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The Fishing Guide provides an overview of rules regulating fishing in lay terms. The state also maintains a web site with the current set of administrative rules and laws as they appear in the Indiana Code. This site is updated monthly and includes all changes that have been made recently, including regulation for reptiles, amphibians, and mussels. Go to Article 9 in Indiana Administrative Code 312 to get the rules specifically for the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
It is illegal to move fish from one public water to another without a fish stocking permit. Moving fish between waters can introduce diseases, disrupt the adaptive characteristics of a local populations, or cause competition between species that negatively affects game fish and aquatic resources.
If you catch an unusual fish, such as an aquarium fish or exotic species, take a close-up picture of the fish that would show identifying characteristics, measure its length, write a description of the color, behavior or other unusual characteristics, and report the location and date to the District Fisheries Biologist in your region.
The state legislature and DNR recognize the increasing use of public waters for tournaments and other organized activities and are actively addressing this issue. Anglers who are participating in fishing tournaments must comply with all existing laws and regulations regarding bag limits and boating safety. Individuals who possess fish above their individual bag limit, such as fish transported and released after weigh in, must have a special use permit issued from the IDNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. Applications for these permits are reviewed for biological impact to the fish and lake community. If a permit is issued for this purpose, the individuals transporting these fish must have the permit in possession at all times during transport and must comply with all conditions on the permit. Tournaments held on state properties (reservoirs) currently participate in a drawing to control the number, size and impact of tournaments on public access facilities.
In the most recent session, the state legislature passed a bill to regulate group watercraft activities on public waters, which includes fishing tournaments (HEA 1075). A description of the Indiana Lakes Management Work Group and copy of their final report, including the recommendations that led to passage of HEA 1075, are on the web at: . The bill was signed into law by Governor O'Bannon and took effect on July 1, 2000. The IDNR published a notice of intent to adopt administrative rules in the Indiana Register on September 1, 2000. These rules are under development over the next several months and will require public input for finalization. We would appreciate your attendance or ideas submitted during this process. Information on the status of any bill in the legislature and a downloadable (PDF) copy of the current language in the bill can be retrieved by typing the bill number into the “BillWatch” web site.
Regulations apply to "state-owned" fish. This includes permanent streams and any impoundment on publicly-owned lands, as well as many waters on private lands. Private ponds that are isolated from streams are excluded. The Fishing Guide provides information on legal limits for all fish and gives more specific information for several species and waterbodies. For instance, the size limits listed in the section of the Fishing Guide on "Bass Regulations" show that the legal length is 14 inches for largemouth bass in most inland lakes and Lake Michigan and 12 inches on rivers, but also lists several waterbodies for which special size regulations differ from the standard restrictions. Please review this list for any water that you intend to fish. If you have questions after reading the Fishing Guide about regulations or fishing opportunities in a specific water body, please call the Conservation Officer or District Fisheries Biologist for that area.
Cast nets are not an approved gear for catching game fish in any Indiana waters (312 IAC 9-7-2 and 9-7-16). Cast nets are only legal for taking bait fish, or minnows, in most waters. However, cast nets cannot be used within two hundred (200) yards below any dam on the Ohio River (312 IAC 9-7-16d). Cast nets in most waters cannot be larger than 10 feet in diameter and the mesh stretch is no larger than 3/4 inch. Cast nets used to take minnows from the Ohio River must not exceed nine (9) feet in diameter nor have mesh size larger than three-eighths (3/8) inch bar mesh (312 IAC 9-7-16e4). Minnows taken for bait must not be of any species considered endangered or threatened. Bag limits and size limits for sportfish must be followed regardless of the means of catching fish. Any fish that does not meet these restrictions must be released immediately.
It is illegal to possess, for any reason, a game fish that does not meet the bag limits or size limits indicated for that species. Any legally-caught fish may be used as bait. However, it is illegal to use live carp or gizzard shad for bait. However, live shad are allowed at to be used as bait at Brookville Reservoir, Cecil M. Harden Reservoir, Monroe Reservoir, Patoka Reservoir, Lake Freeman, Lake Shafer, Hardy Lake and the Ohio River mainstream, excluding all embayments. Live goldfish are legal baitfish. Do not dump bait buckets or move any live fish from one lake or river to another waterway. Introduction of live fish into a waterbody is stocking and requires a permit from the DNR.
It is illegal to use gizzard shad on most waters. Even though gizzard shad are native to Indiana, they can be detrimental to fisheries where they were not previously established. It is illegal to move live fish from one body of water to another. To keep gizzard shad in their native waters there is a restriction on when they can be used. Another issue is that small gizzard shad and two species of Asian carp (bighead and silver carp) look very similar when they are juveniles. It can be very hard to distinguish these species. To prevent the further spread of Asian carp, use of gizzard shad is limited to waters where they already have established populations.
Catch and release is an important fisheries management technique which the DNR promotes in the Fishing Guide and at other opportunities. Anglers along damaged resources, such as the White River between Anderson and Indianapolis, are especially encouraged to use catch and release. Many anglers use catch and release in areas where consumption advisories limit the number of fish that should be eaten. Fish must be handled carefully and released in good condition to reap the benefits of catch and release fishing. It is illegal to sort fish within your bag limit. Do not dispose of unwanted fish within your bag limit by dumping dead or dying fish in waterways. However, the fisheries in Indiana are also managed for a harvest that is carefully monitored through creel surveys (asking a statistical sampling of anglers what they are catching and keeping) and fish surveys (shocking, netting or trapping a statistical proportion of the population). Most sportfish populations in Indiana can withstand a harvest. If there is evidence that the harvest is negatively affecting the size, growth rate or age distribution of that species, fisheries regulations are adjusted to protect the population through slot limits or limits on fishing gear. While many anglers in Indiana are fishing for recreational purposes, there are also anglers that fish for subsistence. Fishing provides a healthy and inexpensive means of supplementing food resources. If you have further questions about a particular species or location, please feel free to refer them to the fisheries biologist who covers the counties of interest.
