Goshen News, Goshen, IN

July 7, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Indiana offers variety of good panfishing


GOSHEN — Panfishermen who haven’t spent much time on Pleasant and Riddles lakes in southern St. Joseph County, or Bass Lake in Starke County, might want to put them on their radar.

District fisheries biologist Tom Bacula has spent the past month conducting surveys of those lakes and says they’re looking good for bluegills and crappies.

Pleasant Lake (29 acres) lies in Lakeville along U.S. 31 and Riddles Lake (77 acres) is connected to it via a channel on the south east end of the lake.

“We saw a lot of nice bluegills in both of those lakes and some nice redear,” said Bacula. “We actually saw more bluegills than we’ve seen in previous surveys at Riddles and we saw some pretty nice pumpkinseeds, too.”

Riddles is especially noted for its crappie, and while the DNR crew found quite a few there, nearly half of its catch with shocking gear and gill nets was comprised of bluegill.

They didn’t get many bass, but Bacula says that could be due to the time of year.

“We were out there this spring doing some work and saw some quality bass,” he added. “Our survey showed more legal bass in the lake, but not as many bass as far as total numbers.”

The biologist said that one drawback to the lake is that it has a lot of big shad that were put there illegally. Shad compete with native fish and have no value as table fare.

“The good news is we didn’t see as many as we have in years’ past,” he added.

Bass Lake is a misnomer, since bass fishing in the 1,345-acre lake near Knox, Ind. really isn’t a good largemouth bass lake. However, it’s producing good crappie, white bass and catfish and the walleye fishing isn’t bad, either.

“We had a creel survey going there and anglers had an incredible spring for crappie fishing,” said Bacula. “The lake has a good year class of 9 to 10 inchers.”

Crappie fishing was so good, in fact, that conservation officers wrote several violations to people who exceeded the daily bag limit of 25 fish.

The channel catfishing also is exceptional at Bass Lake. Bacula turned up several, including fish in the 5- to 6-pound class.

“There appears to be more ‘cats than we saw in a 2010 survey,” he offered.

Walleye fishing is fair on the lake. It wasn’t stocked in 2012 but remnants of a 2011 stocking were apparent. Bacula said those walleyes stocked two years ago measured from 13 to 14.5 inches long.

Bass Lake also has an abundance of white bass that measure 11 to 12.5 inches.

Bass, Indiana’s fourth largest natural lake, is relatively shallow with large shallow flats and very little weed growth or habitat for fish like largemouth bass.

Steelhead moving

You may not like the wet, cool summer but the Skamania steelhead do.

The summer-run steelhead were pouring into Trail Creek at Michigan City late last week and biologist speculate they’re probably moving into the St. Joseph River as well.

“We haven’t seen any fish in the (South Bend) ladder, but I have to believe they’re on their way,” said Bodine Hatchery Manager Dave Meuninck.

Bryan Williams of Trailhead Mercantile in Niles said Friday that some steelhead were being caught off the pier heads in St. Joseph, Mich. and there were some fish in St. Joe tributaries below Berrien Springs dam.

Skamania steelhead are programmed to run into streams during the summer months but that hasn’t been the case in recent years. Hot weather and high water temperatures have delayed the runs until fall.

Bodine crews have been gathering steelhead at the sea lamprey weir on Trail Creek since last Wednesday. Stream temperatures dropped into the low 60s during last week’s rainstorms and that brought the fish in.    

Thru Friday, Bodine had collected more than 400 of the 700 it needs for brood stock. Those fish were taken to the Mishawaka hatchery where they will be held and stripped of eggs for future stockings.

Unfortunately for Trail Creek and Michigan City anglers, the weather and muddy water hampered fishing in the stream and at the pier heads.

Once the stream water clears, steelhead that passed through the weir or that jumped over it should provide good fishing through the summer.

Trail Creek water temperatures run lower than the St. Joseph River. Meuninck said he hopes to collect more from the South Bend ladder next week – if the fish move upstream.

However, hotter weather forecast for next week could delay those plans.

Hunter safety course

The Dowagiac Conservation Club will sponsor a hunter safety course July 18-20 with registration set for July 10.

While there is no fee for the class, students must preregister with a birth certificate at the club between 6-7 p.m. Wednesday night. For information, call Furmer at 269-646-9839.

Molnars win MWA

Jim Molnar Jr. and Sr. (South Bend) won the Michiana Walleye Association Shelton Markets Challenge last weekend on the St. Joseph River at Buchanan, Mich. with 8.28 pounds.

The winners ($319) caught their fish by trolling Storm Smash Shads and pulling Slow Death Livebait Rigs with crawlers along the edge of the river channel. The team keyed on an area that had small humps on the bottom that the fish were using as current break due to the high, fast water from all the rains.

The Molnars also captured the ClearH2O tackle Big fish Award with a 2.71-pound walleye that earned them an additional $240.

Dwight Jones (Mishawaka) and Dallas Dunn (Indianapolis) were second ($159) with 6.91 pounds caught by pitching chartreuse jigs with leeches around current breaks and structure. Mike Rhoades (South Bend) and Randy Gaines (Chester, W.V.) were third ($96) with 6.46 pounds by pitching jigs to current breaks with crawlers in 9-10 foot of water.

Contact Louie at stoutoutdoors@comcast.net.