Mention the month of May to any serious Hoosier angler and watch the reaction on their faces. May means fish … lots fish, and at times some big fish, too!
As the first truly sustained and lasting warm temperatures raise water temperatures around Hoosierland, the fish will begin to feed in earnest to prepare for spawning, recuperate from spawning, or just break from their cold weather “hibernation,” depending on the species.
SKINNER LAKE CRAPPIES
Fisheries Biologist Jed Pearson has monitored the waters in northeastern Indiana for many years. I asked Pearson what his thoughts were on a great panfishing spot in this area of the state for May. He quickly mentioned Skinner, a 125-acre natural lake located off of St. Rd. 8, just east of Albion in Noble County.
“This natural lake is loaded with black crappies. Although most of them tend to run small — about 8 inches long — some larger crappies are available. The water may be muddy at times, so light-colored jigs work best,” he advises.
Twister-tail-style jigs of around 1/16 to 1/8 ounce work well for crappies and, as Pearson mentions, lighter colors seem to work best. Chartreuse, orange, white, or any of the translucent metallic-colored bodies work real well.
There are literally dozens of jigs, or jig-style lures, to use and it’s well advised to switch colors often until you find one that the fish are taking on that particular day. As with many other types of fishing, trial-and-error will help you find a style of jig that you like best.
From there it’s advisable to have several jig head sizes in a variety of known crappie-catching colors. You can mix and match jighead color with soft body color to find a combination that works for you.
There are many different types and styles of soft bodies to choose from, as well. I really like the Berkley Power-impregnated bodies for walleye and crappie, both. Mister Twister Exude bodies are a good bet as well.
Another great soft body lure is the 2-inch Storm Wild Eye Swim Shad. This is a different jig-style lure that actually has the lead weight inside of the soft body. This lure actually fishes lighter than it is and can be a great lure when fish aren’t hitting that hard. It glides through the water in a unique way and can really lure crappies in for a strike.
Another great jig-style lure to use would be the time-honored Road Runner. This spinner/jig combo is one of the absolute best lures to use for black and/or white crappies anywhere. And no crappie article would be complete without mentioning the old Berkley Johnson Beetle Spin.
According to Pearson, the best places to fish for crappie in the spring are the along the emerging lily pads in the four corners of the lake.
Pitching jigs, or other crappie lures near lily pads, sunken timber along the shoreline or other suitable cover and slowly retrieving them back to the boat can yield some impressive catches.
Another great method is to use your electric motor and hover over active fish using a vertical jigging presentation. If the crappie bite is on, you shouldn’t need live bait, but some anglers love to tip these jigs with lively crappie minnows.
If you prefer to use live bait to catch crappies, you can also just fish a simple minnow-and-slip-bobber rig. I’ve found that using Tru Turn hooks can be a real plus when catching crappies, or panfish in general. The long shank on the hook helps with removing it from a hungry fish’s mouth. Crappies have a tendency to inhale live minnows.
Whatever your chosen presentation, you should find many active crappies on Skinner throughout the month of May. The DNR access is located off of Skinner Lake Drive West, on the west side of the lake. You can pick up St. Rd. 8 off of St. Rd. 3, outside of Kendallville.
CENTRAL INDIANA WALLEYE
According to Central Indiana Fisheries Biologist Rhett Wisener, Central Indiana’s District 5 is home to many great fishing opportunities for the month of May.
He says, “May is a good month with a lot of different opportunities. Walleye fishing can be good in May as the post spawn bite picks up. Any of the lakes with walleye in central Indiana stand to be decent then: Brookeville, Summit, Cagle’s Mill, Eagle Creek Reservoir and Prairie Creek Reservoir.”
While Brookeville, Summit Lake, and Cagle’s Mill get plenty of ink, we’ll focus on a lesser-known central Indiana walleye fishery: Prairie Creek Reservoir.
Prairie Creek Reservoir is a 1,252-acre water supply reservoir located southeast of Muncie in Delaware County. The land surrounding the reservoir is managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department as a recreation area that includes a beach, campground, boat ramp, docks and picnic areas.
A Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) policy change in 1998 allowed the DFW to manage the fishery at Prairie Creek. A basic survey in 1999 identified a high abundance of rough fish and recommended that an additional predator be stocked. In 2001, the DFW began stocking the reservoir with 1- to 2-inch walleye fingerlings.
Those stockings have continued through the 2009 season, with the exception of 2008, when no fingerlings were stocked there. While the success of the stockings has been overall generally positive, Prairie Creek still has an abundance of gizzard shad.
This is a good news, bad news situation; these shad are a high-protein source of forage for adult walleyes, but they also are very aggressive spawners and can disrupt and compete with other desirable species, like bluegills, perch, etc.
Another setback in this fishery was an outbreak of Columnaris bacteria in 2005 as a possible culprit of a fish kill, which was mainly comprised of walleye and white bass.
A general fisheries survey along with a targeted walleye sampling was completed at Prairie Creek in the fall of 2009 to evaluate that same year’s stocking and current population. The walleye fishery here continues to provide good angling opportunity. Catch rates of all ages of walleye observed in the fall of 2009 exceeded the average catch rate of all ages from 2001 to 2007.
A great way to locate fish is to pitch twister-tail-style jigs and minnows into suitable walleye structure. You can generally locate impoundment walleyes near inlets, around sunken treetops, inside of deep bends in the main creek channel, hanging out on breaks near deeper water or within a reasonable distance of the main creek channel.
Bobby J. Patterson, superintendent of the park explains, “Over the past couple of years we have had some really good-sized walleye caught here. The fish average around 18-20 inches with some reaching 28 inches.
“The better spots are trolling the deeper creekbed in the center of the lake, or near the point by the campground area where another creekbed feeds into the reservoir. Other areas include the area near the dam and also on the south end not far from the island.”
Another great lure to use would be any of the walleye crankbaits like Rapala Shad Raps, or Minnow Raps; Storm Thundersticks; Reef Runners; or Cotton Cordell Wally Divers. Other options would be simple Lindy-style live-bait rigs, spinner harnesses with nightcrawlers, or even ribbon leeches, if you can find them.
Once you’ve located walleyes, you can often count on picking up more than one. While the majority of your fish will be the smaller males, you can’t count out catching a bigger male, or even a giant post-spawn sow.
Prairie Creek Reservoir and Campground is located 5 miles southeast of Muncie on Burlington Road. For general information on fishing conditions, camping, boat access or water levels, call Bobby Patterson at (765) 747-4776.
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