There are a lot of safe bets for Indiana anglers in May. Wager on these and you're sure to be a winner.
Most anglers live for spring. Sure, there are some species of fish that are better targeted at other times of the year, but for the most opportunity at the widest range of fish species, nothing beats springtime.
Indiana offers anglers an extended opportunity of spring due to our geography and being a fairly elongated state from top to bottom. While the northern half of the state is still in spring mode, anglers in the southern end are seeing conditions slip more toward summer patterns. Traveling up and down the state can offer anglers an opportunity to sample lots of different fishing conditions when they are peaking.
Regardless of an angler's location in the state or whether he or she wants to travel to fish, there is some great fishing to be had this month. The outside world is coming alive with warmth, blooms and greenery. The water temperature is rising, fish are on the move and some are spawning. What a great time to be on the water. Let's take a look at some of the great fishing opportunities this month offers to Hoosier anglers, from top to bottom.
Once the ice is off the water, Hoosier anglers start hitting the big lake in search of salmon. Coho and chinook salmon are targeted first near shore by boaters and bank anglers. This month, the fish will start moving out farther into the lake and will pretty much be within a two-mile wide band along the shoreline.
The salmon fisheries in Lake Michigan have been very good lately and look to offer lots of opportunity again this year. Salmon are stocked by Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. The fish tend to migrate toward the Indiana border in spring to take advantage of the warmer water. Anglers can expect to catch plenty of cohos in the 2- to 4-pound range and chinooks in the 7- to 10-pound range.
Trolling is the most popular method used to take salmon, but bank anglers will take a few, too. Trollers will often pull planer boards and fish crankbaits or other plugs. Dodger-and-fly combinations are also popular, especially later in the spring. Bank anglers will throw artificial baits or live bait such as nightcrawlers, squid, shrimp or something else.
A popular trolling location is near the Inland Steel plant. Anglers will target locations known as "The Hole" and "The Corner." As the fish move farther out, trollers will then target an area known locally as "The Shoals."
From a personal standpoint, chasing bluegills ranks near the top as one of my favorite fishing pursuits. There are lots of fellow anglers who share my passion. This feisty little panfish is actually hard to resist. They offer most everything an angler could want, provided they are decent size and chased with light tackle.
Anglers young and old love bluegill fishing. Bluegills are widespread, abundant and an easy target. Of course, jumbo-sized 'gills are a little more difficult to catch, but each and every one will fight with every ounce of their body when hooked. On light or ultralight tackle, that fight can be just as fierce as battling a smallmouth.
Salamonie Reservoir anglers often target bluegills beginning this month on through early summer. The water level fluctuates a lot through the spring, but by now it typically starts to become more stable. At about 2,700 acres, Salamonie offers a lot of opportunity for anglers to find good bluegill habitat.
There is a pretty decent population of bluegills at Salamonie in the range of 5 to 8 inches. Above that, bigger fish are more scarce, but still available for the savvy or lucky anglers who find them. In fact, there are reports from anglers of huge 'gills up to 11 and 12 inches.
There is a lot of different habitat available to fish, especially when the water is on the rise, which is frequent in the spring. Look for the bigger bluegills to hold near woody structure, flooded bushes or other cover, especially structure that is close to a drop into deeper water. All the usual bluegill baits will work, but the most successful anglers will search out locations not pounded daily by other anglers.
Another plus is there are 10 other fishing ponds on the Salamonie Reservoir property. All of these are stocked with bluegill. Hominy Ridge Lake also offers bluegill opportunity, but there is a 15-fish limit for bluegill and redear sunfish in aggregate. A lake permit is required to fish by boat on Salamonie Reservoir, Hominy Ridge Lake and all the fishing ponds.
There are a lot of states better known for walleye fishing than Indiana and people across the country don't just fall over themselves trying to get here to fish for ole marble eyes. Be that as it may, the Hoosier State does have some excellent walleye fishing, due in part to an aggressive and highly successful stocking program by the DNR.
Monroe Lake is one of the state's better walleye destinations and was the focus of a recent walleye tracking study done by the DNR. Biologists surgically implanted radio transmitters into numerous walleyes and began studying their movements to learn how and when they move as well as their spawning habits. Much was learned from the study and anglers can glean a lot of useful info by reviewing the final results, which are available on the DNR Web site at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3280.htm.
Walleyes have been stocked at Monroe since 1982 and the fishery is doing quite well. The stocking rate was recently upped from 40 fish per acre annually to 50 fish per acre. Monroe Lake is the largest reservoir in the state at 10,750 acres, so that translates to 537,500 walleye fingerlings stocked into the lake each year. It's not hard to see why the fishery is doing well.
The fish grow well in the lake, which is a major bonus to anglers. Stocked fish will usually reach legal harvest size after just two years here. Currently, there are good numbers of keeper fish available and catching fish up to about 5 or 6 pounds is not unthinkable. Bigger fish up, to 9 pounds, have been documented.
Walleye are very light sensitive and tend to hold in deeper water during the day, but will often hit shallow flats or timbered areas during low light and at night to feed. Anglers can use a variety of methods to take walleye, but as with most fishing, success depends on conditions and the fish.
