By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS
“You never know what you’re gonna catch out of the St. Joseph River.”
It’s been said many times, and likely similar sentiments were shared with the Potawatomi and Miami Indians who once roamed its shores. But I bet they never encountered what Hans Scott caught while fishing for steelhead between Central Park and Logan Street.
An orange fish. A Koi to be exact.
The kind people put in their aquariums or their ponds.
In all likelihood, this rascal got too big for his surroundings and got dumped into the river, the way a lot of strange fish find their way into the system.
It’s against the law, you know, but some people don’t care.
Scott caught the 18-inch fish he estimates to be around 5 pounds on a chunk of bread recently.
“I was casting a spinner for steelhead when I saw this colorful fish swimming around near me,” recalled Scott.
“Anytime I go down there steelheading, I carry a chunk of bread in case the steelhead aren’t cooperating. I can always catch a carp on a chunk of bread.”
After tempting the fish a few times, it took the bait that he rigged on a small hook and ultra-light outfit.
Koi are an ornamental version of carp. In fact, they will reproduce with common carp that are prominent in the river, according to Elkhart River biologist Daragh Deegan.
“We run into koi and big goldfish every once in a while, particularly in South Bend, during our surveys,” the biologist said. “They are usually the result of an aquarium/pond release.”
Although it’s against the law and there is always concern about non-native fish being introduced into a waterway, Deegan said, the colorful fish don’t last long in the river.
“Because they are easy to see, they standout to predators and usually get eaten pretty quickly,” he explained.
Scott’s fish was put in a plastic tub at his home until he figures out what to do with it. He hopes to find it a home in someone’s private pond.
And he may get another. Scott said the orange fish was swimming with a similar shaped fish that was white-colored and had large, flowing fins.
“I’m gonna try to catch that one, too,” he said.
Sylvan, Winona walleyes
Even though the DNR stocked fewer walleyes in Sylvan and Winona lakes during the past three years, studies show that’s had no effect on the number of walleyes that survived.
That means anglers will find plenty of walleyes to catch in those northeastern Indiana lakes.
It also appears to mean factors other than stocking rates play more important roles in determining walleye survival.
From 2001 through 2009, DNR fisheries biologists stocked fingerling walleyes annually at the rate of 20 per acre at Sylvan in Noble County and Winona in Kosciusko County.
That rate was cut to 15 per acre from 2010 through 2012. Survival rates one year later were generally greater at the lower stocking rate than at the higher one.
Biologists assess walleye survival based on catch rates of age-1 walleyes one year after stocking.
Specialized boats equipped with electrical generators are used to capture the fish. The walleyes are then measured and scale samples are taken for age analysis. The unharmed walleyes are then released into the lake.
From 2002 through 2007, catch rates of age-1 walleyes at Sylvan averaged 21.8 per hour. Catch rates from 2010 through 2012 averaged 29.8 per hour.
That means the average catch rate of walleyes at Sylvan increased 37 percent when the stocking rate was reduced 25 percent.
The highest catch rate came from a stocking of 15 per acre.
At Winona, walleye catch averaged 11.9 when stocked at the higher rate.
At the lower stocking rate, catch rates averaged 12.5 per hour. That’s 5 percent more walleyes despite stocking 25 percent fewer.
Last fall the stocking rate was cut again at both lakes to 10 fingerlings per acre.
This rate has been successful in maintaining walleye fisheries at Crooked and Wall lakes in Steuben County and at Pretty Lake in LaGrange County.
Since 2001 a total of 140,000 walleyes have been stocked into Sylvan. Winona has received 120,000.
Adult walleyes captured last fall measured up to 20 inches long at Sylvan and up to 24 inches at Winona.
The walleyes that are no longer stocked in Sylvan and Winona are being transferred to Maxinkuckee in Marshall County and Clear in Steuben County.
To be kept by anglers, a walleye must be at least 14 inches long.
Fly club event
The St. Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers Club is having its annual Fundraiser April 17 at the Waterford Estates Lodge in South Bend.
The program begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6:30. Admission is $25 per person and each person receives a gift.
Activities include door prizes, silent auctions, and a general auction. Items being auctioned included guided trips on local waters, fishing tackle, carvings, paintings and exotic fishing trips. Proceeds from the auction will help the club fund its projects to include trout rearing and stocking programs.
For more information, including details of the auction items, visit the club’s website, www.sjrvff.com.
New ‘Quail’ chapter A new Quail Forever chapter has been added in northern Indiana.
The Pulaski County-based “North Central Indiana Quail Forever” is expected to be an active force in reestablishing quail habitat in the region. Club officials plan to use chapter funds and time to increase wildlife through the planting of food plots and native Indiana grasses, as well as through youth outreach and education throughout Pulaski County.
For more information, contact Kent Wamsley at (574) 595-0636.
Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org.