Hoosier State 2009 Fishing Calendar
October 04, 2010
It's time to dust off your fishing tackle and try your skill at one of these 36 prime picks for piscatorial pleasure. One or more is surely near you! (Feb 2009)
Anglers in the Hoosier State seem to have more choices than ever on where to fish these days. We are blessed with a multitude of huge reservoirs, tiny farm ponds, deep natural lakes and mighty rivers where the fish populations are as diverse as the habitat. Some of those fish populations are world class, too!
Indiana is home to excellent populations of walleyes, bass, catfish, crappies, bluegills, pike, salmon, trout, muskies and more. Whether you are interested in catching a trophy-sized fish-of-a-lifetime or just a stringer full of chunky panfish for the table, many of the lakes in our state will fill the bill nicely.
With this in mind, Indiana Game & Fish magazine has put together a list of outstanding places to fish for some of our state's most popular fish species throughout the year. You can use the list below to plan a fishing trip for one of your favorite species, or you can use it to discover a new lake -- right when the fishing is best there.
J.C. Murphey Lake
First ice often brings the best icefishing of the season for many waters, and that is certainly true at J.C. Murphey Lake in Newton County. Better known as Willow Slough, this shallow impoundment covers 1,200 acres near the town of Morocco; the lake is part of the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA).
Ever since this lake was renovated in 2004 to remove carp and other rough fish, the angling has been outstanding. In 2004 and again in 2005, biologists for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stocked large numbers of bluegills, redear sunfish, black crappies, largemouth bass and northern pike here. In 2005 alone, more than 439,000 bluegills were stocked, along with 123,226 redear sunfish. The new populations of bluegills and redears have really prospered, too.
According to Chip Long, the District 1 assistant fisheries biologist for the DNR, the fishing at the Slough should be excellent this winter. "A 2008 fisheries survey revealed that the bluegill and redear populations are flourishing, with bluegills up to 8.6 inches and redears up to 10.8 inches present in the lake," he said.
Those are impressive numbers, and since the DNR survey was performed earlier in 2008, don't be surprised if both types of sunfish are even a bit bigger by now. Keep in mind the fact that J.C. Murphey Lake has special regulations for panfish that were started in 2006. Anglers may only keep a total of 25 panfish per day (a total of 25 redears, bluegills or crappies in any combination).
The Kankakee River in northwest Indiana boasts excellent fishing for a number of different species throughout the year. When the ice first covers the sloughs and backwater areas, bluegill and crappie fishermen often have a field day. By February, however, die-hard walleye anglers really begin to hit the river in earnest!
Biologist Chip Long also covers the Kankakee, and he reports that the river's walleye population has been boosted in recent years by the DNR's walleye stocking program. "Approximately 20,000 fingerling walleyes are stocked in Indiana's portion of the Kankakee River each year," he said. "Stocking has made a substantial contribution to our walleye fishery."
When targeting river walleyes in February, Long suggests fishing in areas where water is entering the river. Feeder creeks and other areas where running water hits the river can be hotspots, but be sure to keep your presentations slow. The traditional jig-and-minnow or curly-tailed grub will take plenty of fish at this time of year.
Indiana's state-record walleye came from the Kankakee River back in 1974, and weighed in at 14 pounds, 4 ounces (tied with another fish from the Tippecanoe River). Could there be another monster walleye swimming around out there in the Kankakee? You never know -- but trophy-sized walleyes are caught from the river nearly every year.
Southern Indiana's Patoka Lake is a favorite destination for hordes of Hoosier bass anglers. Since this huge lake has a surface area of 8,800 acres, there is plenty of room to handle all of them. The lake's many coves, creek arms and bays contain plenty of good bass structure, too. If you like fishing flooded timber and submerged logs, this is the place for you!
Unlike some bass lakes that are strictly "numbers" waters, Patoka is more of a "big-fish" lake. There is an enormous amount of forage available for the bass to feed on, including shad, small bluegills, sunfish and tons of crayfish. Don't expect to catch 50 bass a day here, but the fish that you do catch will be quality fish.
Local fishing guide Tim Gibson from Paoli likes to target spring bass up in the creek channels.
"The upper part of the Patoka River is good in March," he said. "But I also like to fish near Sycamore and Allen creeks." Gibson uses a variety of lures to catch early-season bass, including jigs, crankbaits and suspending stick baits. In 2008, he and his clients caught bass up to 6.5 pounds.
