October 04, 2010
Look no farther than these 36 prime places to fish. All are great choices for anglers right now and throughout the fishing season. (February 2008).
By Tom Berg
Fishermen in Indiana are very fortunate these days. After all, the Hoosier State enjoys a year-round fishing season, so excellent angling opportunities abound no matter what time of year it is. From January to December, there are always some species of fish (often several species) that are biting in our lakes and rivers.
Whether you prefer to fish small farm ponds, large reservoirs, weedy natural lakes or slow-flowing rivers, Indiana has it all. Our public waters are home to tremendous populations of bass (largemouth and smallmouth), bluegills, crappies, catfish, pike, muskies, trout, salmon and more. From north to south, there is bound to be a fishing hotspot near you.
To help narrow down your choices, Indiana Game & Fish magazine has compiled a list of great spots to fish for some of our most popular game fish species throughout the year. Plan your upcoming fishing trips month by month, or choose a hotspot or two and plan an entire vacation around it!
Here are our picks for this year:
Ice-anglers on Lake Wawasee in northeast Kosciusko County have plenty of opportunities to chase their favorite fish. Some fishermen will target panfish, while others will concentrate on bass. The ultimate fish for many anglers, however, are toothy northern pike. And at more than 3,400 acres, Lake Wawasee has plenty of room to grow pike of trophy proportions!
Although pike can be found anywhere on this lake, some spots are definitely better than others. There are a large number of underwater humps, holes and sharp dropoffs scattered around the lake. Points, shallow flats and submerged weedbeds also offer an abundance of cover.
Pike anglers typically use tip-ups when fishing in the winter here. Large live shiners or bass minnows are the preferred bait, but oversized dead baits are good, too. Set the tipups along the deeper weed edges and underwater points for the best action.
Be advised that parking is limited for ice-fishermen at Lake Wawasee. Be sure to get permission before parking on or crossing private property.
Winter fishing on Indiana's portion of Lake Michigan generally revolves around one fish species: brown trout. Shore-fishermen will target chunky browns all winter long, and February is one of the best months to pursue these game fish. A few hardy boaters also get in on the fun, but only if the weather cooperates enough to keep the launch ramps clear of ice.
Brown trout are popular with winter anglers because they are relatively easy to find. Browns love warm water, and at this time of year the only place warm water is available is at one of several industrial warmwater discharge sites along the lakefront. Some real monster browns are caught from these spots, too. Although most browns will average 2 to 5 pounds, fish in excess of 20 pounds are always possible.
Shore-fishermen often use a combination of live bait and artificial lures to tempt wary browns. Night crawlers, salmon eggs and frozen alewives are top natural baits. Spoons, minnow-imitating crankbaits and small jigs tipped with cut squid are productive lures. Trollers should use stick baits and rattling crankbaits for the best action. Natural finishes like silver and gold are always good, but brighter colors like green, chartreuse and firetiger are also very productive.
Since early-season trout are mainly found at warmwater discharge sites, savvy anglers will concentrate their efforts at those locations. Boaters can try their luck at warmwater discharges inside the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal near East Chicago and at the U.S. Steel property in Gary. Other hotspots (for both boaters and shore anglers) include the state line generating station near Hammond, the Amoco Oil refinery in Whiting and the Nipsco plant near Portage
St. Joseph River
Spring is in the air, and the steelhead fishing on the St. Joe River is really beginning to heat up. Both Skamania-strain and Michigan-strain steelhead are stocked annually in the river, and the typical fish ranges in size from 6 to 12 pounds. Many fish in the teens are caught each year, too, and even bigger fish are possible.
These mature steelhead have been in the river all winter and are finally getting ready to spawn. Gravel bars are the places to look, because that's where the fish will build their redds (nests). Dick Parker, a fishing guide and tackle shop owner from Mishawaka (574-255-7703), always looks for gravel bars in March. "It's dynamite on the gravel," he said. "Leeper Park is good -- anywhere you've got gravel, you can catch fish!"
Steelhead will hit a wide variety of natural baits and lures, but some are better than others. Salmon eggs, night crawlers, wax worms and cut squid are excellent natural baits. Hot lures include rattling crankbaits, in-line spinners and flies. Productive lure colors can span the spectrum, but silver, gold, pink, orange (and combinations of these colors) are always good.
