Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 2, 2014

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Will 2014 be a better year for outdoorsmen?

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Goshen News

---- — The past year delivered Michiana sportsmen their share of pleasant surprises and disappointments.

Our lakes refilled from the drought of 2011, the EHD virus gave our deer a break, and a good number of steelhead returned to the St. Joseph River this fall.

On the other hand, the weather was goofy, providing us a cool wet spring, cooler summer and a fall that transitioned to winter without an enjoyable Indian summer.

And, of course, the winter has been brutal.

So, as we look ahead into a new year, here are some things to ponder as we “plow” our way into 2014:

Will we be fishing open water – or through the ice this April?

Given the miserable deer season across Michiana last fall, will wildlife managers cut back on the antlerless deer tags to give the herd a chance to rebound?

Have we seen the last of the fatal deer virus EHD?

Will Hoosiers who are angered by Michigan’s doubling of non-resident license fees live up to their promise of not buying one this year?

I wonder how many tickets Michigan conservation officers will write for Hoosiers fishing without a license?

Is there enough support in Indiana for the 25-fish bluegill bag limit that the DNR has proposed?

Can we expect more steelhead to come into Indiana’s section of the St. Joseph River and provide a superb spring fishery?

Whatever happened to all of those coho that Indiana stocked in the St. Joe – the ones that were supposed to create a bonus fishing last fall? Will the 2014 autumn be better?

If the proposal to increase Indiana’s walleye size limit to 16 inches passes, will it create a better big-fish fishery in the coming years?

How many prize-winning tagged smallmouth will anglers catch from Indiana’s St. Joseph River this season?

Will Elkhart River anglers start catching legal walleyes this summer from the Elkhart River Restoration Association’s stocking in 2012?

Since last summer was a banner year for legal walleyes in the St. Joe, can we expect more of the same this summer?

Will we ever see a wilder ice fishing story than the one recently about the Niles angler who caught the 52-pound flathead catfish record on a bluegill rig?

Is Lake Michigan’s perch fishery ever going to rebound?

Why do Indiana legislators continue to push for liberalized high-fence, can hunting when so many sportsmen groups oppose it?

Last season produced some big kings in Lake Michigan. Was it an oddity or a sign of things to come?

With the success the Indiana DNR had last year with raising catfish at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terre Haute, could the program be expanded into state prisons?

The Michiana Boat and Sport Show improved over last year. Will the growth be enough to draw even bigger exhibits next year?

Access support needed

Michiana sportsmen and club representatives are encouraged to attend Wednesday night’s Ontwa Township public meeting regarding a proposed boating access on Eagle and Juno lakes.

The township announced that the previously scheduled plan commission meeting has been changed to a public hearing regarding the Michigan DNR’s new proposal to build launch ramps on Eagle and Juno lakes with parking for 16 tow vehicles.

Previous attempts to improve lake access were thwarted by the Eagle Lake Improvement Association and similar objections are expected to be voiced again. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and the township hall is located across from Lunker’s on U.S. 12.

Show continues today

The Michiana Boat and Sport Show wraps up today at the South Bend Century Center.

Admission is $3 and there is free parking today. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The show has been expanded with several new exhibits this year and new boat dealers have been added.

Steelheaders talk

Mike Ryan of the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders will provide early-spring pier fishing tips at the Michiana Steelheaders meeting Wednesday night.

Ryan will cover brown trout, coho and steelhead tactics and Lake Michigan’s whitefish fishery. The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 8 p.m. at the De Amici Club in Mishawaka.

Biologist to speak

Indiana DNR biologist Neil Ledet will outline the DNR stocking project, proposed rule changes and the overall health of the river fishery at public meeting hosted by the Michiana Walleye Club.

The club is located on Day Road between Bittersweet and Capital Ave. near Mishawaka. The free program will be held at the club facility Feb. 8 around 7 p.m. For more information, call Barry Ukele, 574-274-7472.

Regina finishes 6th

South Bend’s Larry Regina’s experience of fishing in cold, snowy weather paid off last weekend in the FLW Rayovac Series Central Division bass tournament on Lake Sam Rayburn, Tex.

The last day of the tournament was fished in 22 degree weather, yet Regina caught three fish in the last hour of the second day to finish 6th in the co-angler division and win $2,100.

Regina had 19 pounds total weight, all caught on lipless crankbaits and jigs.

Hunting preserve bill

The Indiana Wildlife Federation and several sportsmen groups urge the public to speak up against Indiana Senate bill 404 that passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee last week. The bill would legalize deer shooting preserves, also known as high fence hunting establishments. The committee passed the bill 6-1 despite opposition from the IWF, several hunting organizations and conservation groups.

Opponents fear the bill promotes unethical hunting practices and threatens the health of the wild deer herd. A petition to stop the bill is available at www.indianawildlife.org.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at stoutoutdoors@comcast.net.