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Mad About Muskies

The muskellunge is billed as “the fish of a thousand casts” because of the difficulty in catching and landing one.

Forty years ago, you could have made a million casts in Indiana waters and never caught one. They were almost unheard of despite being a native species.

“We’ve gone from virtually no muskie fishing in Indiana in the early ’70s to being one of the top muskie states in the nation,” DNR fisheries biologist Jed Pearson said.

It’s taken awhile to reach that status, in part because the program depended on out-of-state sources for muskie eggs and fry-sized fish in the early years.

“We’ve been self sufficient since the 1990s with the development of our own hatchery broodstock capability at Lake Webster,” Pearson said. “Today we have muskie fishing opportunities in all corners of the state and recently added Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis.”

The development of a significant fishing guide industry is another indication that Indiana has arrived as a muskie state.

Muskies are large predatory fish that grow up to 4 feet long. Catching them usually requires experience and heavy-duty equipment that many anglers don’t have. So, they hire guides who have the specialized gear. According to DNR estimates, Hoosier anglers spend about $100,000 to $150,000 annually to hire muskie guides.

“That is big business when you consider a little more than a decade ago muskie guides in Indiana were unheard of,” Pearson said.

Lake Webster in Kosciusko County is the cornerstone of the muskie program. The 585-acre lake has a steady supply of forage fish for muskies to feed on, and a connection to Backwater Lake adds roughly 200 more acres for the toothy monsters to roam.

Nearby Lake Tippecanoe and the Barbee chain of lakes match Webster as the top muskie producing lakes in the state.

“These lakes were originally stocked with fingerlings purchased by two chapters of Muskies Incorporated – the Michiana and Hoosier Muskie Hunters chapters,” Pearson said. “Muskie anglers continue to play an important role in our program by providing financial support, as well as some additional stockings.”

Another partnership between the DNR and the Webster Lake Musky Club has introduced the fish to Lake Everett, Allen County’s only natural lake.

Muskies were first stocked there in 2010 to feed on the lake’s abundant gizzard shad population and to eventually provide additional muskie fishing opportunities. The 245 fingerlings measured 8 to 10 inches at the time, an April 2013 survey using electrofishing equipment collected two 33-inch muskies.

To be legally kept by anglers, muskies must be at least 36 inches long. Based on what biologists know about the species’ rapid growth, they expected Lake Everett muskies to reach 36 inches last summer. They could eventually exceed 48 inches.

The Webster Lake Musky Club purchased 30 muskies of the original group from a commercial hatchery. DNR hatcheries contributed the rest. Another 215 muskies from state hatcheries were stocked in Lake Everett in 2011 and 2012.

Another spot showing promise is Bruce Lake, a 245-acre natural lake on the Pulaski-Fulton county line, 7 miles east of Winamac. The DNR has stocked muskies annually at Bruce since 2000. During a week-long trap net survey in April 2013, biologists caught and released 90 muskies, including several spectacular fish. Most were between 36 and 40 inches.

“I was very impressed with the catch we had from Bruce Lake” said Tom Bacula, DNR fisheries biologist. “We collected 20 muskies over 40 inches. The largest was a 48-inch, 32-pound female.”

The program reached another milestone in 2013 when DNR biologists captured a 12-inch muskie at Ball Lake in Steuben County that appears to mark the first indication of natural reproduction of the popular sport fish in any Indiana lake.

While electrofishing for largemouth bass, biologist Neil Ledet and his survey crew netted the one-year-old muskie in shallow water on the north side of Ball Lake, an 87-acre natural lake. Ledet thinks the fish came from natural reproduction because the DNR quit stocking Ball Lake five years ago. From 1997 through 2008 the DNR released 6,700 muskie fingerlings in the lake.

Stockings were discontinued when a survey revealed few Ball Lake anglers fished for muskies and few were caught, despite the fact that adult muskies were present.

“Unlike some lakes where muskie fishing is popular, the muskie program at Ball Lake never caught on,” Ledet said. “We think muskies from the stockings are still present, but finding the young one was a surprise.”

Muskie Lakes



Bass Lake


Ball Lake


Barbee Lakes


Bruce Lake


Everett Lake


James Lake


Loon Lake


Plover Pit


Sandpiper Pit


Skinner Lake


Tippecanoe Lake


Lake Webster


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