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Indiana Crappie Fishing Outlook 2018

Indiana Crappie Fishing Outlook 2018
Good lakes to fill stringers with crappie are within easy reach of anglers in most parts of our state. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)

Indiana crappie fishing
Here are some of our recommendations for crappie angling this year. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)

Indiana crappie fishing action is heating up, and these waters are among the best in the state.

Crappie fishing is a relaxing way to spend a few hours before or after taking on the day. Many Indiana lakes are full of nice fish thanks to sound fishery management on the part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The tackle is simple to use. And the results can be excellent table fare. 

Crappie size varies from lake to lake and from north to south. Generally speaking, a 10-inch fish will weigh about 1/2 pound. Larger fish in the 16-inch length class might weigh 2 1/2 pounds.Fish in southern lakes tend to be larger due to a longer growing season. Size can also vary with the quality of forage available and fishing pressure.

Often a lack of underwater structure, scattered wood and low vegetation makes fishing the shoreline shallows a must. Crappie relate significantly to structure.

There usually is some structure within a lake in the form of rocks, stumps, floating logs and changing bottom structure. Most crappie anglers rely on a combination of weed edges, fish attractors and wood when fishing shorelines. On hot days, anglers fish in depths of 4 to 12 feet. The structure and weeds along shallow water shores and in coves with timber are popular.

Crappies are opportunistic feeders known to avoid traveling any farther than necessary to find food. Fishing the shallows can be very rewarding, especially if it is near deeper water.

As a general rule, most lakes have generous creel limits on crappies. Most do not have length limits. There are some site-specific limits imposed in an attempt to increase the size of fish within the lake. Be sure to consult the regulations for any water you plan to fish. What follows are some of our recommendations for spring crappie angling this year.


When it comes to size, these northern lakes fall short. But they do produce good numbers of fish. The shorter growing season does not allow them to attain the growth structure that fish from the southern Indiana lakes attain. Often located in or near some of the larger cities they provide some excellent after work or family crappie fishing spots. Here are a few for your consideration.

Worster Lake 

A group of counties in north central Indiana contains the Potato Creek State Park. District Fisheries Biologist Tom Bacula is getting good reports of crappies in both size and numbers from 327-acre Worster Lake inside the park.

Anglers are finding good numbers of eating-size fish in the range of 8 to 10 inches. There is no minimum size limit and the creel limit is 25 per day. In winter ice-fishing is very good. The park is located southwest of South Bend. 

Skinner Lake

This Noble County lake near Albion is a good lake for numbers of black crappies according to Jed Pearson, DNR fisheries biologist for District 3. Do not expect to catch big fish, but the numbers are there. Both black and white crappies are present. The lake itself is 125 acres in size. The shore fishing action is sometimes lacking, but boating anglers do well. 

Most crappies are 8 to 9 inches in length with some getting up to 16 inches. Not a lot of the fish caught are in the later class, but there are plenty of keeper size ones for the table.

This is a natural lake. Water quality clarity ranges from 1 to 3 feet. Seek the crappies in the lily pads of the four corners of the lake. Live minnows are the best bait choice.

Sylvan Lake 

Sylvan Lake is another Noble County lake also recommended by Pearson for numbers of black crappies. This 669-acre man-made reservoir near Rome City provides good black crappie action. The lake consists of five basins.

There is shore fishing at Lakeside Park in Rome and the west embankment. 

Webster Lake

A third lake recommended by Pearson for numbers of black crappies is this Kosciusko County lake. Located in north-central Indiana, this spring fed lake consists of 640 acres. The original name of the lake was Boydston Lake. The town of North Webster sits on the western shore.

The water depth is 65 feet at the deepest point. Anglers usually find crappies off the drop-offs and near shallow water.

Salamonie Lake 

When it comes to white crappies Pearson recommends this reservoir and Mississinewa Lake. Salamonie Lake is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project on the Salamonie River near Wabash. It aids in the control of water from the Wabash River. At normal pool, it is about 2,665 acres.

White crappies are the target of the majority of anglers who fish from boats. It is advisable that the angler use caution due to small amounts of driftwood floating in the lake. The water is generally clear, but rainstorms can cause the mudding of the reservoir due to run off. In the spring, lake levels tend to fluctuate widely and the water becomes turbid.

Good locations to find fish include near fish attracters, off points and wooded inlets. Shore-fishing is available at the marina cove, the State Road 105 Causeway, Majenica Creek Bridge, County Road 750 East, the Dora cul-de-sac and County Road 690 East.

