Where is the best place in Indiana to catch bass? Well, that is an enormously difficult question due to the varied reasons anglers fish for bass in the first place.
Some people fish just for fun and want to get as many hookups in a day as possible. Others do not care if the action is not fast and furious because they are only looking for the big bite. Still others are trying to place in a tournament.
No matter the reason, there are ample spots in the Hoosier State to get your bass on. We have lakes with lots of fish and plenty of all-day action. We have lakes with less numbers but really giant bass. Other waters have both good numbers and the possibility of landing a few lunkers. No matter the preference, every itch can be scratched.
Following is our 2016 look at some of the best bass fisheries in the state. We look at some of the big reservoirs that almost always produce good bass fishing and some lesser-known waters that fly under the radar a bit. The choices are diverse, and the possibilities exciting.
Just north of Angola is Lake George, a 509-acre natural lake that is partly in Indiana and partly in Michigan. Fishing regulations are governed by a reciprocal agreement between the two states, so Hoosiers may fish anywhere on the lake with just an Indiana license. However, anglers must be aware of and abide by the fishing regulations for either state, depending upon whether fishing the portion of the lake falling within Indiana or Michigan jurisdiction.
Lake George has a really nice bass population and is a popular tournament-fishing destination for some of the smaller tournament events, such as the 15- to 20-boat variety. Special lake regulations only permit high speed boating from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The remainder of the time it has a 10 mile per hour speed limit. This gives anglers a couple of periods each day to fish without getting pounded by wakes from recreational boaters.
Neil Ledet is the DNR fisheries biologist who oversees Lake George. He said they have not surveyed bass at the lake for several years, but believes the bass population is in pretty good shape based upon what he has seen while conducting fall electrofishing surveys for walleye. Over the past three years, these surveys have turned up what Ledet referred to as very high quality bass.
Also within Ledet's district is Emma Lake, which is in LaGrange County. The lake totals only about 42 acres, but the biologist said it is "a bit of a sleeper." A couple of factors come into play that really benefits the bass population here.
"It (the lake) is infested with gizzard shad, which resulted in a decline in the quality of bluegill, but it has some very good bass," Ledet said. "Algae blooms are common, which limits water clarity and submersed aquatic vegetation. Bass basically utilize the lilies for cover."
During the 2015 survey, Ledet noted, the average size of the bass was 14 inches. Sixteen-inch and larger bass made up more than 30 percent of the sample.
Some good things are apparently happening with the bass population at Koontz Lake, according to some of the most recent sampling numbers. Numbers of bass in the 8- to 12-inch range took a nice jump in the last survey.
Tom Bacula, the DNR fisheries biologist for District 1, said they had not aged these fish yet, but they were most likely from a really good year-class of fish just a few seasons back.
This particular group of fish is a real plus toward increasing the number of legal size bass in the fishery. Bacula said Koontz is currently not a lake for numbers, but there are some decent size fish and the opportunity for anglers to land a really big bass is there. There are fair numbers of fish 18 inches and over.
Bass numbers appear to be up some as well. The total number of bass caught per unit of effort (CPUE) during the electrofishing survey showed an increase over the past two surveys, as did the number of bass 8 inches or greater. The CPUE of bass 14 inches and greater fell from 2012 numbers but was still higher than survey figures from 2010. Survey workers collected a total of 359 bass in 5 hours of shocking. The bass ranged in length from 5.9 inches to 22.1 inches.
Business as usual is to be expected at Brookville Lake this year. The bass population at this reservoir does not fluctuate much from year to year due to the sheer size of the lake and the stability it maintains. Anglers are expected to enjoy another great year of bassing on Brookville.
Brookville Lake is long and riverine, with lots of different habitats. Anglers get to enjoy not only an excellent largemouth fishing experience, but also the opportunity to tangle with some hefty bronzebacks. There are quality smallies in Brookville over 20 inches. Largemouths are also present in quality size, and catches of bigmouths in the range of 6 or 7 pounds is not uncommon. There is plenty of forage and both species exhibit very good growth.
Largemouths are better distributed throughout the lake than are smallmouths, although most anglers specifically targeting largemouths concentrate more in the northern half of the lake. Largemouths are more numerous in the upper portion and there are plenty of bays and coves with shallow water targets at which to chunk some baits. Smallmouth anglers typically concentrate more in the southern area of the lake where there is plenty of riprap and other rock.
Most anglers have little trouble catching bass in the spring when the fish are shallow. However, especially on large reservoirs, summer is a whole different ballgame. Fishing gets tougher for many anglers when the bass pull off into deeper water, often down as much as 30 feet or more. Brookville Lake has an excellent summer bite for anglers who have learned to fish offshore structure.
