You can start right here in your search for our state's top fishing destinations throughout the year! (February 2006)
The Hoosier State is blessed with year-round fishing opportunities for trout, walleyes, suckers, bass, catfish, cohos, northern pike and panfish. Wherever you live, there's a great fishing hole nearby, or if you want to travel, you can take your pick of hotspots on our 21,000 miles of rivers and streams or on any of our nearly 1,000 lakes and impoundments.
But not all fishing holes are alike. Many lakes and rivers are historically exceptional fisheries for one or two species and others change from year to year. Knowing where to go is the first step to take in finding an outstanding fishing trip.
Fisheries biologists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have spent countless hours compiling fish population surveys, angler interviews and in habitat improvement and revitalization, all with anglers in mind. Stockings of some species have resulted in self-sustaining populations of fish, while others are stocked more on a put-and-take level.
Whether you're looking for Lake Michigan browns or Lake of the Woods walleyes, here's a look at some of our state's best lakes and rivers for this year.
One of our best winter angling destinations begins near the warmwater discharges along Indiana's 45 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline from Duneland Beach to just beyond Whiting. Brown trout from 16 to 28 inches concentrate in these areas of warmer water and are willing biters right now.
The Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has stocked thousands of browns here and anglers can expect fish up into the 20-inch-plus range. A 20-pounder was taken a few years ago, and there are probably more of this size or better in the lake's cold depths.
Hotspots for browns include the state line energy warmwater discharge on the Illinois/Indiana line and the Amoco discharge near Hammond. The Michigan City pier is a good bet if there isn't any ice.
Anglers will find plenty of good-sized fish in the stretch of the river bordered by the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area. Studies conducted by the DNR have indicated high densities of walleyes in the river with fish in the 18-inch range thrown in as a bonus.
The Illinois and Indiana DNRs have jointly stocked walleye fingerlings and the results are beginning to show.
Walleyes will hold in slack water or behind pilings, woody cover or rocks just out of the fast current. As baitfish move by, they'll dart out into the current for an easy meal. Marble-eyes may be a little sluggish in the cold water, but they will continue eating right on through the winter months.
The Kankakee is a beautiful river with gravel and rock flats and relatively clear water. The river winds down through Lake, Newton, LaPorte and Starke counties in northwest Indiana.
Big Blue River
Suckers on the Blue River are in deeper holes that are located along the entire length of river. Just about every hole, cut or river bend dip of any size can be stacked with suckers lying close to the bottom. It doesn't take much of a hole to hold numerous suckers.
Look for fish where holes appear adjacent to the river flats. Suckers will school in loose groups at the bottom of holes on the bottom or in various positions close to the deeper water. Often you can see them from the shoreline or from a boat.
Polarized sunglasses can help cut down on the glare from the water's surface and make it easier to spot the fish.
Float-fishing for these fish can help you sample miles of water. Just tie onto the shoreline or hop out of the boat to target fish-holding areas.
Access points exist in Henry and Shelby counties.
Turtle Creek Reservoir
Turtle Creek Reservoir is always a good bet for springtime bucketmouths. Anglers have taken fish in the 8-pound range from this 1,550-acre water. A 20-inch minimum size limit is in place to make this a trophy-class bass lake.
The Hoosier Energy Corporation owns the land around the reservoir. There is a warmwater discharge located at the northern end of the lake. Shore-fishing is allowed from the bridge on county Road 25.
Water access is limited near the discharge, but anglers can fish up along the barrier to take advantage of the higher water temperatures and active early-season bass.
Largemouths are becoming more active as the water warms throughout the lake. Bass metabolism slows down considerably in the winter and bass slow down their feeding accordingly.
The warmer water draws the fish shallow and an early-spring bite comes on about now. Many anglers miss the action if they wait for the warmer days ahead.
A late thaw shouldn't keep you off Turtle Creek. The lake seldom freezes hard because of the warmwater discharge.
Well over one million cohos have been stocked by Indiana's DNR into Lake Michigan.
Target early-spring cohos from 2 to 4 pounds along warming coastal areas. Cohos are moving up into the shallower water on their annual migration routes are more accessible right now than during any other time of the year.
According to the DNR, April and May cohos comprise up to 95 percent of the fish caught within a two-mile band following the coastland. Warmwater discharges also draw salmon as they gravitate toward warmer temperatures and to feast on baitfish that have the same idea.
Migrating cohos move into the coastal area anywhere between Michigan City and the state line. Look for power plant warmwater discharges along the coastline.
Five-pound bass are taken quite frequently from Patoka Lake, a bass factory in Dubois, Crawford and Orange counties. The minimum 15-inch size limit has helped increase the overall sizes of bass in Patoka.
Post-spawn bass will still be near spawning areas, but they will be holding in developing weedbeds, especially where weed edges are adjacent to deeper water. Shoreline points dropping into deep water are als
o June hotspots. Oddly, boaters won't have to travel far to reach some of the most productive points, many of which are just off the lake's boat launches.
Patoka Lake is loaded with coves, deep points and dropoffs, all of which attract largemouths. Patoka Lake covers 8,800 acres and sports big bucketmouths throughout.