Mississinewa Lake 

This 3,200-acre reservoir is in northeast Indiana, southeast of Peru. It is between Miami State Recreation Area and Frances Slocum State Recreation Area. One can fish from shore or by boat along the 60 miles of shoreline. 

The water is generally clear.


Geist Reservoir 

District 4 fisheries biologist Corey DeBoom finds the Geist Reservoir on the east side of Indianapolis to be a thriving crappie lake. The limited public access takes much of the pressure off the fishery. There are lake access fees. The fees help to maintain the two boat ramps.

Although it does not have the numbers in the 12-  to 14-inch size, there are fish up to 2 pounds in the lake.

Raccoon Lake

Located between I-70 and I-74 west of Indianapolis and near Rockville, this lake is more properly called Cecil M. Harden Reservoir. It is a 2,060-acre body of water. This good black crappie fishery contains fish in the 8 to 10 inch size. 

Cagles Mill Lake

This is another lake with crappie toping 12 inches. The white crappies are mostly in the 9- to 10 1/2-inch class. There are some black-nosed crappies present. This reservoir is near Lieber State Recreation Area. It is located about halfway between Indianapolis and Terre Haute.

The lake is 1,400 acres and provides flood control. It protects the Eel and White rivers watersheds. Mill Creek flows into the lake. Cagles Mill Lake has a maximum depth of 50 feet. Water clarity is 3 to 6 feet. There is excellent shore-fishing in the tailwaters.

Rental of fishing boats is available at the Marina. For anglers with their own boat there are paved ramps. 

Eagle Creek Reservoir

This often-overlooked lake has some quality crappie fishing, according to DeBoom. Located on the west side of Indianapolis, it has both good numbers and size of fish and is easily accessible to the public. Some fish are up to 14 inches in length. In the last survey by the DNR, there were good numbers of fish from 9 to 12 inches, with some crappies over 14 inches.


Lake Monroe 

Crappies are the most abundant species in this lake, making up 51 percent of the total crappie harvest.

By staying near the driftwood your chance of finding crappies is good. The lake belongs to the Corps of Engineers, but the DNR manages the fishery. With 10,750 acres it is the largest manmade body of water in the state.

The lake is 35 to 40 feet deep. It is located near the Bloomington and serves as a water supply. There are both black and white crappies present.

Debbie King, District 5 assistant fisheries biologist, recommends it as a crappie fishery. Planting of aquatic vegetation in recent years is increasing the surface area for fishing action in some areas that were once somewhat barren.

Dogwood Lake 

Another crappie lake recommended by King is the 1,414-acre Dogwood Lake impoundment in Glendale State Fish & Wildlife Area. It is on Mud Creek in Daviess County. Also present in the same area are a number of small ponds.

Anglers fish from boats as well as three designated shoreline fishing areas. Boat rental is available. Anglers may launch from any of the four ramps. 

The crappies are of the black crappie variety. Fish up to 12 inches are reportedly present. The lake receives heavy fishing pressure. A size limit imposed in 2016 is an attempt to increase the size of individual fish. It is just beginning to show success. 

Patoka Lake

This southern Indiana reservoir is south of French Lick and West Baden in the Hoosier National Forest. To the east is the town of Jasper. The 8,800 acres contain some excellent crappie fishing that is nationally recognized. The lake is 25 miles in length, with 161 miles of shoreline. It is the second largest reservoir in the state. Only Lake Monroe is larger. It spreads across DuBois, Crawford and Orange counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana DNR manage the reservoir jointly. There are 10 boat launch ramps on the lake.

According to the folks at the Patoka Lake Marina, the crappies being caught average 10 inches in length, with some big ones reaching the 17-inch class. That would be in the 3-pound range. 

The most popular fishing locations are near the King's Bridge boat ramp, Walls Boat Ramp and in coves scattered throughout the lake. 

Brookville Lake

This lake had a good population over of crappies over 12 inches. Brookville Lake is a 5,200-acre deep-water impoundment with sharp ravines and breaks dropping into oxygen depleted deeper water. As the water warms, a thermocline forms at about 20 feet. With minimal shoreline cover, many of the fish move to mid-range areas of heavy cover in flooded timber and brush. Jigging around the timber can produce excellent results. The pattern for success is to fish jigs slowly. Put it right on their noses.

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