This lake is in the Summit Lake State Park, which is northeast of New Castle and southeast of Muncie. Much like Emma Lake, it could be somewhat considered a sleeper. The lake is not small like Emma. It totals some 800-plus acres, but it just does not seem to generate a huge amount of talk among bass anglers like some of the other more popular lakes in the state. Nonetheless, there is a decent bass fishery there, with the possibility of hanging into a real dandy of a bigmouth.
Summit Lake has very good bass numbers and decent size distribution. Anglers can reasonably expect to catch quality fish up to 5 pounds, and there are plenty of legal size bass in the fishery. What is really exciting though is the possibility to score on a whopper. The DNR sampled one bass, which, if it had been weighed, would most likely have been at or over 9 pounds. Now that is a quality largemouth most anywhere.
This lake in Daviess County is one of the better waters in the state for catch rate of bass. There are high numbers of fish in the lake, but there are not a lot of really large fish. The DNR is making a change to the length regulation at Dogwood Lake, which could help grow a few larger fish. The previous length limit of 15 inches is being reduced 14 inches.
In 1998, a 15-inch minimum size for largemouth bass was put in place with the intent to protect larger bass after the protected slot size limit was lifted. Since then, the Dogwood Lake bass fishery maintained high numbers, but through time, did not maintain a high proportion of larger fish. Currently the bass population by number is adequate to provide good predation on the panfish population.
Dave Kittaka, DNR biologist for District 5, noted: "The intent of the 15-inch size limit for bass at Dogwood Lake is no longer a management objective, and returning to the 14-inch limit will align Dogwood Lake with the statewide bass regulations. It is hoped that a conservative change in regulation will bring about a reduction in the bass population, thus improving growth for bass while still maintaining adequate predation on the panfish population."
This is one of our most popular bass lakes and also one of our most pressured bass fisheries. In 2014, Patoka Lake reported the most bass tournaments of any lake in the state and also the highest number of angler hours in the state.
According to preliminary data provided by DNR District 6 fisheries biologist Rebecca Pawlak, fishing success last year was consistent with that of the year before. Both tournament data and results from an angler creel survey indicated angler effort for catching a legal-size bass had not shown significant change.
"During 2014, Patoka had the lowest number of angling hours required to weigh in an 18-inch or longer bass than any other reservoirs reporting tournament data for 2014," Pawlak noted.
In addition, the size of the bass seems to be on an upswing as well.
"The overall size of big bass is improving in Patoka," Pawlak advised. "Big bass reported in the tournaments during 2015 ranged from 5.5 to 8. Pounds, with an average of 6.5 pounds, compared to a range of 3.1 to 7.6 pounds, averaging 5.6 pounds during 2014."
Around 41 percent of bass caught during a 2015 creel survey were 15 inches and greater, Pawlak noted. This is an improvement from estimates from tournament data during the 2011 season, which estimated only 30 percent of bass caught and released were 15 inches and greater, the biologist noted.
During 2015, the average bass length harvested from Patoka anglers was 18.2 inches, with lengths ranging from 15 to 21 inches.
That bodes well for 2016 to be an exciting time for bass angling on Patoka Lake.
The bass fishery at Monroe Lake is also in great shape again for this year. In fact, Dave Kittaka said bass fishing at the lake has been very consistent for the last 10 years.
As with Patoka, data from the fishing tournaments and from an angler creel survey had not yet been completely analyzed. But preliminary results looked very promising.
"We conducted an angler creel survey and general fish community fish survey in 2015," Kittaka noted. "We collected bass up to 6.25 pounds, and they ranged in length from 4.1 to 21.3 inches. Approximately 68 percent of the bass collected were 12 inches and greater, 37 percent were 15 inches and greater and 7 percent were 20 inches and greater."
The biologist added, "The average length of bass harvested at Monroe Reservoir was 15.6 inches and ranged from 14 to 21 inches in length. Anglers were asked if they caught and released bass above and below the 14-inch size limit, and 34 percent of the bass released were 14 inches and greater. This is similar to the 2007 creel survey, when 36 percent were greater than 14 inches."
Information gleaned from the tournament report indicated the size of big bass reported in tournaments on Monroe also remained consistent, with an average of 5.8 pounds in 2015 compared to an average of 5.7 pounds during 2014 and an average of 5.2 pounds in 2013.
As you can see, there are many good opportunities for chasing lunkers across Indiana this season. So now it's time to hit a bass hotspot near you to get in on your share of the action.