Overall, Hoosier bass anglers have a lot to be excited about this year. Not only is some exciting spring fishing knocking at the door, but fisheries across the state are in good shape and anglers can anticipate some great days on the water this season. Also, there is some exciting stuff going on in the northern part of the state with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries Division, according to Jeremy Price, the North Region Fisheries supervisor.
Price says, “About five years ago we began to think about better ways to track the status of fish populations, water quality and habitat in our glacial lakes at the regional level. Something that would help us set standards and targets for our strategic planning documents and better evaluate the success of our program. We conceived a project called ‘Glacial Lakes Status and Trends’ (S&T) in which we would select lakes randomly from five subsets of lakes sharing similar qualities. Over a period of five years, we’ll conduct small-scale June surveys on 60 lakes and combine the results to develop the ‘status’ of our fisheries. We’ll then repeat those samples every five years going forward which will tell us what the ‘trends’ are in Indiana’s glacial lakes. We’re now in our third year of the project and it’s already producing some really valuable information for us.
Here’s what to expect for bass fishing in Indiana.
“Our June surveys provide us with a rough idea of what’s going on with our bass populations at individual lakes. However, if we perceive a potential problem, the value they have in diagnosing the issue is somewhat limited, so we have to follow up with a spring targeted sample in late April and early May. During the spawn period, we’re able to get our hands on a much larger number of bass and get a better look at the larger end of the size distribution, too. This provides us with the information we need to conclusively diagnose problems and craft a plan to fix them.
“With this in mind, we had growing concerns that, as robust as the S&T project design is, the June sampling period might not give us the ability to effectively evaluate trends in one of our most important game fish. Given the benefits we’ve seen from S&T in other aspects of management, we decided to expand this project to include spring targeted sampling for largemouth bass at the lakes scheduled to be sampled each year.
“This past April we incorporated small-scale bass surveys at 11 of our S&T survey lakes in addition to the June surveys. Steve Donabauer, our North Region Fisheries research biologist and lead on the S&T project, has compiled and begun to work with the data. Just this small 11-lake sample has stimulated a lot of discussion about what our populations look like and what we think might improve them for our anglers. Our understanding of the big picture will become increasingly clear with each passing spring. This will be such a valuable dataset to have, and we’re really excited about where it will take us.”
That is certainly good news for anglers in the northern part of the state, but things are actually quite bright throughout Indiana. With the pending spawning season comes lots of excitement and anticipation across the state. With that in mind, here is a look at a dozen of our best bass prospects this year, from north to south.
Located in north-central Indiana 12 miles southwest of South Bend, the 327-acre Worster Lake is found in the Potato Creek State Park. District 1 Fisheries Biologist Tom Bacula says the latest spring electrofishing results were encouraging.
Bacula says the largest fish they collected was 20 1/2 inches, but they also missed a couple of larger fish that just didn’t get shocked well. He explained that it is sometimes pretty tough to capture some of the largest individuals. The biologists also caught many fish in the range of 14 to 16 inches. He states, “It is definitely going to be a lake where anglers will have to sort their fish as there is a good size distribution. Anglers should definitely catch some fish with the possibility of 5-pounders.”
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Also in Bacula’s district is Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), home of J.C. Murphy Lake. The biologist has not done any recent sampling on the lake, but he’s been on the lake fishing it several times in the past year and found the bass to be very agreeable.
He says he didn’t catch any legal-length bass, which must be 18 inches for harvest, but he did very well on fish in the range of 13 to 16 inches. His largest personal catch last season was 17 inches. The biologist says he believes the lake will continue to produce good bass fishing for the next several years and that it will mostly likely receive some attention during upcoming electrofishing surveys.
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY LAKES
This is an interesting location in that there are several lakes in the area and all seem to offer up some fine bass fishing and on occasion some really large fish. Beaver Dam Lake, Carr Lake and Palestine Lake all have public-access ramps and good bass populations, according to Biologist Jed Pearson.
Also in the county are several other lakes with good bass populations, but access can be a problem. Pearson says most of these waters are utilized by lake residents, their relatives and guests. However, some anglers also gain access through private campgrounds and by gaining permission elsewhere. For those who do, the rewards are worth the effort.
EAGLE CREEK RESERVOIR
Eagle Creek is a 1,350-acre water supply reservoir in northwest Marion County. Biologist Rhett Wisener explains that largemouth bass grow very fast here, reaching 14 inches in just over three years and 15 inches around age 4, which is better than at Monroe, Patoka, and some other lakes in Indiana often considered good bets for big fish. He adds, “Numbers of bass will fluctuate some from year to year depending on recruitment, but in general, numbers compare favorably to the other large reservoirs in central and southern Indiana.