Lake Monroe in Brown and Monroe counties is the largest lake in the state. It covers more than 10,000 acres and is home to staggering numbers of largemouth bass. The bass have plenty of places to hide, too, since this reservoir is absolutely full of submerged timber, underwater points, winding creek arms and shallow flats.
Coves and creek arms filled with flooded and rotting timber attract large numbers of bass throughout the year, but especially in the springtime. These areas tend to warm up first, attracting insects, baitfish and bass.
Monroe is home to a large gizzard shad population, and the bass gorge themselves on these baitfish. Bass anglers would do well to use lures that resemble shad, like chrome
colored crankbaits and large-bladed spinnerbaits. Jigs and soft-plastic baits also work well.
The Wabash River is home to a tremendous catfish fishery along its entire wandering course, and countless numbers of anglers spend time here in search of their favorite whiskered quarry. Although good numbers of big flathead catfish inhabit this waterway, channel catfish are the main target of most fishermen during the warm weather months.
Pike anglers typically use
ip-ups when fishing in
the winter here. Large live
shiners or bass minnows
are the preferred bait, but
oversized dead baits
are good, too.
Like most rivers in Indiana, the Wabash is full of fallen trees, tangled root wads and brushy underwater obstructions. Many stretches of the river are quite shallow, but there are plenty of deeper cuts and holes, too. The deeper holes near woody logjams are prime spots to catch good numbers of these eager-to-bite catfish.
Channel cat enthusiasts will use an amazing assortment of baits when fishing for their prey. Live night crawlers, live minnows, grasshoppers, cut shad, chicken livers and prepared stink baits are all popular baits.
Bass anglers around the state head for southern Indiana's Patoka Lake in June. This sprawling 8,800-acre reservoir is absolutely loaded with largemouth bass, and there are plenty of big ones, too. Located south of the town of French Lick and extending into Orange, Dubois and Crawford counties, Patoka is a mecca for serious bass fishermen.
Patoka Lake is almost completely surrounded by Hoosier National Forest lands, so it is undeveloped and beautifully pristine. Dense woodlands reach right down to the water's edge in some places, while in others, there are rocky outcroppings and ledges that extend down into the depths. Flooded timber and vast weedbeds are located throughout the lake, too, offering endless places to wet a line.
According to Tim Gibson, a local fishing guide on Patoka Lake (812-936-3382), the bass really relate to the weedbeds here. "Anywhere you find weeds on Patoka, you are bound to find some fantastic bass action," he said.
There is no shortage of food for the bass here, so growth
rates are excellent. Gizzard shad are the primary forage, but small bluegills, sunfish and crayfish are also a large part of the bass' diet. Fishermen should use lures that resemble these natural foods for the best results.
There are several public boat ramps located around the lake, so access to Patoka is very good. For boat rentals or other information on the lake, call Patoka Lake Marina at
Steelhead fishing on Lake Michigan during the summertime is a bit different than it is in March on the St. Joe. The weather is noticeably warmer, and the fish are just beginning their annual spawning migration rather than completing it. These summer-run fish are Skamania-strain steelhead; they are longer and more slender than their Michigan-strain cousins. They also grow quite a bit bigger!
Returning Skamania-strain steelhead home in on the two major Indiana tributaries where they were stocked: Trail Creek in Michigan City and the Little Calumet River (Burns Waterway) near Portage. When steelhead are staging at the creek mouths in late June and early July, fast action is on tap for trollers (and shore-fishermen at Michigan City).
Trollers use large spoons and stick baits when pursuing summer steelhead, and these lures have one thing in common: color. Steelhead love orange or red lures, so be sure to use the right color. Silver/orange and gold/orange are often as good or better than solid orange, so try both. Shore-fishermen use orange lures, too, but they also use natural baits like salmon eggs, shrimp and night crawlers.
Skamania are big, powerful fish. Be sure your tackle is in top condition. Summer-run fish average 9 to 14 pounds, but 20-pounders are not unheard of. The state record was caught at the beginning of the run at Trail Creek in 1999. It was 38 inches long and weighed more than 26 pounds!
Catfish anglers living near New Castle in Henry County have a favorite place these days. That place is Summit Lake inside Summit Lake State Park. This 835-acre impoundment is home to an excellent channel catfish population, and many anglers come here just for the whiskerfish action.
