---- — Don’t panic if you find nets in Kosciusko County’s Winona Lake this month.
They were put there as part of an Indiana DNR study to learn more about the lake’s pike and walleye population.
Fisheries biologists will set six traps daily at various near-shore locations in the 562-acre natural lake at Warsaw this month.
Each pike and walleye captured will be measured, marked with a fin-clip, and then released.
By marking the fish, biologists can estimate the number of both species in the lake through a creel study this summer.
“We know Winona Lake had a pretty good pike population in the past, but we don’t know how many pike are there now, how big they are, or how many are caught by anglers,” said Steve Donabauer, DNR research biologist, in a press release.
Biologists will use the same trap nets to capture walleye and evaluate the population.
The DNR has stocked several thousand 6- to 8-inch walleye fingerlings in Winona annually since 2001. Although walleye survival has been good, biologists don’t have a handle on the number and size of adult walleyes.
Once the trapping is completed, a creel clerk will be work the lake this summer to count fishermen and examine their catch. The data will then be used to estimate total fishing effort and harvest.
The Winona pike project is part of a region-wide study. The number and size of pike in Indiana natural lakes are indicators of the quality of fish habitat.
“Pike do best in moderately clear, cool-water lakes with ample vegetation,” Donabauer said. “Where pike habitat declines due to manmade changes within and around a lake, the number of large, trophy-size, pike often declines as well.”
Pike are predator fish that typically hide in dense plant beds and ambush prey and help control gizzard shad and other forage fish species. Reproduction, however, can vary from year to year and lake to lake, depending on weather and habitat conditions. Loss of adjacent wetlands and natural shoreline areas can be especially harmful to pike reproduction.
The state record northern pike was caught in 1992 at Clear Lake in Steuben County and weighed 30 pounds, 2 ounces.
The DNR will also conduct a general population survey in June to check the number and sizes of all fish in the lake.
Free park fishing
There will be no fishing license required for Indiana residents to fish at St. Joseph County Parks on April 19 and again May 17 when Indiana residents may fish without a state fishing license in Indiana waters.
The gate fee of $3 for St. Joseph County vehicles and $4 for out-of-county vehicle still applies. Free Fishing Days were created by the Indiana General Assembly in 1995.
In addition, Ferrettie/Baugo Creek County Park in Osceola will offer a beginner’s fishing lesson on April 19 at 10 a.m. at Baugo Station. Basic fundamentals about rods, reels, hooks, lines and bait will be discussed.
Participants must be 8 years or older and those under 13 accompanied by an adult.
The gate fee of $3 for St. Joseph County vehicles and $4 for out-of-county vehicle still applies. Registration is required by April 16. For more information or to register, call 574/654-3155.
Classic pros at D&R
Five 2014 Bassmaster Classic contenders - Brandon Palaniuk, Gerald Swindle, Ish Monroe, Kevin VanDam and Jonathon VanDam - will present seminars at the D&R Sports Center Spring Fishing and Boat Show April 18-19.
Other anglers offering tips include Chris Noffsinger, Gerry Gostenik, Kyle Kempkers and outdoor television host, Mark Zona.
In addition to being a top-flight angler, Zona is host of “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show” on the Outdoor Channel and co-host of The Bassmasters on ESPN.
Kempkers is a bass pro with four Top-10 finishes who also guides deer, turkey and waterfowl hunts in Illinois.
Michigan angler Gerry Gostenik is one of the top guides on Lake St. Clair while Noffsinger is a veteran smallmouth bass and salmon guide in northern Michigan.
Factory reps from the nation’s top tackle manufacturers will be on hand both days to show the latest products and innovations at the Kalamazoo store.
Show hours are 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
D&R Sports Center’s website, www.dandrsports.com, offers info and the seminar schedule.
Tough river event
Kris Thornton (Osceola) and John Fuchs (Mishawaka) weighed a 4.24-pound, five-fish limit that included 4 “under 12 inches” and 1 over “15 inches” to win the R&B Circuit open on the St. Joseph River at Maggies Landing.
Fishing conditions were extremely tough due to muddy water. The new DNR bass regulation on rivers imposes a 12- to 15-inch slot limit, meaning each angler is limited to keeping fish under 12 inches and only one over 15 inches.
The winners caught their fish on jerkbaits and within the first 15 minutes of the tournament. They took home $320.
Curtiss Werner (Osceola) and Darrin Schaap (Edwardsburg) were second ($210) with 4.11 pounds caught on Money Mouth Baits’ Double Take Rig.
A single, 3.75-pound largemouth caught on a black/blue jig gave Andy Jenkins (Elkhart) and Scott Beard (Elkhart) third place ($110) and earned them big fish honors ($160).
Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at email@example.com.