By Don Jordan
There aren’t many muskie anglers anywhere in the world who have landed a 50-inch class muskie, but Indiana has one now and, Indiana’s fisheries chief says there are more monsters out there to be caught and that the next two or three years could produce great muskie fishing in several Hoosier lakes and flowages.
“The first one I caught here in Indiana was up at Lake Webster. It was May 1st, it snowed and nothing was biting. About 11 o’clock Jim Bagnoli (Indiana Muskie Hunters) asked me what I wanted to do. We decided to fish our way back to ramp. I tied on a six inch bait and trolled it behind the boat. He said they would want a bigger bait than that. Heck, I thought it was a pretty big bait. Then, wham, the fight was on! It was big and strong. I just wanted to see the fish. Then it porpoised a good way from the boat, and I saw its back was as big around as my thigh,” said fisheries chief, Bill James.
James added that they had no landing net, but another boat came to them, handed over a net and they landed the fish. It was a 44.5 inch behemoth, and as big a muskie as you are likely to catch anywhere, including Wisconsin, Minnesota or the St. Lawrence River.
Lake Webster, located in Koskiusko Co., is Indiana’s premier muskie lake at this time. The current state record fish, Indiana’s first record muskellunge to hit the 50-inch mark, came from Webster last year. Darrin Conley of Winona Lake took the 42.5-lb. fish from Webster Lake on April 1, 2002.
According to James, Lake Webster, located south of Wawasee, has been stocked for 20 years and now a nationally recognized muskie spot, holding more than just one 50-incher.
Russ Warye’s book, “Premier Waters of North America,” lists Webster as one of the nation’s top muskellunge lakes. That’s a pretty big leap into muskie angling lore for a state where native muskies all but disappeared in the 1960s.
Indiana’s muskellunge stocking program now includes 10 lakes, three of which are south of U.S. 40 and within easy driving range of this newspaper’s circulation area. The stocked lakes and the numbers stocked in 2002 are:
*Lake Tippecanoe, Kuskiosko Co.: 1,125 fish stocked, paid for my Hoosier Muskie Hunters.
*Barbee Chain, Kuskiosko Co.: 4,250
*Ball Lake, Steuben Co.: 700
*Skinner Lake, Noble Co.:625 muskies
*Loon Lake, Noble Co.: 1,110
*Bruce Lake, Fulton Co.: 1,976
*Palestine Lake, near Warsaw: 1,450
*Plover Lake, Atterbury FWA: 536
*Sandpiper Pit, Johnson Co.: 136
*Bass Lake, Sullivan Co.: 1,760 (Bass Lake has shown good muskie potential, and it is just an hour drive from Bloomington.)
*Brookville Reservoir, Franklin and Union cos.: 14,568.
The total number of young muskies stocked in 2002 was 32,106, an all-time record said James.
According to our fisheries chief, 11,000 muskies went into Brookville in 2001. He called it “our shock absorber lake,” meaning that any surplus muskies produced in the state’s two muskie hatcheries, Fawn River and East Fork, go to Brookville. The recommended stocking level is five fish per acre, and that’s how many muskies went into the other stocked lakes. To stock Brookville at that rate would require 25,000 young fish.
Keep in mind that Cataract Lake received surplus walleye for years, and it has produced good walleye fishing now for several years. Brookville has the potential to produce big muskies. Muskie anglers have already caught fish in the 40-inch class there, and James predicted tremendous muskie fishing potential there in the next three to five years.
Indiana’s stock comes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Hoosier Muskie Hunters bought their fish from a Minnesota hatchery, and they were under 9 inches long for stocking in 2002. Muskies from the East Fork Hatchery came out in two groups, one batch at 8 inches, and the other at 9.5 inches. The Fawn River muskies came out at an average 10.5 inches.
When stocking any game fish into existing fisheries, bigger is always better, said James, and our hatchery mangers have learned a lot in the past few years about successful muskie stocking.
“This was the first year we were able to finish our fish with minnows. All of our full production fish were fed a diet of live forage for a minimum of 30 days before they were stocked. In the past, they were raised on dry pellets. Results were less than spectacular,” he added. By finishing the young muskies on minnows, they learn to feed on what they will find in the wild.
Now, young muskies are moved from dry food tanks to minnow-infested ponds where they don’t have to look very hard for food. James said that 95 percent of the young fish placed in the minnow ponds survived to be stocked, a phenomenal survival rate.
You can find more about Indiana muskie fishing, including photos and maps, on the internet at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/fish/fishing/muskie.htm
WALLEYE RECORD DISALLOWED
According to DFW Chief of Fisheries Bill James, Scott Hoswell’s potential new state record walleye catch, a 14.47-lb. hog caught Dec. 11 is “not going to be accepted,” because Hoswell caught the fish inside Port of Indiana waters which is an area closed to fishing. “He was up front about it and told us the truth,” said James. The fish would have topped the existing state record by a quarter of a pound.