Last year, lucky anglers from all around Indiana made some exceptional catches, from salmon and trout to catfish and bass. This year should be no different; fishing in the Hoosier state is expected to be great once again in 2012. Our lakes, reservoirs, rivers, creeks and ponds are all set to offer up some fabulous fishing. You job is to take advantage of it.
Whether you love fishing for springtime bluegills or fall chinook salmon, Indiana features some of the best fishing around. If you would rather chase muskies or smallmouth bass, we have that covered, too. Crappies? No problem. Catfish? We have unbeatable fishing for channels, flatheads and blue cats.
If you are a little confused about where to start, we can help. Indiana Game & Fish magazine has compiled a list of the top Indiana fishing spots for some of our most popular species throughout the calendar year. Use this list to plan your next fishing trip or an upcoming vacation. You’ll be glad you did.
J.C. Murphey Lake
Fishermen seeking large numbers of hand-sized bluegills have been doing very well at J.C. Murphey Lake in Newton County, in recent years. For anglers, this 1,200-acre impoundment is the centerpiece of the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), and although it is extremely shallow (3 feet average depth) it produces amazing numbers of big bluegills.
There was concern over a possible winter kill last season when the lake froze-up early and was then covered with thick snow, but the bluegills survived and fishermen had a great year in 2011. Bragging-sized bluegills of 9-inches or more, along with some monster redear sunfish, will be available again this winter.
Fishermen must remember that J.C. Murphey Lake has special regulations for panfish. Anglers may keep only 25 panfish per day (in any combination). Ice-fishermen should also note there are numerous areas with natural springs, muskrat lodges and small willow bushes that can hide areas of thin ice. Fish with a friend and be sure the ice is safe.
St. Joseph River
Steelhead fishing on the St. Joseph River during the dead of winter can be tough at times, but if this winter is warmer than usual, look out! The fishing areas around Mishawaka come alive with hard-fighting steelhead during warming trends. Anglers who are around when the ice disappears can score excellent catches.
Skamania-strain steelhead and Michigan-strain fish are both present at this time of year, and they’ll put your tackle to the test. Skamanias can be huge, anywhere from 10-16 pounds, although most are in the 6- to 9-pound range. They are long and slender, and jump like crazy. Michigan-strain steelhead are football-shaped and average 5-7 pounds.
One popular place for shore fishermen is the section of river just below the Twin Branch Dam. The public access there allows plenty of room for fishermen to target active fish. Rattling plugs and inline spinners are excellent lure choices, and some of the best colors include orange, red and silver. For current fishing reports, call Parker’s Central Park Bait shop at (574) 255-7703.
As soon as the ice leaves the harbors on Lake Michigan, scores of hardy anglers will be heading for the boat ramps to get in on some of the hottest fishing action of the year. The weather in March will determine the actual timing, but once we have open water the trollers will be out in force.
Large numbers of coho salmon are drawn to the southern shores of Lake Michigan in March because that’s where the warmest water in the lake is located. Warm water attracts baitfish, and the hungry salmon are never far behind. Warm-water discharge sites at industrial plants along the lakeshore are real hotspots.
Coho salmon at this time of year average 2-4 pounds, and they frequently hit lures very aggressively. Trollers who find a concentration of fish can often circle around and troll through the same area multiple times, catching fish on each pass. When the cohos move in close to shore, limit catches (5 per person) are common.
Monroe Reservoir, near Bloomington, offers nearly endless opportunities for fishermen. It’s the largest lake in Indiana, covering more than 10,000 acres. Located in Brown and Monroe counties, this expansive reservoir is especially well-suited for crappies. As a matter of fact, there are not many other lakes around where anglers have a good chance of catching a 2-pound crappie whenever they hit the water.
In April, most crappie anglers fish close to shore. Bob Raymer, a crappie tournament angler from Greenfield, often targets big crappies in shallow water in April. “I like to fish the Pine Grove area, Middlefork and in back of Ramp Creek,” said Raymer. “I caught some real dandies there in 2011; my largest was probably 2 pounds, 4 ounces.”
Good springtime structure includes shoreline brush, stumps along the creek channels and flooded timber. Although many anglers use live minnows for bait, Raymer prefers to use soft plastic tube jigs. Curly-tailed grubs and jig/minnow combinations are also productive.
Check out page two for top Indiana fishing spots for May, June, July and August