Most anglers think that you need to go down south to catch crappies. I am here to tell you that crappies can be caught right here in Illinois.In this article I am going to showcase two great crappie fisheries that can be found right here in Northern Illinois.     

                               The author with a nice Shabbona Lake crappieThe author with a nice Shabbona Crappie.

What Illinois' anglers don't realize is that there is some great fishing right here in their backyard. Reservoirs in Northern Illinois have been stocked with these fish and now have self-sustaining populations.

Here is a list of a couple of lakes where you can find crappies in Northern Illinois:

Shabbona Lake:


Located just 60 miles west of of Chicago and in the town of Shabbona this 319 acre impoundment is jam packed full of crappies. May is the best time to find crappies. During the springtime, look for them in the near-shore waters of the no motor zone. After their springtime spawn, they will move out into the main basin of the lake and suspend in the deeper trees or over the fish concentrating structures or brush piles.

Crappies at Shabbona Lake tend to range in size from 6 - 11 inches long. This lake is known as a "large numbers" lake. This means that you can come here and catch large numbers of crappies as opposed to a few trophy sized ones.

Use minnows under small bobbers for best results.

The best piece of advice that I can give you about Shabbona crappies is to purchase a lake map. Lake maps can be found at the baitshop which is right on the shores of the lake. It is called Shabbona's Lakeside.

Look for crappies back in hte no-motor zone in the springtime. They will be shallow. By shallow, I mean that I have found large numbers of them right up against the shore before in less than a foot of water.

In the late spring and early summer you will find them relating to the deeper brush piles and fish cribs. These pieces of structure are clearly marked on the lake maps. Use slip bobbers and begin by placing your minnow about 6 inches off of the top of the structure you are fishing.

You may keep 10 crappies per day at this lake and there is no size limit for them. There is a full service bait shop and a boat rental available right at the lake. A two-lane boat launch is also present and is available free of charge. There is a 10-horsepower limit on gasoline powered engines.

Evergreen Lake:

Evergreen Lake is located 10 miles north of Bloomington. This 900 acre lake has numerous bays and fingers. Once again, the best time of the year to fish for crappies is during the month of May. Crappies will be found in large numbers in the shallows of every bay. Look for them in 3 - 6 feet of water any place where you find downed trees. Favorite areas include the near-shore areas of Deer Island, Osprey Bay, Otter Cove, Beaver Dam Cove and the Campground Cove.

After the spawn is over, crappies will move out to the main basin of the lake. One place that these fish will concentrate for the entire summer is the shoreline along the rustic campground. The shoreline drops off very quickly. You will find trees in beginning in 4 feet of water and extending all the way down to 25 feet. They will migrate up and down in these trees as the water warms during the summer. You will also find these fish here in the fall. Keep experimenting with depth until you connect.

Evergreen CrappiesCredit: Jay Angel photo

The author with nice Evergreen crappies

I just told you about my favorite spot, but you can catch crappies on most of the shoreline structure. In order for the shoreline structure to hold crappies it must be in somewhat deep water. i like to target water that is between 6 - 12 feet deep. The blown down tree must come out a bit into the lake as well.

Use minnows under small bobbers for best results.

Evergreen is known for its large crappies with many 12 + inch fish caught every year.

Evergreen Lake has a 15 crappie a day limit with no size limit. There are 2 boat ramps here with a $16 a day ramp fee. You can also purchase a yearly pass for $45. There is also a 10-horsepower limit on gasoline powered motors.

Northern Illinois has never been known for its fantastic crappie fishing. But, then again, I never had a problem filling my freezer full of them!