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Lake Information

County: Alexander

Acreage: 1890

Recreational Amenities

Boat Fishing? 10hp

Boat Ramps? Yes

Boat Rental? No

Skiing? No

Swimming? No

Picnicking? Yes

Camping? Yes

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There are no zebra mussels in this lake.

Fishing Outlook  ( Full PDF Report )

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Fish Status



A total of 49 Bluegill were collected during 2021 surveys. Of those Bluegill, 22% were over 7 inches. One individual was over 8 inches in length. Horseshoe Lake used to harbor one of the premier Bluegill fisheries in Illinois. However, a variety of environmental factors and an influx of riverine species have severely impacted the Bluegill fishery.



Bowfin are numerous in Horseshoe Lake and should provide good opportunities for anglers with the proper gear. Bowfin are aggressive predators and very strong fighters. Similar to Gar, Bowfin are a native species and should not be viewed as detrimental.



Anglers report that Channel Catfish are present in decent numbers, although none were collected during 2021 surveys.



Horseshoe Lake contains a crappie population consisting of both Black and White Crappie, although White Crappie appear to be more numerous than Black Crappie. Anglers report that the lake still supports a good crappie fishery. During 2021, a total of 61 crappie were collected during the fall trap netting survey. Crappie up to 12 inches in length were collected. Over half of the crappie collected were between 3 to 4 inches, likely young-of-year. Trap netting effort during 2022 will be increased from 6 net nights to 12 net nights in an effort to gather a more robust data set.



Horseshoe lake supports a robust gar population, especially Spotted Gar. Spotted Gar over 5 lbs. were collected during 2021. Although not popular with most anglers, gar can provide great angling opportunities for anglers with the proper gear to target them. Gar should not be viewed as detrimental species, as they are native and have been shown to have little impact on traditional sport species.



No Largemouth Bass were collected during 2021. The lake no longer supports a good bass fishery like it did in the past. Like the Bluegill fishery, a variety of environmental factors and an influx of riverine species have severely impacted the bass fishery.

Location: Horseshoe Lake is located in Alexander County at the Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area just south of Olive Branch, IL.

Description: Horseshoe Lake is 1890 acres in size with a maximum depth of 5-6 feet. There are several boat ramps and campgrounds around the lake. The lake resembles a southern swamp with bald cypress and tupelo gum trees growing throughout

History and Status of the Sport Fishery: The recreational fishery in Horseshoe Lake has been severely degraded due to environmental and biological factors associated with increased frequency and severity of flooding in recent decades. Of particular note is the decline in the Bluegill fishery, which used to be one of the best in the state. Fortunately, the lake still harbors good fishing opportunities for crappie and catfish. Non-traditional anglers will also find great opportunities to target Gar and Bowfin.

Biennial fisheries surveys on the lake are conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. During survey years, a spring electrofishing and fall trap net survey are conducted.

Additional Lake Information: There is a 10hp motor limit on Horseshoe Lake. Only trolling motors are allowed in the refuge from October 15 through March 1. All fish: 2-pole and line fishing only.

Site Regulations:
Largemouth Bass: 6 fish daily limit, 14" minimum length limit
Channel Catfish: 6 fish daily limit

Contact Information:
Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area
IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Nick Abell