For more information, call Patoka Lake Marina and Lodging at (888) 819-6916. Besides marina services, such as boat rentals, they can provide several options for lodging, including floating cabins right on the lake. For more information, visit their Web site at www.patokalakemarina.com.
Hovey Lake is one of those waters that fishermen tend to forget about. It is located down near the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash rivers, almost due south of Mt. Vernon in extreme southwestern Indiana. Being located off the beaten track helps to keep Hovey Lake out of the limelight, but if more anglers knew about the lake's bragging-sized crappies, they would make the effort to find it.
The lake itself is part of the 6,963-acre Hovey Lake FWA, and it covers approximately 1,400 acres of fairly shallow water. White crappies are the dominant panfish species in the lake, and recent DNR surveys have shown that they are growing extremely fast. Fish up to 15 inches long were found during these surveys!
Anglers may fish from the western shore at Hovey Lake, but it is often more productive to fish from a boat. You can either bring your own craft (10-horsepower limit on outboard motors), or you can rent a boat from the concession.
Brookville Reservoir in southeast Indiana's Franklin and Union counties is a 5,260-acre walleye factory. Anglers here often wonder whether they should fish for walleyes, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, crappies, bluegills or catfish -- but they wouldn't be wrong if they always chose walleyes!
Since Brookville Lake serves as the broodstock sourc
e for Indiana's inland lake walleye stocking program, it only makes sense that the lake is teeming with walleyes of all sizes -- including some real trophies. As soon as the water starts to warm in May, those walleyes really put on the feedbag. Look for fish in the shallows and out on the flats.
There are plenty of good baits and lures for catching walleyes, but it's always hard to beat a jig/minnow or a jig/night crawler combination. In May, some anglers prefer the jig/night crawler rig or even a plain night crawler harness.
For an up-to-date Brookville fishing report or to buy walleye tackle and live bait, stop by the 52 Pik-Up store on U.S. Route 52 in the town of Brookville. You can also call them at (765) 647-3600.
At 10,000 acres, sprawling Monroe is the largest lake in the state. Located in Brown and Monroe counties just south of Bloomington, this lake is literally crawling with bass. Finding them is not usually a problem, either, because there is so much structure for anglers to target: rocky shorelines, flooded timber, underwater points and creek arms filled with brush.
Many anglers will fish for bass in the creek arms and along the submerged timber, but don't forget about the main-lake dropoffs and points. Monroe's bass key in on large schools of shad when feeding, so good baits include anything that resembles a small gizzard shad. Silver or gold crankbaits are good, along with jigs, blade baits and spinnerbaits. Soft plastics are also a good choice.
Big bass are caught here regularly, both by recreational anglers and tournament fishermen. Fish in the 5- to 6- pound class are not uncommon, and bigger fish are definitely possible. It has often been said that the best place in the state to catch a bass in the 8- to 10-pound range is Monroe Lake.
Fishing for salmon on Lake Michigan during the summer requires a boat. Whether you trailer your own boat to the lakefront or hire a charter boat, you need to be able to get out to deep water where the fish are. Coho and chinook salmon are out there, but they are several miles offshore. Once you find them, the action can be intense!
In July, both species of salmon are cruising around chasing schools of baitfish in water that can be anywhere from 50 feet to more than 100 feet deep. Use downriggers, lead-core line and directional diving disks to get your lures down to where the fish are.
In the past, coho salmon made up the bulk of the catch. But in the last few years, chinook salmon often outnumber the cohos, and since the chinooks are bigger, no one complains. Many of these salmon range in size from 5 to 8 pounds, but the chinooks can be 10, 15 or even 20 pounds!
The best summer lures are usually thin trolling spoons. Silver spoons with a variety of accent colors are the norm, but sometimes plain hammered spoons are the hot ticket. Some of the most popular accent colors are blue, green, purple and chartreuse. Dodger-and-fly combos can also be red-hot on certain days.
Turtle Creek Reservoir
In the past, Turtle Creek Reservoir in Sullivan County was known as a big bass lake. There are still big bass here, just not in the same numbers as in the previous years. Now, a large channel catfish population dominates this 1,550-acre cooling lake.
