October 04, 2010
Here are 36 cream-of-the-crop choices where you'll find topnotch angling, from the beginning to the very end of the fishing year. Is one or more of these picks near you? (February 2007)
By Tom Berg
When it comes to fishing in our great state, Hoosier anglers have no shortage of places to wet a line. Whether you trailer your own boat or prefer to fish from the bank, Indiana is home to an almost limitless supply of fishing holes. Large reservoirs, small ponds, deep natural lakes, tiny creeks and roaring rivers are just some of the places where fishermen pursue their favorite sport.
Although it's good to have plenty of fishing spots to choose from, it's more important to have waters where the fishing is outstanding. Luckily, Indiana is home to excellent populations of bass, crappies, walleyes, bluegills, pike, salmon, trout, muskies, catfish and more. Since some lakes are better than others, shrewd anglers must try to choose the right lakes at the right times to maximize their success.
With this in mind, Indiana Game & Fish magazine has put together a list of great spots to fish for some of our most popular fish species throughout the year. Since the list is in calendar form, you might want to use it as a guide to help in planning your upcoming fishing trips for the entire year!
Clear Lake in Steuben County is an excellent place to find bluegills in both size and quantity. Ice-fishermen routinely catch big bluegills in the 9- to 10-inch range here, and there are plenty of places to fish for them, too. Whether you prefer to fish shallow flats, deep holes or sharp dropoffs, Clear Lake has it all.
One of the regular hotspots for bluegill fishermen is located on the northern shoreline. There is a well-known 20-foot-deep hole near the condominiums that holds plenty of fish. Bill LaVigne from Fort Wayne is a frequent visitor to Clear Lake; and he knows where the fish like to hide. "There are lots of big bluegills caught in that hole at the north end of the lake," he said.
"Another good place to fish," continued LaVigne, "is straight out from the public access site along the eastern shoreline. They fish for big bluegills there, but they also catch walleyes and perch."
There are sharp breaklines right there, as the water quickly drops off from 5 to 40 feet (or more, depending on where you are).
Bluegills are taken in good numbers from the 6-foot-deep water on the flats. Check the edges of the flats where the water starts to drop off from 6 to 12 feet. There should still be some live weeds there, which will attract the bigger bluegills.
Ice-fishermen in the northeastern part of the state have plenty of lakes to choose from, and Crooked Lake in Steuben County should definitely be on the "go-to" list. Located just northwest of Angola, this natural lake covers 802 acres and is home to an excellent crappie population.
The lake is divided into three main basins. The first basin is the largest, with plenty of deep breaklines and depths down to 39 feet. The second basin is characterized by extremely deep water, with one hole reaching a depth of 80 feet. The third basin is long, narrow and shallow -- averaging only 6 feet deep.
Larry Koza, the District 2 assistant fisheries biologist for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), points to Crooked Lake as a great place to fish for crappies. "We did a creel survey on this lake in 2003," he said. "Anglers caught crappies up to 14 inches long, which is pretty good!"
The large first basin is a popular place to find crappies during the winter. "I think most people head for the first basin," Koza said. "From the public access site on the east side of the lake, anglers head down to the south shore. There are a lot of shallow humps and underwater points that they fish around." The third basin can be very productive, too, so don't forget to spend some time there.
At this time of year, the waters off Indiana's stretch of Lake Michigan begin to teem with coho salmon. The reason is fairly simple: Since our state is located at the extreme southern tip of the lake, Indiana boasts the warmest water in the lake. The warmer water attracts both baitfish and salmon!
In some years, schools of young coho salmon begin appearing at the industrial warmwater discharge sites as early as January. Other years see the first fish show up in February. If this year is anything like previous years, though, the nearshore Indiana waters will be packed with hungry cohos by the time March arrives.
These salmon are much smaller than their cousins the chinooks. Cohos only weigh an average of 2 or 3 pounds in March, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in sheer numbers and in willingness to bite. When the cohos are in, limit catches (five cohos per person) are common.
There are plenty of great places to pursue these great-tasting cohos, too. Calumet Harbor near the Illinois/ Indiana state line is one good place. Buffington Harbor and the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal near East Chicago are always good spots. As the month progresses, the fish spread out and other nearshore places become hot, too.