There are no restrictions on fishing hours. Some lakes do have restrictions on boat speeds during certain hours. The Fishing Guide provides information on current fishing regulations and allowable gear.
The “Fish of the Year” and “State Record Fish” programs provide recognition for large fish caught by anglers in Indiana. Eligible species for the official competition are on an established list of the most common sportfish in Indiana. Recent additions to this list have been significant species that have been introduced to the state in the past several decades. You are welcome to submit an entry from a species not on the list, as the information may be useful to fisheries biologists in determining the sizes of various fish species in Indiana. However, it is unlikely that a fish species not on the list will be entered in the official competition. Categories are “Fish of the Year” or largest fish of each species caught between January 1 and December 31. “State Record Fish” for the largest fish of each species caught in recorded history. All entries must be postmarked by December 31 for Fish of the Year. Shortly after the new year, entries are reviewed to determine the largest fish of each species. The anglers with the largest fish receive a certificate and patch. The list of species and instructions for submitting a large fish entry are in the Fishing Guide from IDNR. The Fishing Guide is also available on the web at: Questions may be directed to the Fisheries Program Specialist, IDNR Division of Fish & Wildlife at 317-232-4080. If you have a fish you would like to enter, we would need the following information. Entry forms are in the Fishing Guide, but you can also submit the following information in any format.
Record Fish Program
Division of Fish & Wildlife
402 W. Washington St., Rm W273
Indianapolis, IN 46204
What waters are recommended for other fish? Fisheries biologists recently compiled 40 years worth of northern pike surveys from 107 lakes and found which lakes historically have good pike populations. Pike appear to be thriving in certain Indiana watersheds, especially in larger lakes such as lakes Wawasee, Syracuse and James, where densities may be increasing. They are also abundant in the natural lakes of the upper Fawn River, lower Turkey Creek, and middle Tippecanoe River drainages. Anglers looking to tangle with these toothy predators might try five recommended pike fishing lakes: Big Chapman Lake, Dewart Lake and the Wawasee/Syracuse lakes chain (Kosciusko County); or Hamilton Lake and the James/Jimmerson/Snow chain of lakes (Steuben County). These are lakes have decent public access and good pike populations. Other notable pike lakes are Jones and Waldron (Noble County), Hogback and Deep (Steuben County), Center (Kosciusko County), and Pretty (Lagrange County). Information on recommended places to fish for certain species and location of public access sites is available in the “Where to Fish in Indiana” section of the Fishing Guide.
The taste of fish depends upon the species and what they have eaten. Taste is an individual preference and is not a good indicator of the presence of contamination. Off flavor can often be removed through preparation. Algae can cause a bad taste in water and fish that is rarely toxic. Toxic chemicals do not necessarily alter the flavor or color of the fish. Eating larger, older fish can present a health risk if those fish have accumulated materials that are toxic to humans over their lifetime, such as PCBs and mercury. If your fish are in an isolated pond that has not received drainage from industrial facilities or other toxic chemical runoff, eating them probably presents a lower risk of contamination. Risk can be reduced by trimming fat and skin from the fish and by cooking. However, mercury is deposited from the air and can build up to toxic levels in older fish in any waters in the state. Mercury cannot be reduced by trimming or cooking. Risk is also perceived differently by individuals and depends on various factors of an individual's life. Pregnant women and children are at higher risk of negative effects due to exposure to chemicals in food. Guidance on fish preparation to reduce risk is available in the Fishing Guide and in the Fish Consumption Advisory.
Three agencies within the state work together every year to provide improved access to this important information. They are the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Department of Health (IDOH), and Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The IDEM annually collects fish and conducts tissue analyses. Each year, they review and improve their methods to ensure that the most effective data are collected to adequately assess risk to the angling public. Within the past several years, the three agencies have agreed to use the more protective “risk based assessment” (RBA) analysis that was developed for fish in the Great Lakes region. This change from the FDA action levels caused more waters to be posted in the advisory, as the levels of mercury which trigger listing were lowered. The IDOH issues hard copies of the complete fish consumption advisory and has posted it on their web site every year since 1998. The IDNR publishes an annual fishing guide, which also contains a full page explanation of the significance of fish consumption advisories and how to obtain the complete advisory. The DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife prints and distributes one-half million copies of this guide each year.
Fisheries surveys and reports from anglers suggest that the White River suffered a serious setback with the fish kill of December 1999. While the state can stock a limited number of sportfish species that are available from state or commercial hatcheries, the majority of the 72 species that provide diversity and forage for the upper West Fork White River fish community are nongame species that are not raised in hatcheries. These fish must recover through migration and natural reproduction over a number of years. The Department of Health has indicated that anglers can return to using the fisheries advisories which were placed on this stretch of river prior to the 1999 incident. More information on fish consumption advisories is located on the web.
The DNR strongly urges all anglers to practice catch and release within the section from Anderson to Indianapolis. This will allow the population to retain larger sportfish for spawning and repopulating the area. Small streams that feed this section of White River will also play a significant role in providing migration into the damaged part of the main stem. The habitat, water quality and fishery in those areas should also be protected. We are in a process of active surveying and rehabilitation for this section.
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