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Kaskaskia River


©Illinois State Water Survey

Description: The Kaskaskia River is the largest stream found entirely within Illinois. From its headwaters just west of Champaign to its mouth on the Mississippi River above Chester, the Kaskaskia winds its way across nearly 300 miles of central and southwestern Illinois. Its watershed (the land area draining into it) encompasses all or parts of 22 counties and about 10% of the state's total land area.

Due to its geographic scope and the variety of habitats, the Kaskaskia supports a wide array of aquatic species, many of which are sport fishes. The Kaskaskia River Project (KRP), a 36-mile-long navigation channel below Fayetteville and two reservoirs—Carlyle Lake and Lake Shelbyville— have altered the river's ecology, but provide many local fishing opportunities.


Fishing Forecast:

Species

Rank

Avg Wt.
(pounds)

Avg.
Length
(inches)

Fishing Tips

BLUE CATFISH

Fair

N/A

N/A

A big river species, blue cats are restricted mostly to the KRP although decent fish (25 lbs) have been collected further upstream near Venedy Station. The deep navigation channel affords year-round habitat, but spawners can be found along shoreline rocks and brush in late spring and early summer. Several 10-15 pound fish were hoop netted recently in the KRP just above New Athens.

BLUEGILL

Fair

N/A

N/A

Like crappie, bluegill are not common in the river proper, but non-flowing “off-channel” habitats harbor decent populations. Surveys have yielded many 6-7.5” fish in shallower portions of the KRP oxbow lakes near woody cover. The old channel below Carlyle also supports bluegill in decent numbers.

CHANNEL CATFISH

Very Good

N/A

N/A

The Kaskaskia produces good to excellent channel cat fishing throughout most of its length. Although they reach their largest sizes in the KRP (up to 10-15 lbs), channels in the 2-5 lb range are common throughout the river. Our 2015 sampling showed the KRP at Evansville and Baldwin with the best catch rates (24 fish/hr) with New Athens a respectable 16 fish/hr. The Carlyle tailwater holds many fish, as do deeper pools with woody cover below Carlyle and between the reservoirs.

CRAPPIE

Fair

N/A

N/A

Although not common in the main river channel, both black and white crappie provide seasonal opportunities in the oxbow lake complex where many 10-14” fish are found in and around brushpiles and treetops. The old river channel connected to the Carlyle tailwater is another good bet for these tasty panfish.

FLATHEAD CATFISH

Very Good

N/A

N/A

Recent IDNR surveys have yielded flatheads in excess of 40 lbs. Like channels, these fish show their greatest abundance in the lower KRP (Evansville/Baldwin) main river channel. Deeper pools near rootwads and brush are preferred daytime habitats, but nighttime fishing in fast, rocky stretches (Carlyle tailwater) can produce impressive fish as well. Most caught will be in the 5-25 lb range but much larger, older individuals are out there.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Fair

N/A

N/A

The Kaskaskia River bass fishery tends to be cyclical and recent surveys (and tournaments) show it to be in a “down” period compared to recent years. While bass numbers appear depressed everywhere, a few decent fish (3-4 lbs) have turned up in oxbow lakes near New Athens and Baldwin. Largemouth bass fishing opportunities above the KRP are limited to the two tailwater areas.

SAUGER

Excellent

N/A

N/A

This species now provides a tremendous fishery in the Carlyle tailwater due to spillway escapement of young fish stocked annually into the lake. Many fish (2-4 lbs) are caught trolling or drifting in mid channel, although bank anglers do well also, especially below the General Dean suspension bridge.

SMALLMOUTH BASS

Good

N/A

N/A

An IDNR restoration program has brought smallies back from the brink of elimination in the stretch of river below Shelbyville. While most abundant in the immediate tailwater area, fish in the 2-5 lb range can be found all the way downstream to Cowden. Most productive areas are slower, rock or gravel bottomed pools.

WALLEYE

Good

N/A

N/A

Walleyes are caught with similar methods as sauger. Most luck is below Lake Shelbyville, where they reach larger sizes (up tp 8 lbs).

WHITE BASS

Very Good

N/A

N/A

These nomadic predators are caught in open water of the KRP, but reach their greatest numbers in the reservoir spillway areas, particularly in spring when they make their spawning runs. There are plenty of “eating size” (10-15”) white bass, which can be caught with spinning rigs over the gravelly, swift sections of the tailwaters.

River Information: Statewide fishing regulations apply in the Kaskaskia River; consult the Illinois Fishing Regulations Guide. For further information, contact the IDNR Streams Biologist at 618/594-3627 or the US Army Corps of Engineers at 618/594-2484.

2017 Approved or Pending Tournaments
Start Date End Date
(if different from start)
ID Ramp Location Bank/Boat
Hook/Bow
Max Boats Species Public?
April-136266New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
April-206267New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
April-276268New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
May-046269New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
May-116270New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
May-186271New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
May-256272New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
June-016273New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
June-086274New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
June-156275New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
June-186793Wooduck @ Baldwin boat
hook
24Largemouth Bass
No
June-226277New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
June-245408New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Yes
June-296278New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
July-066279New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
July-136281New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
July-155674Wooduck @ Baldwin boat
bow
40Multiple SpeciesYes
July-206282New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
July-225675New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Yes
July-276283New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
July-295410New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Yes
August-036284New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
August-106285New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
August-125411New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Yes
August-176286New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
August-246287New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
August-265412New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Yes
August-316288New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
September-076289New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
September-146290New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
September-216291New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
September-286292New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes
October-056293New Athens boat
hook
40Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Spotted Bass
Yes