Patoka Lake in southern Indiana is a sprawling 8,800-acre fish factory surrounded by Hoosier National Forest lands. Luckily for crappie fishermen, one of its principal products are papermouths. Crappie anglers have been catching large numbers of crappies from Patoka for many years, and the end is nowhere in sight.
This reservoir is characterized by numerous flooded creek arms and small coves, which are strewn with standing and rotting timber. The woody structure is also interspersed with large weedbeds in some spots, and out on the main lake, there are extensive weedbeds.
Finding structure on this lake is easy. Finding structure where crappies are feeding can be a little tougher. Savvy fishermen will use maps or their boat's electronics to find the best areas. Look for spots where the old creek channel comes up close to the standing timber.
Most crappies average 9 to 11 inches here, but there will be days when you can catch a limit (25 fish) of 12-inchers. Bigger fish are common, too, and it takes a crappie of 2 pounds or more to raise any eyebrows on Patoka.
J.C. Murphey Lake
Newly renovated lakes are well known for providing fantastic fishing once they re-open, and J.C. Murphey Lake is no exception. This 1,200-acre impoundment near Morocco is part of the Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in Newton County. This lake will be very popular with panfish anglers this year.
After the lake was drained and renovated to remove undesirable rough fish, it was allowed to refill in the fall of 2004. It was re-stocked in 2004 and 2005 with several species of game fish, including redear sunfish, bluegills, black crappies, largemouth bass, northern pike and channel catfish.
The redear sunfish and bluegills have been growing like crazy, and by this spring, there will be hordes of hand-sized fish for eager panfish anglers to catch. According to Mike Schoonveld, the assistant property manager at Willow Slough, the redears were already bragging size last summer. "Redears over 9 inches long are already being caught," he said, "and the bluegills are not far behind them."
Since the average depth of Murphey Lake is only about 3 feet, it won't be hard to find colonies of nesting redears and bluegills once they begin to spawn in the shallow water. Use a pair of polarized sunglasses to spot the dish-shaped nests, and then get ready for fast action!
Perch fishing on Lake Michigan really begins to heat up in June, and this is one of the best times to connect with some bragging-sized fish. The jumbo specimens will be close to shore and looking for a meal, so if you are interested in catching a bunch of 13-inchers (and even some 14-inchers), you'd better be ready.
The key to finding yellow perch in June is to look for weedbeds. There are dense patches of weeds in several easily accessible places: Pastrick Marina, Hammond Marina, Buffington Harbor and Calumet Park. The weedbeds need not be extremely thick, but they should have enough water depth to hold good numbers of perch (8 to 20 feet deep).
At the beginning of June, live minnows are the top bait. But when the water temperature reaches 65 degrees (usually by mid-June), soft-shell crabs become the top bait. Rather than using whole soft-shell, try pieces of soft-shell on in-line spinners for the best jumbo yellow perch action.
If you are looking for big bass in Indiana, you must consider fishing Lake Monroe at one time or another. At more than 10,000 acres, Monroe is the largest body of water in the state, and it holds huge numbers of big bass. Located just south of Bloomington in Monroe and Brown counties, this giant lake attracts plenty of serious bass anglers.
Like Patoka Lake, Hoosier National Forest lands also border much of Monroe, and it is home to a wide variety of habitats. There are underwater points, flooded creek arms and shallow flats covered with thick weedbeds. Flooded timber holds fish throughout the year, and rotting logs provide cover along the bottom.
Shad are the main forage for Monroe's bass, so it is a good idea to use lures that imitate shad. Crankbaits are hard to beat, especially gold or chrome models. Other lures also work well, such as large jigs and a variety of soft plastics.
Bass anglers must be aware that summertime brings plenty of boat traffic to this popular lake, especially on weekends. The high number of boaters and the resulting waves push many bass fishermen back into the protected creek arms. Idle zones near the creek mouths keep many of the pleasure boats out on the main lake.
Catfish anglers have plenty of different "favorite" times to fish for their whiskered prey, but it's hard to beat an evening on the water in August. When it comes to fishing on the mighty Ohio River, it's even harder to beat an evening chasing giant blue catfish!
