Fishing in Indiana may not be the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think about the Hoosier State. For many, cornfields and the University of Notre Dame are more likely to be front and center. But, did you know that Indiana has over 550 square miles of water within its territory? That it enjoys 45 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan? That its entire southern border consists of the Ohio River, and much of its eastern border runs along the Wabash River? In reality, Indiana has many fishing opportunities ranging from little nibblers like sunfish to big game such as salmon.
This diversity of angling action means you’ll also find great diversity in fishing charters and guide services. Fishing in Lake Michigan differs greatly from fishing in one of the state’s rivers, lakes, or reservoirs, requiring different tackles and tactics. So, rather than roll the dice, many people will call on a pro to take them to the fish and get them hooked up. On the other hand, you could rent a fishing boat in Indiana and see if you can make some luck on your own.
You can find awesome fishing opportunities in every corner of the state, even in the middle of Indianapolis — which has three major reservoirs, countless ponds, and the White River within the city limits.
Indiana’s lakes and reservoirs have a wide range of target species, so many charter and guide operations go after a mixed bag. They may also fish in one body of water one day and get to a different one the next, so relatively small, trailerable boats that can take out two to four people are the norm. If you want to target a specific species, mention it to the captain before scheduling your trip.Browse Indiana fishing charters
Lake Michigan seems like the open ocean, so charter boats fishing on it tend to be seaworthy and large. Most have amenities like cabins with lots of seating and bathrooms and offer “six-pack” excursions where up to six anglers come aboard for the day of fishing. These are generally all-inclusive trips, where the gear and bait will be provided.Browse Indiana fishing charters
There are plenty of species to fish for in Indiana’s rivers, ranging from crappie to walleye, and different outfitters will often focus on different species. Some of the guides working the rivers focus on catching the big, brutish catfish that rule the water. Blue catfish, channel catfish, and flatheads can get exceptionally large and in most parts of the state’s riverways are the very biggest fish you can hook into.Browse Indiana fishing charters
Different anglers with different preferences may have their own ideas on which places are best to fish in Indiana, but these three options will make just about everyone’s list of hot prospects.
At almost 11,000 acres, Monroe Lake is Indiana’s largest inland reservoir. It’s also known as one of the best spots to fish, with excellent “wiper” (hybrid striped bass/white bass), bass, crappie, walleye, and catfish action. Interestingly, many anglers believe Patoka Lake holds better numbers of fish, particularly when it comes to bass. However, most agree that, as a general rule, the fish are bigger in Monroe, and the real trophies are found here.View Fishing Boats
When it comes to open-water fishing for sought-after species like salmon, steelhead, and trout, Lake Michigan affords opportunities that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Fishing was revitalized in these waters when, starting in the 1960s, coho, and king salmon were introduced into the lake. The fish thrived, and today there are millions of them just waiting to be caught.View fishing boats
Ohio is known for producing catfish of rather massive proportions, and these fish aren’t all that difficult to trick into biting. Some anglers would call catfish fishing downright easy. What isn’t always so easy is figuring out exactly where to sink your baits. Anglers hunt for deep holes with a structure that provides hiding spots for the fish, and finding a good location is the key to landing lunkers.View fishing boats
Indiana requires a fishing license for every angler 18 years old and over (disabled veteran licenses are available for a nominal fee). An additional stamp is required for keeping trout or salmon. Annual in-state and annual, one-day, and seven-day nonresident licenses are available. See the Indiana eRegulations for additional exemptions.
When fishing with a charter service or guide, you can expect all the bait and fishing tackle to be provided. Otherwise, you’ll find that bait and tackle is readily available around major metropolitan areas. However, much of this state is sparsely populated, and once you get away from town, you may find it difficult to find a bait and tackle shop. So, it’s best to gear up before traveling to remote areas.
Charter fishing operations on Lake Michigan generally keep the catch, and the captain or crew may or may not clean your catch for you, depending on individual policy. If they do, it’s always best to tip generously. Inland guides are a mixed bag, and some species (such as bass or muskie) are generally released. If you want to ship home some fillets, see the UPS guide or Federal Express guide to shipping perishables.
Everyone has their favorite fish to chase after, but these three are perpetually popular.
Although they may not be as pretty as some species, catfish are plentiful, grow large, and are good eating. Those traits make them a winner with anglers. Indiana’s waters have populations of seven different species of catfish, with blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish being the most popular targets for fishermen. The record blue catfish, a 104-pounder from the Ohio River, tops the charts for the state’s largest record fish.