“There was a bass survey conducted there in 2011, at which time good numbers of age 2 and 3 fish were collected, which bodes well for the fishery right now meaning there should be a fairly healthy population of 15- to 18-inch bass present in 2014, especially since angler surveys there demonstrate that well over 90 percent of the keeper-size bass caught there are released. The predominant types of habitat to fish are rock, wood and water willow.”
This lake provides some 5,260 surface-acres and is a great destination for bass anglers in the southern third of the state, especially those near the Ohio border. Wisener describes Brookville as being unique for the lower half of the state in that it gives anglers the chance to fish for both largemouth and smallmouth bass in the same location.
Growth of both species is good at Brookville and anglers can expect good numbers of each species. There is good numbers of bigger fish present too. Biologists have recently sampled largemouths over 23 inches and smallies over 21 inches. Body conditions are good, so it would not be unexpected to catch largemouths up to about 7 or 8 pounds and bronzebacks up to about 5 pounds or so.
Wisener stated, “The upper end of the lake and the embayments are where largemouth are most prevalent and the main lake is where you’ll find the smallmouth. Anglers can find a variety of habitat and water to fish at the lake, so there is something for a wide range of anglers from shallow off-colored water with lots of wood to deep, clear water with plenty of rock.”
This Montgomery County lake near Waveland, Indiana, is relatively small at only 358 acres and receives a lot of fishing pressure, but the fish continue to be willing to bite according to Wisener. The biologist explains that preliminary assessments of a recent angler survey at the lake indicate most people bass fishing there catch fish.
Wisener says, “Over the years, I’ve not heard or seen many reports of many 5- to 7-pound or larger bass being caught there, but occasionally fish of this caliber are caught, but the number of 2- to 4-pound bass caught is impressive. Anglers catching 15 to 25 keepers per day is not uncommon. Besides the work we’ve been doing to help maintain and promote good numbers of bass in the lake, it wouldn’t be sustainable there without a strong catch-and-release ethic.”
Taking top billing as Indiana’s largest lake, Monroe covers some 10,750 surface-acres. With nine launching ramps and ample coves and access, anglers have a gem of a bass lake here, especially for quality-size fish.
Largemouths are the primary black bass species at Monroe, but there is a growing population of spotted bass. The latter is not as numerous or as large, but spotted bass can definitely put the fun in fishing when they stretch the line.
Most of the spotted bass caught will be 14 inches or less. However, a few really good ones are caught on occasion. Largemouth bass, on the other hand, are much better distributed through a wide size range. Plenty of keepers are present and fish up in the 5- to 6-pound range are not uncommon.
This 460-plus-acre lake in Sullivan County is starting to show up more on bass anglers’ radar. Biologist Dave Kittaka says efforts were concentrated at this lake last year to assess the bass population. Preliminary results were encouraging.
Kittaka says, “Anglers were asked if they caught and released bass and if so, how many were over 14 inch and greater. To date, 20 percent of the bass caught and released were over 14 inches. We conducted an electrofishing bass survey and results were almost identical with 20 percent of the bass over 14 inches. Bass up to 21.7 inches, 6.25 pounds were collected during the electrofishing survey.”
Patoka Lake is the second-largest reservoir in the state and although bass anglers there may not always boat the numbers of bass as at some other locations, the lake is very good for quality-size bass. Fisheries Biologist Dan Carnahan did a bass survey at Patoka Lake last spring and out of the 855 bass sampled, 30 percent were greater than 15 inches and 10 percent were greater than 18 inches.
Although the sampling catch rate was down from what they normally catch at Patoka at only 44 bass per hour, that was not mirrored in numbers from tournament anglers. The tournament catch rates were nearly identical to the year before. Last season, the average weight of a bass weighed in during a tournament at Patoka was 3 pounds and the largest bass weighed in was 8.5 pounds. Most any angler, whether fishing a tournament or just for fun, should be well pleased with fish of that size.
BLUEGRASS AND LOON PITS
Both these lakes are just under 200 acres and next to each other at Bluegrass FWA. Some time back, fisheries biologists with the DNR indicated these two lakes had the habitat and forage to produce quality bass fisheries. Recent sampling has indicated that is definitely happening as both lakes have shown substantial increases in the number of quality-size bass collected during sampling.
Dan Carnahan says, “We sampled Bluegrass Pit this past spring and had an electrofishing catch rate of 90 bass per hour with seven percent of the sample over 18 inches. Past angler creel surveys have the catch of 18-inch-plus bass at high levels for both lakes.” In fact, one recent angler creel survey showed the number of bass caught over 18 inches to have increased almost five times the number recorded in the previous creel survey.
Bluegrass and Loon pits have an 18-inch length limit and a two-bass bag limit.
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