Whitetail deer, squirrels, rabbits, Geese, quail, ducks and wild turkeys are but a few reasons why hunting is so popular in the Shawnee National Forest. The Forest Service manages both forested and open land areas to provide habitat for a diversity of wildlife species.
Hunting season, regulations, hunting licenses, special permits or wildlife stamp information can be obtained from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Fishing is one of those popular sports that are done here year-round. Trophy-sized bluegill, sunfish, catfish, white and yellow bass, crappie, and, of course, largemouth and spotted bass trophies have been taken from area waters. Striped bass and hybrid striped bass can also be caught from the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Fishing enthusiasts, from the worm-and-bobber crowd to those on the tournament circuit, have a field day in April and May as the waters warm and the fish begin to feed actively. The fun for many continues throughout the warmer months and into mild southern Illinois winters.
Looking for a challenge? Take your bass or crappie rig and motor the mighty Ohio Rivers and its world-famous Smithland Pool. Anglers call the Ohio River and 22 streams that enter it from Illinois one of Southern Illinois’ best kept secrets.
Golconda Marina is the gateway to the Smithland Pool area of the Ohio River with 206 slips, boat and motor rentals, or bait and tackle supplies, from private establishments and other agencies that manage lakes in and near the forest. An Illinois fishing license is required.
Sahara Woods State Fish & Wildlife Area
Sahara Woods, a portion of the Saline County Fish and Wildlife Area, is a hunting and fishing gem nestled in the woods just north of Carrier Mills. The 4,001-acre property was donated to Illinois Department of Natural Resources by Sahara Coal Company in 1998 and after an extensive reclamation program was opened to the public on July 7, 2011. The site has numerous lakes and ponds; Sahara offers a little of something to appeal to any angler.
The two largest lakes, Sahara and Final Cut comprise 100 and 20 acres respectively, but with over 275 acres of total waters there are many small but productive ponds accessible only by foot.
Sahara and Final Cut lakes are both equipped with boat launches, piers and bathroom facilities. Swimming is not allowed in any lake or pond on the site. All the lakes and ponds are open to boats, canoes, kayaks, and angling tubes meeting state regulations with the stipulation that vehicles are not used to back up to the edges of lakes and ponds to launch watercraft.
Catfish, crappie, bass, bluegill and red-ear can be found in the waters of Sahara Woods with catfish restocked regularly. A very good way to get an overview of the locations of lakes and ponds is to use a satellite or aerial imaging application which provides aerial photos of Sahara Woods.
Sahara Woods is open for archery deer hunting, firearm doe hunting, upland game hunting, turkey and fur bearer hunting in season. In November, half the park briefly closes and is reserved for a special deer hunt for terminally-ill youth.
Sahara Woods boasts a plentiful deer and turkey population, as well as numerous flocks of Quail.
Mushroom picking, hiking, and picnicking are allowed, though as yet there are no picnic facilities available. Sahara Woods is well worth a visit and whether visitors are fishing, hunting or just observing wildlife they will experience a very nice taste of rural Southern Illinois. www.southernmostillinois.com 800-248-4373