangchris holds state records for flathead catfish and striped bass, and crappie fishing has been popular with regular visitors to the central Illinois site.

According to DNR’s activity logs – it’s official management tool that compiles catches during sanctioned fishing tournaments –  a total of 79 fishing tournaments were held on Sangchris in 2021. Those tournaments produced 162 channel catfish, 191 crappies, 22 flathead catfish and a whopping 3,440 largemouth bass.

Unlike previous summers, when several bass topping 7 pounds were pulled into boats, the top three fish caught in tournaments last year were 6.6, 6.3 and an even 6 pounds. 

Several bass over 5 pounds were caught.

Meanwhile, a 16.5-inch, 3-pound black crappie was caught a couple of years ago, raising eyebrows and confirming what DNR biologists have been saying about Sangchris: it’s an excellent crappie destination.

Still, the giant flathead catfish roaming the lake’s bottom are at top-of-mind for catfishermen.

In 2015, James Klauzer, of Springfield, broke the state record by pulling an 81-pound flathead out of the lake.

But  bass and crappie fishermen know that Sangchris is much more than a flathead spot. 

The 2,235-acre power plant lake is known for its high density bass population. DNR’s most recent fish survey showed some promising changes in the largemouth bass population structure. 

“We have observed an increase in fish bigger than 18 inches over the last few years. About 10 percent of the population was shown to measure over that mark, which is twice that of the 10-year average,” DNR noted in a recent report on the lake. 

Gizzard shad exhibit unstable spawns in Sangchris, and threadfin shad survival is dependent on power plant operation in the winter. Breeder threadfin shad are often stocked in an effort to offset the results of winter kills. 

While their numbers and potential for successful angling are low, anglers may catch bluegill, green sunfish, green sunfish  bluegill hybrid, freshwater drum or white bass.

Here is a glance at the more popular species in Lake Sangchris from DNR’s most recent survey of the lake:

• Largemouth bass: DNR collected a total of 627 bass (108 per hour electrofishing) ranging from 5 to 20½ inches and weighing up to 5.2 pounds. 

The survey showed that 47% of the catchable population measured over 12 inches and 18% measured over the minimum length limit of 15 inches. 

“The hot water discharge into the lake may cause largemouth bass to burn more energy than they can consume during the hot summer months,” DNR noted. 

“Gizzard shad have exhibited erratic spawns in Sangchris in the past and threadfin shad survival is dependent on power plant operation in the winter. Breeder threadfin shad are often stocked in an effort to offset the results of winter kills.” 

Anglers can catch largemouth bass on points, deadfalls, and stickups within the entire lake year-round with plastic worms, jigs, spinners, crankbaits, minnows, crayfish and worms. 

The largest bass ever collected by electrofishing measured 22 inches long and weighed more than 7 pounds. 

• Crappies: Sangchris contains both black and white crappies. The general trend in crappie numbers over the last 10 years is positive. 

In DNR’s most recent survey, white crappies ranged from 8 to 12½ inches, while black crappies ranged from 5 to 12½ inches. 

The majority of the crappies collected in the survey measured over the 10-inch minimum length limit. 

“The population structures are still not yet within management goals,” DNR noted. “Natural spawning may be limited due to sporadic water temperatures during the spawning season. 

There has been evidence of natural reproduction in the past, but it doesn’t seem to be consistent, therefore the crappie stocking program will continue until populations are stable.”

White and black crappies  have been raised in the Sangchris rearing pond since the pond’s construction in 1992. 

 • Striped bass: Pure striped bass are non-native and have been stocked into Sangchris every other year since 1983 – when available. The striped bass stocking program has produced some great fishing opportunities. 

Past surveys have shown that the lake has not produced many fish over 20 pounds, but there is a good density of striped bass up to 14 pounds. 

• Channel catfish: The channel catfish population is doing well both in quantity and quality.

Fish up to 8 pounds are surveyed most years. 

A total of 39 channel catfish were collected in the most recent DNR survey (seven fish per hour). Channel catfish collected measured from 8.5 to 21½ inches and weighed up to 3.7 pounds. 

• Flathead catfish: Anglers can catch flathead catfish using live bait such as minnows, sunfish, shad, or crayfish around submerged logs and deadfalls in the warmer months and deep holes in the colder months.

Sangchris Lake

Nearest town ……….. Pawnee

Surface area ……. 2,325 acres

Average depth …..……. 13 feet

Shoreline ……………… 97 miles

Species present

Bluegills, crappies, largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, sunfish, striped bass, freshwater drum, carp, bullheads

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