Indiana has healthy populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Largemouth are the most popular freshwater sportfish in the nation, but many would argue that in Indiana, smallmouth would claim that mantle. They’re amazingly hard-fighting fish, and good populations exist in lakes and rivers throughout the state, including Lake Michigan.
There’s no denying that anglers in the northern portion of Indiana love their Lake Michigan salmon — as do anglers from all around the state, who travel to the coast to get in on the action. Kings (chinook) and cohos are both main targets. These fish battle like few others and as for their quality on the table, we surely don’t have to spell out that these fish taste great!
If you’re unsure how to go fishing in Indiana, give one of these top three techniques a shot.
You just can’t beat bait for some species of fish, and that certainly goes for those anglers trying to hook into catfish. But there’s tremendous diversity in the types of bait catfish anglers use. Some swear by live panfish, and others use cut fish. But oddities like hot dogs, chicken liver, and sliced raw chicken breast are also commonly used. Stranger still, countless catfish sharpies swear that soaking the meat in Kool-Aid or Jell-O makes for the best bait of all.
On most inland lakes and reservoirs, anglers favor casting and retrieving lures. Spinnerbaits, spoons, and plugs are all quite common, particularly for sporting species like largemouth and smallmouth bass or wipers. These may be cast to shoreline structures, underwater points, and drop-offs, or artificial fishing reefs, depending on the season and the depths the fish are holding at.
Trolling baits or lures behind a moving boat is a tactic that may be applied just about anywhere but is particularly popular in the open waters of Lake Michigan. Salmon, trout, and walleye all fall for trolled offerings, and trolling allows the angler to set their lures or baits at very specific depths and keep them there while covering lots of territories. On the Great Lakes in particular, trollers often employ specialized gear like downriggers and dodgers.
In much of the state, the waters will be frozen solid, and the only game in town will be ice fishing. Areas where fast-flowing rivers keep the water open may offer a shot at catfish, walleye, or in a few select areas trout or steelhead.
The boats are still winterized, and the water is still hard — if you want to catch fish, you’ll need an ice auger or to travel to an area with moving water that stays ice-free. In tailwater areas, saugers may be biting.
As temperatures creep up for spring, one of the first fisheries to trigger is that tailwater sauger action. These fish swim into the pools below dams to prepare to spawn and can be caught on minnow, jigs, and small blade baits.
Goodbye winter, hello crappie and bass! Once the lakes and reservoirs start warming up, the fish will begin fattening up to prepare for spawning. They may still be in relatively deep water, and you may have to work for them, but they’ll be biting. Meanwhile, salmon will begin hitting the decks in Lake Michigan before the month is out.
By this point in the spring, the salmon have kicked it into high gear in earnest, and both kings and cohos will be squarely in the sights of many anglers. Trolling in deep water where you find baitfish is the name of the game, so you’ll need to employ those downriggers.
As summer hits, it’s game-on in virtually every waterway you can name. Bass and panfish in lakes and reservoirs will be moving shallower and into post-spawn patterns, salmon will still be biting in the big lake, and by now, lake trout will also, and in the rivers, those catfish never stop biting.
Midsummer brings the greatest mix of species to trollers fishing in Lake Michigan. The coho bite may begin to taper off, but kings, steelhead, lake trout, brown trout, and perch will provide some action.
As the heat of summer bears down, fishing can slack off a bit in some venues, particularly in lakes and reservoirs where water temperatures may get high enough to send fish scuttling to deeper waters. You can still catch them, but early mornings and late evenings will be best.
The hot bite continues and may even pick up on Lake Michigan. River cats will still provide plenty of action, too. But this is a month of transition, and if the temperatures begin to cool significantly, it can trigger the fall bite when most freshwater fish feed hard to fatten up for winter.
At this point in the season, there’s a chill in the air — and that’s a good thing for anglers. True, the salmon bite has wound down by now. But this month, the bass, walleye, crappie, and perch in lakes and reservoirs often go ballistic as they try to pack on the pounds. The muskie bite is often good this month, as well.
As things wind down for winter, fish will still be biting, but the weather windows that allow fishing get tighter. Fishing on Lake Michigan is pretty much a wrap, but if you look deep, you can get bass and walleye on the line in the lakes.
This is the (sad!) time of year when boats get winterized and gear gets stowed. When the water turns hard is anyone’s guess, but before the holidays, many Indiana anglers will be sharpening their ice augers and rerigging their tip-ups.