The Ohio River is home to an astonishing population of blue catfish, and many of the biggest fish are caught in August. The largest Ohio River blue catfish ever recorded was caught on Aug. 28, 1999. It weighed a whopping 104 pounds, and was caught below the Cannelton Dam. Plenty of other fish in the 70-pound-plus class have also been taken from Indiana waters over the years during August, too.
Blue catfish are sleek, streamlined fish that seem to prefer somewhat swifter water than other catfish species, so one of the best places to find them is below the dams where there is good current and plenty of riffles. They are fish eaters, so they are often found suspended off the bottom looking for smaller fish to eat.
For anglers who love to chase big salmon, September is prime time on Lake Michigan. Chinook salmon enter the shallows in preparation for their annual spawning run, so if you are looking for a trophy-sized fish, get ready!
The returning salmon migrate from the deep water of the main lake to the location where they were stocked. When they find the right area, they spawn and die. Hoosier chinook are stocked in the Little Calumet River at Portage and Trail Creek near Michigan City. They are also stocked directly into Lake Michigan at Whiting Park and along the Inland Steel breakwall.
These stocking sites make it easier for anglers to predict where the fish will return. Early in the run, the best action will be seen by boaters trolling the break walls near the stocking sites and just offshore of the creek mouths at Portage and Michigan City. Later in the month, shore-fishermen at these locations will catch their share of fish, too.
Artificial lures are used by most fishermen, and bigger are usually better when fishing for mature kings. Large crankbaits and spoons are popular, especially those painted with bright or fluorescent colors. Rattling lures will often outproduce their non-rattling counterparts, too, so be sure to try them.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Lake Monroe's wide-open spaces are tailor-made for hybrid striped bass. These fish are a genetic cross between white bass and striped bass, and they love to roam open water in search of baitfish. Any time that you find schools of baitfish on Monroe, it's a good bet that the hybrid stripers are not far behind.
Although hybrids can be found wandering anywhere on the reservoir, they are usually located by anglers when they push schools of shad up to the surface and attack them in a flurry of splashing water and spray. Sometimes this happens out on the open lake, but more often than not it occurs along sharp dropoffs or other areas where the hybrids can
trap the shad in a confined area.
If the fish are hard to find on a particular day, try trolling for them with a spread of surface lines and deep lines. Downriggers do a great job of getting the baits deep if your boat is equipped with them, but if not, try trolling deep-diving or weighted lures.
Brookville Lake in southeastern Indiana is an excellent place to pursue big walleyes. At 5,260 acres, this reservoir provides more than enough space to grow plenty of walleyes. As a matter of fact, the walleye fishery here is so good that the lake serves as the brood-stock source for Indiana's statewide walleye stocking program.
As the year wanes and cold weather finally begins to set in, the walleye fishing on Brookville gets hot. Tag Nobbe, a local fishing guide on Brookville Lake (765/265-3238), said that the walleye fishing only gets better when the temperatures plunge. "Late in the fall, you want the weather to get cold -- and stay cold," he explained. "If the water temperature keeps dropping a little every day, it really turns the walleyes on."
Walleyes can be tough to find in large reservoirs, but at this time of year the walleyes at Brookville move out of the shallows and suspend over deep water. Look for dropoffs. "They won't be out in the middle of the mud flats," Nobbe said. "They might be out in the deep water near the edges of those flats, though."
In the fall, Brookville walleyes tend to feed on the lake's abundant shad population. Although other baits will still take fish, jig/minnow combinations and spoons that imitate wounded shad are much more productive. "These fish are strictly feeding on shad when it gets cold," Nobbe said.
St. Joseph River
Steelhead fishing on the St. Joseph River has been great in recent years, and this winter should be no different. Big Skamania-strain steelhead that have been in the river since June will begin sharing their haunts with newly arriving Michigan-strain steelhead this month.
According to Dick Parker (who owns a local tackle shop in Mishawaka), the steelhead should be quite active right now. "They are very aggressive as long as the water is 65 degrees or cooler," he said. "They don't slow down until the water temperature drops to about 38 degrees."
Good spots to fish are located all along the river, but some of the more popular areas include the stretch of river just below the Twin Branch Dam, Leeper Park and the old Uniroyal stretch of the river. "Look for rapidly moving water," Parker said. "Some fish will be sitting right on the edge of the swift current."
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