Summit Lake is relatively small when compared with many reservoirs, but its fish population is extremely healthy and diverse. Channel catfish are just one of many popular species here. Besides good numbers of channel cats, Summit is also home to some really big fish. Catfish pushing 10 pounds are definitely possible.
The lake has many good places to fish for catfish, but the shallow flats at the northeast end are hard to beat. Keep in mind that there are numerous underwater branches and snags, so be ready to lose some terminal tackle.
Clear Lake in northeast Indiana's Steuben County is a great place to chase bass. More specifically, it is a great place to catch smallmouth bass. There aren't many places where Hoosiers can go to catch smallies weighing 5 pounds or more, but Clear Lake is one of them.
Bill LaVigne, a local angler from Fort Wayne, fishes Clear Lake for a variety of species, and smallmouth bass are one of his favorites. "There are some dandy smallmouths in Clear Lake," he said. "At this time of the year, you can catch them suspended out over deep water, underneath schools of shad."
Bass fishermen can troll small spoons or crankbaits to catch those suspended fish, or they can fish the rocky shoreline edges near the deep water. There are many areas that have stone and gravel on the bottom, and smallies are drawn to them like a magnet.
By the beginning of October, most of the mature chinook salmon have left Lake Michigan and are in the creeks, preparing to spawn. Trail Creek in Michigan City receives an excellent run of fall kings, and bank-fishermen at Washington Park have the first crack at them. Rain and a strong current flow encourage the fish to swim upstream faster, so in the matter of a few days the fish may be well upstream.
It is still possible to catch
these spawning fish, though. Anglers who take advantage
of the territorial nature
of these salmon can
make good catches.
When the salmon first enter the creek, they are aggressive and energetic. They are much easier to persuade to hit an artificial lure than later in the run, so be sure to hit the creek early. After they have been in the creek for a while, they settle down and concentrate on spawning. Males battle for females and for the best spawning riffles. During this time, feeding completely ceases.
It is still possible to catch these spawning fish, though. Anglers who take advantage of the territorial nature of these
salmon can make good catches. Bright-colored spinners and crankbaits are effective for provoking strikes from otherwise reluctant fish, and glow-in-the-dark spoons and crankbaits are especially productive during low-light conditions.
Chinook salmon die after spawning, so don't be surprised to see plenty of dead salmon along the stream banks. The dead fish don't go to waste, though. Mammals like raccoons, minks and opossums feed on them. The rotting fish also return valuable nutrients to the creek, which helps sustain the entire aquatic community.
Webster Lake in Kosciusko County has been touted as the best muskie lake in the Midwest for many years, and the fishing continues to get better every year. This 585-acre lake is home to a fantastic population of trophy-sized muskies, and a strong catch-and-release ethic is keeping it that way. For a real chance at a 50-inch muskie, Webster is the place to go.
The main lake has some good deep-water basins that are surrounded by shallow, weedy flats. This is where many muskie hunters will concentrate their efforts. Whether you troll along these deep edges or cast with diving plugs, you will always have a good chance of contacting a quality fish.
Some muskie fishermen stick with over-sized bucktail spinners, while others switch between bucktails, large stick baits and magnum crankbaits. Large soft-plastic lures have also become popular. Be sure to use a quality steel leader -- these fish have razor-sharp teeth!
Brookville Lake in southeastern Indiana's Union and Franklin counties is one of the few good places to pursue striped bass in Hoosierland. This large reservoir (5,260 acres) is characterized by deep water, flooded timber and a definite lack of aquatic vegetation. It is also known for excellent fishing!
Striped bass (or stripers) will spend plenty of time chasing giant schools of gizzard shad on Brookville. If fishermen can locate those feeding areas, they will latch onto some tackle-busting fish. Trolling is a good way to cover a large amount of territory when searching for stripers.
During the cold-weather months, the stripers tend to suspend over deep water. Look for spots that are close to a dropoff. The fish won't be in the middle of a shallow flat, but they might be in the deep water adjacent to the dropoff at the edge of the flat.
Stripers will hit a variety of lures, but locals like to use crankbaits, jigging spoons, bucktail jigs and jig/minnow combinations. Anything that resembles a shad is a good choice. Since Brookville's gizzard shad average 4 to 8 inches in length, don't be afraid to try magnum-sized lures. These bass won't have any trouble inhaling them!
Find more about Indiana fishing and hunting at: IndianaGameandFish.com/"