Trolling shad-colored crankbaits is one method used to cover a lot of water. These cranks can also be cast on the flats or near likely wood cover. Jigs tipped with minnows or night crawlers can also be work
ed over good structure. Many anglers use special bottom-bouncing rigs to troll nightcrawlers, which can be one of the most productive methods at times.
There are a number of terms that could be used to describe the bass population at Dogwood Lake. The thing is, words such as abundant, numerous and plentiful don't do it justice. The best way to describe it is simply tremendous.
The DNR is faced with a dilemma at Dogwood Lake. They need to keep high numbers of bass in the lake to maintain the excellent bluegill and redear fisheries, which are a prized commodity. However, by having high numbers of bass, the size structure tends to fall off at the upper end of the distribution. Many bass anglers wish the lake still had a slot limit.
Even with the slot limit, it was tough to keep the bass numbers in check. The lake is very productive for bass and anglers tend to maintain a catch-and-release attitude. For bass numbers to be curtailed, anglers really needed to take out some of the legal fish, especially those on the skinny end of the slot. Unfortunately, that didn't really happen much.
Anglers who love to catch bass can have a banner day at Dogwood, especially in the spring. There are so many bass waiting to bite, anglers can literally go there and throw just about any favorite bait or use any favorite method. They will catch fish.
Dogwood has a lot of great structure such as stumps, standing timber and other woody debris, as well as an abundance of vegetation. In fact, the vegetation can become a problem as summer progresses. Target this structure as well as the shallow fingers on the east end of the lake.
Dogwood Lake is located in the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area and totals about 1,400 acres. There are two access areas. Boaters should note there is a 10-hp limit on gas motors at Dogwood. The upside is this limit means there are only anglers on the lake and no skiers or other recreational users. Anglers can also rent boats there, but they need to bring their own trolling or small gas motor.
Anglers should find this month to treat them very good when fishing for channel catfish at Patoka Lake. The cats there typically start to spawn toward the latter part of this month and then on into the month of June. Fishing slows down during the actual spawn, but while they are moving up to spawning locations, anglers can usually cash in on some fine catfishing.
Patoka Lake has one of the finest channel catfish fisheries in this portion of the state and one that would hold up well in comparison to most any place. Biologist Dan Carnahan believes the fishery is very underutilized, so cat anglers there really have themselves a hidden honey hole. Creel surveys have shown as little as three percent of the anglers on the lake being there specifically targeting catfish.
The population is in great shape, with excellent numbers and decent size distribution. DNR sampling has resulted in several fish over 8 pounds, with lengths approaching 30 inches. The largest sampled has been in the range of 12 to 13 pounds. Local anglers have also reported good catfish catches.
Catfish are cavity nesters, so they will look for holes in which to spawn. Anglers may want to keep these areas in mind when fishing this month as the fish will be transitioning toward spawning sites. These holes are often found in hollow logs, undercut banks, among rock outcroppings, riprap, or under old roadbeds and building foundations. There is plenty of all this type of structure and more at Patoka Lake. Good electronics and the Fishing Hot Spots map will help locate these excellent catfish magnets.
Patoka Lake totals 8,800 acres and offers excellent access. There are numerous boat ramps located around the lake and area tackle shops offer plenty of catfish bait and terminal tackle. There is ample shoreline access for bank fishing, too. The map mentioned can also be found at some of the bait shops and online at www.fishinghotspots.com.
Like to get bit by a fish that literally tries to flip the boat over when hooked? Then a trip for hybrid striped bass should definitely be looming in the future. These fish will battle all the way into the net and then some.
Hybrids are a cross between the striped bass and the white bass. The result is a fish that seems to keep some of the best traits of each of the parent species. Some anglers get so wrapped up in fishing for hybrids, it becomes an obsession.
Hybrid striped bass can be found in a lot of waters in and around Indiana, but one of the best locations is the Ohio River. Numerous states along the course of the river stock hybrids, which is a bonus for Hoosier anglers. Our neighbor to the south is one of the primary sources of the river hybrid fishery.
Kentucky has an extensive hybrid stocking program statewide and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) stocks a huge number of fish annually. The KDFWR stocks over a half million hybrids each year in the Ohio River alone. Every pool bordering Indiana gets thousands of new fish every year.
The hybrids are generally healthy every year and offer lots of opportunity. Whether the fish are thick or thin is dependent on the quality of the forage in a given year, but most years they are in really good shape. It's fairly common to catch fish in the 6- to 8-pound range and hybrids up to 10 pounds are not all that rare.
Live or cut bait seems to work better in the river than does artificial bait. Cut shad is a very popular choice. Nightcrawlers and chicken livers are other popular options. Anglers who are dedicated to artificial baits will generally throw big jigs with a sassy shad body.
Hybrids are usually found where there is current. A lot of anglers will concentrate on the tailwaters below the dams where hybrids congregate to feed on the variety of food sources coming through the dam. Hybrids can be caught in the swift water and on the bottom by boaters and bank anglers alike. Boaters should take caution when fishing the river, wear floatation devices and obey all regulations regarding fishing proximity to the dams.