By June, the fishing action has heated up in many ways. Bass are feeding heavily and are more willing to chase baits than they were earlier. Bigger lures and faster retrieves will catch plenty of fish.
Ten boat launches provide good access. Lake depths range to 50 feet with fairly clear water.
Flatheads up to 50 pounds are available in all of Indiana's Ohio River pools. Tackle busters this size are rare but possible. As a matter of fact, flatheads can exceed 100 pounds but 20- to 30-pounders are more the norm.
The tailwaters produce most the river's flathead catfish. Look for these whiskerfish not only in the more turbid areas but also near warmwater discharges, stream confluences, such as where the Ohio and Cumberland rivers join, and on gravel flats near deeper water.
At times, huge flatheads wait in tangled blowdowns and other woody cover or in deep-water holes. Look for a variety of habitat located in the same area where catfish don't have to move far to find their temperature, cover and feeding needs.
Night-fishing from May through July is best. Use heavy enough gear to pull in these monster-sized cats through deep rocks and tangles. Heavy-duty hooks are a necessity, since one of these big fish can easily straighten a light hook and make a shambles out of light-action rods and reels.
The Ohio River makes up our state's entire southern boundary from Ohio County to Posey County.
Located in St. Joseph County, Worster Lake has a well-deserved reputation for producing good numbers of bluegills. The bluegill numbers are second only to the overly abundant shad.
Worster is a shallow lake with a maximum depth of about 20 feet. The best spots to target are the stickups and other woody cover near dropoffs and weedbeds. The big 'gills will always be deeper than their smaller cousins and you'll have to fish deep to find them. If you locate a large fish, stay at that location and depth until you start catching others. Bluegills tend to school with fish in their own size range.
For the bragging-size 'gills, fish along the outside deep weed edges and cover.
The lake encompasses 327 acres and has an electric motor-only restriction. A 10-mph speed limit is in effect, too.
Worster Lake is part of the Potato Creek State Park and offers two public boat launches on the south and east shores. Three fishing piers are available along with boat rentals.
Hybrid stripers, a cross between white bass and stripers, are notorious roamers and may be anywhere on Brookville's 5,260 acres of water surface. Look for shad jumping frantically to locate schools of hybrids chasing the baitfish to the surface.
In 1995, the DNR started stocking hybrid stripers in Brookville at the rate of over 20,000 fish every year or so to control the shad population. With a good forage base, anglers frequently catch big hybrid stripers from this lake.
Hybrids are open-water roamers. They can be just about anywhere, so try trolling to cover a good stretch of water if schools of shad aren't jumping and rolling on the surface. These fish are a schooling game fish, so if you catch one, you'll find plenty more if you stay on the school.
Brookville Lake is in Union and Franklin counties, with the northern tip of the lake being near Liberty, while the southern end is close to its namesake town of Brookville.
Crappies up to 14 inches have been taken on Hovey by anglers in recent years. The lake is a consistent producer of crappies. Both good sizes and numbers of fish can be expected again this year.
Anglers won't have much trouble getting down to the crappies. Hovey Lake only reaches 9 feet with an average depth of just 4 feet. The lake contains more than 1,000 acres of flooded timber, which is ideal crappie habitat. There is plenty of elbowroom to spread out on the lake's 1,400 acres.
Hovey Lake is closed to anglers during duck season. A 10-mph limit is in effect because of the submerged, shallow woody cover, which is extremely hazardous to boat traffic.
There is a boat launch on the western shore and a state sticker is required. Hovey Lake is part of the Hovey Lake Fish and Wildlife Area in Posey County.
Cooler fall temperatures bring the big pike back up into the shallows of Tippecanoe Lake, where they are more accessible to anglers. Northern pike need deeper water in order to grow to huge sizes. Tippecanoe Lake provides ample depths extending to well over 100 feet deep.
Late fall, pike begin a feeding binge to prepare for the long winter ahead. Look for active northern pike along the deeper edges of weedbeds adjacent to deeper water, underwater points and along shallow, woody structure.
An underwater hump topping out at 4 feet below the water's surface in the southeastern section of the lake is ideal for casting or short-line trolling. There is a lot of weed cover, which is surrounded by deeper water. Use a lake map or depthfinder to pinpoint this spot.
Pike will hunt the shallows and then retreat to deeper water if dissolved oxygen levels hold up. If the lake ices over for an extended period of time, then pike will be found right under the ice where the water has the highest oxygen level.
Tippecanoe Lake is in Kosciusko County, west of North Webster.
Lake Of The Woods
Walleyes can be caught through the ice from this Marshall County hotspot. Lake of the Woods reaches depths to 50 feet with sharp contours next to deeper water throughout the lake. The lake covers 416 acres and traditionally produces good numbers of walleyes every year.
A large sandbar extends across most of the lake starting near the end of Denver Street on the southeast corner of the lake. At times, the walleyes move up to feed here.
Thousands of walleyes have been stocked since 1995 and the results speak for themselves. Anglers can expect walleyes up to 23 inches with good numbers of smaller, pan-sized fish as well.
Lake of the Woods is located northeast of Plymouth.