Best Places to Fish in Illinois: Lake Shelbyville

Muskie angler at Lake Shelbyville holding a muskie

Lake Shelbyville is one of Illinois’ premier fishing resources and is recognized for its largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, muskie and walleye opportunities. Crappie are the main attraction on this big Corps of Engineers impoundment. With its 11,000 acres, Lake Shelbyville also boasts excellent facilities for camping, access and shore fishing.

Anglers should be aware of special length limits for walleye, largemouth bass, muskie and crappie. Consult visitor centers for the special creel restrictions, which are also posted at most public access sites. Boaters should watch for buoys placed near beaches, bridges, marinas and in some coves. The buoys indicate no boats, no wakes or other navigation information. In addition, green and red navigation buoys have been placed from the Highway 32 bridge to the "Bo" Wood Access to aid deep-draft sailboats. Large, 2-foot-square navigation daymark numbers are strategically placed throughout the lake.

Lake Shelbyville Illinois: fishing reports, lake map & fishing hot spots

6 Tips for locating and catching fish on Lake Shelbyville:

1. The West Okaw and Kaskaskia rivers produce the best catfish angling north of their confluence. From May through October, concentrate on flats near the channel. Prepared stink baits, minnows, crawlers, shrimp, liver and cut shad all produce.

Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye Tandem Spinnerbaits - Chartreuse/White
Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye tandem
Spinnerbaits - Chartreuse/White

2. During summer, crappie relate to riprap or standing timber where adjacent depths are more than 15 feet. The fish move back into the shallows again in fall and winter. An effective technique is to "dabble" or "tightline" minnows with a long bamboo or fiberglass pole, dropping the bait near likely wood cover. A bobber may be used to control the depth of the minnow.

3. From early April to mid-June, concentrate on riprapped areas, flooded willows and shallow stumps or deadfalls in less than 5 feet for Largemouth Bass. If high water conditions are present, look to flooded willows for great action, but don't overlook the riprapped sections. White, chartreuse and other light-colored spinnerbaits like Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye Tandem Spinnerbaits with nickel, copper or painted blades are popular.

Musky Mania Li'l Ernie - Glitter Walleye
Musky Mania Li'l Ernie - Glitter Walleye

4. Large spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and minnow plugs are proven lures for muskie. During summer, look for muskie in depths of 20 to 30 feet in the same general locations. During cold weather months, try trolling deep-diving muskie lures (Musky Mania Li'l Ernie, Depth Raiders) near channels.

Lindy Live Bait Jig
Lindy Live Bait Jig - Walleye &

5. Walleye spawning runs occur from mid-March to mid-April in the Kaskaskia River and to a lesser degree, the West Okaw River. These fish often associate with sharp channel bends or "neck down" areas. Live bait rigs, including bottom bouncers, Lindy Live Bait Jig and Roach Rigs, or 1/8- to 1/4-oz. fluorescent jigs tipped with minnows, are favorites of local experts. After spawning, adult fish return to the lake and feed around islands and flooded ridges in 2- to 12- foot depths. From mid-June to September, walleye hold along sharp breaks with timber, stumps or where channels meet. Fish can be taken by jigging or trolling crankbaits 10 to 20 feet deep.

6. During summer months, shad schools move throughout the lake, and white bass are always nearby. Look for surface feeding activity and cast spinners or small, light-colored crankbaits to the feeding fish.

Find even more fishing tips, including an interactive lake map for Lake Shelbyville, and fishing reports across the state of Illinois on Fishidy.