According to Dave Kittaka, the District 6 fisheries biologist for the DNR, Turtle Creek's channel cats are definitely thriving. "Currently, channel catfish are the top game fish there," he said. It seems that these catfish love the warm water provided by the generating station, and their population has just exploded. "They are doing well enough that the state removed the bag limit for channel catfish at Turtle Creek," agreed Kittaka.
Since channel cats eat almost anything, fishermen don't need to be too picky in their bait selections. Night crawlers, garden worms, minnows, chicken livers and prepared stink baits will all catch fish. Just get your bait near the bottom and be ready for a bite!
Dogwood Lake in the Glendale FWA can be found in southwest Indiana's Daviess County. This 1,414-acre impoundment has a maximum depth of 42 feet and has been called one of the best panfish lakes in the southern half of the state. An extremely healthy bluegill population is one reason for that claim.
District 6 biologist Dave Kittaka also manages Dogwood's fishery, and he described the bluegill fishing in late summer/early fall as excellent. "The last creel survey here in 2006 showed that the best month to harvest bluegills is September," he said. "A full 30 percent of the 72,539 bluegills harvested were caught in September, and bluegills up to 9 inches were harvested."
Bluegills can be found all around the lake. There are plenty of places for them to hide and feed, from extensive stumpfields to shallow, weedy creek arms. There are also brushpiles and submerged timber in numerous locations. Keep in mind that there is a 10-horsepower limit on outboard motors here.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Monroe Lake is a great largemouth bass lake (as mentioned earlier), but it is also a good lake for hybrid striped bass. Hybrid stripers are a genetic cross between white bass and striped bass, and they inherit a ravenous appetite from both parent species. They travel the lake in search of schools of shad, and when they find them, it's a feeding frenzy!
Hybrid stripers, or wipers, can be found roaming almost anywhere on Monroe. Some anglers target them when they see the surface explode as a school of wipers pushes a giant school of shad up against the surface and slash their way through them. Fishermen lucky to get close enough to cast a lure into the fray will usually hook up immediately.
Other fishermen will search for hybrids by trolling. They can cover large areas with this method, and chances are pretty good that they will eventually contact the fish. Downriggers are a popular way to get the lures down into the depths, but anglers also use deep-diving crankbaits and weighted lures to fish productive depths.
Tippecanoe Lake is located in northern Indiana's Kosciusko County. It has been known as an excellent muskie lake for several years. Although the lake only covers a total of 768 acres, it is actually the deepest lake in the state (122 feet). Weedy points, submerged humps and steep dropoffs characterize Tippecanoe.
Chae Dolsen is a local muskie guide who fishes Tippecanoe regularly. In the fall, he likes to use live suckers for big muskies. "In 2008, the two biggest fish that we caught on live bait at Tippe were 45.5 inches each," he said. "We also caught a lot of nice 42- through 44-inch fish."
Lures are also very productive, and Dolsen throws an assortment of jointed crankbaits, bucktails and lifelike rubber baits. When it comes to lure color, his favorite is black. Dolsen
usually targets the dropoffs and steep breaks when fishing for big fall muskies.
Back in 2002, the new state-record muskie was caught in James Lake -- which is actually connected to Tippecanoe Lake. That huge muskie measured 50 inches and weighed a whopping 42.5 pounds!
Unlike summer salmon fishing on Lake Michigan, anglers can catch plenty of brown trout right from the shoreline in December. Lake Michigan browns move in close to shore in December as the water gets cold. They are looking for the warmer water of the area's industrial warmwater discharge sites on the lakefront.
Besides enjoying the warm water, the browns are also attracted by large schools of baitfish that move into the comfortable environs. Fishermen target the brown trout by casting minnow-imitating crankbaits and small plugs. Natural colors like gold and silver are extremely productive. Although most browns average 3 to 4 pounds, fish in excess of 15 or even 20 pounds are always possible.
Good shore-fishing spots with nearby warmwater discharge sites include the Stateline generating station near Hammond, the Amoco Oil refinery in Whiting and the Nipsco plant near Portage. Other spots to consider are the Port of Indiana access site, the Hammond Marina and Washington Park in Michigan City.
There you have it, a look at 36 overall places to fish and 12 prime picks to consider for this calendar year. It's early in the season, but there's no time to waste when the fish are biting!