By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS
State awards for top fish catches reported to Michigan and Indiana last year have been announced by their respective states.
At least nine of Indiana’s 27 Fish of Year Awards were caught from Michiana waters, according to statistics released by the Indiana DNR recently.
The Indiana program recognizes state records and “Fish of Year,” the latter of which are the largest fish entered in each record category but smaller than a state record.
Fish of Year winners receive a certificate signed by the DNR director and a colorful jacket patch.
While weight determines state records, longest fish by length qualifies “Fish of Year” recipients.
All submissions must be registered through an on-line application (www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild). Therefore, many of Indiana’s “Fish of Year” might be considered “average” by some anglers yet they were still the biggest reported.
In other words, there are plenty of opportunities to win Hoosier fish honors for anglers who pursue them.
While many of the 2012 awards went to average fish, there were some pretty impressive catches reported. The most notable was a 30-inch walleye taken from Lake Michigan near the Michigan City port on Thanksgiving Day. It was caught by Micah Aldrich of Indianapolis on a Rapala Husky Jerk.
Fish of Year Awards given to Michiana anglers include Kenny McCormack of Osceola for a 39.8-inch buffalo caught on a jigging spoon from Lake of the Woods in Bremen and Terry Ramsey of Goshen for a 36-inch northern pike taken on a jig from the St. Joseph River in Elkhart.
Other qualifying fish taken from Michiana include a 10-inch bluegill (nightcrawler) and a 11.5-inch rock bass (Roadrunner lure) from Lake Maxinkuckee in Marshall County; a 14.3-inch bullhead (worm) and a 23.5-inch largemouth (bucktail jig) from Sechrist Lake in Kosciusko County; a 34-inch spotted gar (Bettlespin lure) from Stafford Lake in Kosciusko County; and a 13-inch yellow perch (minnow) from Lake Michigan in LaPorte County.
There was only one state record recorded and that was in a new category established in 2012 for whitefish. It was caught by Donald Hans of Michigan City and weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
Michigan anglers take their Master Angler Award program more seriously. More than 1,189 people from 25 states received honors in two categories for fish they caught last year.
The Catch-and-Keep category is based on fish that equal or exceed minimum weight requirements while the Catch-and-Release division is determined by minimum lengths posted on the DNR website.
Master Angler entries for 2012 did include four new state records, including black buffalo (37.4 pounds, caught from the Kalamazoo River by Bryan DeGoede of Kalamazoo), flathead catfish (49.8 pounds, caught on the St. Joseph River by Rodney Akey of Niles), Great Lakes muskellunge (58 pounds, caught on Lake Bellaire by Joseph Seeberger of Portage) and quillback carpsucker (8.12 pounds, captured on Hardy Dam Pond by Randy Bonter, Jr. of Grant).
Unfortunately, Michigan’s complete Master Angler recipient list was not available, so I can’t provide details.
Deer changes coming?
There are some discussions going on behind closed DNR doors that could result in changes for Michigan’s deer season.
Among those changes include realignment of some deer management units (DMUs) and reduction in antlerless permits.
While it’s only speculation at this point, Southwest District Wildlife Supervisor Steve Chadwick said some of those changes could be made.
“Our chief has mentioned DMU 486 has to change,” said Chadwick. “So we’re looking at splitting that up in some fashion.”
His district was hit very hard by the deadly EHD virus the past few years, and as hunters will attest, there were areas where deer were few and far between.
One proposal on the table, Chadwick said, was to address declining numbers in the lower three counties – Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph.
Maybe a separate DMU?
“There’s been a dramatic decline in harvest and population,” he said.
“Part of that was by design – to reduce crop depredation and deer/car collisions. But EHD has escalated that. We’re now looking at the data to determine what kind of recovery we may need.”
It’s a juggling act, Chadwick added, since the DNR doesn’t want to return to the days of numerous deer colliding with vehicles and the issuance of multiple deer depredation permits to landowners.
Biologists will be meeting over the next few weeks and a proposal for public view will be developed sometime in March.
Lunker’s 23rd annual Outdoor Extravaganza will be held next weekend at the Edwardsburg store.
The event runs Friday through Sunday during normal store hours. There is no charge.
The show will feature several exhibitors, including tackle company representatives, Canadian resorts, charter captains and local clubs, as well as discounted pricing.
Deer scorer John Bogucki will be on hand to score antlers (appointment only) and the Michiana Walleye Association will be available to discuss river walleyes.
The first 50 kids under age 12 to attend Saturday and Sunday will receive free gifts.
For more info, call the store, 269-663-3745.
Campground to close
The primitive campground at Pigeon River Fish & Wildlife Area will close next month and be converted to wildlife habitat.
Factors in the decision to close the 44-site campground include increased operating costs, declining revenue, growing maintenance needs, staffing constraints, fewer users and the availability of other campgrounds nearby.
Indiana Fish & wildlife areas are funded by fishing and hunting license revenue, as well as through excise taxes on shooting, archery and fishing equipment and motor boat fuel.
The Pigeon River campground was developed years ago when there were few, if any, private campgrounds in the area. There are now almost 40 private campgrounds operating in LaGrange and Steuben counties.
Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org.