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2016 Fish of the Year

Fishing Regulations Indiana Freshwater Fishing

Tippecanoe River was
Hot Spot for Big Fish

There are a few sure bets about the DNR’s Fish of the Year Contest, which rewards anglers for the biggest fish, measured in inches.

One is that Robert Ecenbarger of Fort Wayne will catch the biggest cisco, which he did for the sixth straight year.

Another is that Tristan Weaver of Lakeville will catch the biggest steelhead, which he did for the fourth straight year.

But every so often there are notable changes.

In 2016 it was more about where fish were caught than who caught them.

The Tippecanoe River produced five winning entries in this year’s contest. In the previous three contest years combined, Tippecanoe generated only four total winners.

On the flip side, Lake Michigan usually is the most common location for winning entries – four each in 2013, ’14, and ’15, and six in 2012. But the big lake didn’t cough up a single winner in 2016.

The five Fish of the Year pulled out of the Tippecanoe River were caught by four different anglers – bowfin and walleye by double winner Mark Holbrook of Winamac; sauger by Jeff Armstrong of Wheatfield; smallmouth bass by Steven O. Williams of Monticello; and wiper (or hybrid striped bass) by Hao Wu of West Lafayette.

The Tippecanoe River touches six Indiana counties in its 182-mile run from Lake Tippecanoe in Kosciusko County to its confluence with the Wabash River in Carroll County. The Tippecanoe winners came from four of those counties – Marshall, Pulaski, White, and Carroll.

That’s spreading it around, which can’t be said for four anglers who dominated the year by combining to capture 11 of the 31 categories.

Besides Holbrook’s two wins, Shawn M. Harris of Milan doubled up with blue catfish and white catfish, and Mark Losee of Elkhart won with spotted gar and warmouth.

But the most prolific angler was Jeff Armstrong, who submitted five winning fish – the aforementioned sauger, plus the year’s best common carp, rock bass, white bass, and a tie for biggest bluegill with Dennis Thompson of Indianapolis.

At least one winning entry was caught in each month of the year except December.

  • The longest winner was the 50-inch blue catfish Harris caught on the Ohio River. His white catfish, which measured 28 inches, is rare entry for that species, and also came within a whisker or two of the state record. Harris’ entry weighed 9.5 pounds; the state record is 9.72 pounds.
  • The shortest winner was the 9.5-inch warmouth Losee caught at Simonton Lake in Elkhart County.
  • Weaver’s 38 1/8-inch steelhead is the longest of his four winning catches and one of the best ever in that category.
  • Robert Kelley (42.5-inch northern pike at Marsh Lake) and Sullivan Hubert (14.5-inch yellow perch at Lake of the Woods) landed their winning catches while ice fishing.
  • Sheena Donald’s 26.5-inch freshwater drum caught in the Ohio River was more than double the size of the 2015 winner.

Entering the annual Fish of the Year contest is easy, and the rules are simple to follow. Visit wildlife.IN.gov/3577.htm for more information and an entry form.

Close to half of this year’s winners were the only entry for that species, so don’t hold back if you catch a nice fish in 2017.

If you think you’ve caught a possible winner:

  • Measure the length of the fish.
  • Have at least one person who is not a relative witness the measurement and include his/her contact information.
  • Take one or more photos of the fish, preferably of you holding the fish.
  • Mail the completed entry form, photos, and a copy of your fishing license (if required) to Record Fish Program, Division of Fish & Wildlife, 402 W. Washington St., Room W273, Indianapolis, IN, 46204 or submit by email to recordfish@dnr.IN.gov.

2016 Fish of the year contest winners

Species

Length

Winner

Body of Water

County Caught

Blue Catfish

50.0

Shawn M. Harris Ohio River

Ohio

Bluegill

11.0

Jeff Armstrong Lake Maxinkuckee

Marshall

Dennis Thompson Krueger Lake

Jefferson

Bowfin

32.5

Mark Holbrook Tippecanoe River

Pulaski

Buffalo

38.3

Brian Waldman Cagles Mill Lake

Owen/Putnam

Bullhead

16.0

Paul Weber Private pond

Lake

Channel Catfish

42.0

Nicholas R. Staigl Lake McCoy

Decatur

Cisco

15.3

Robert Ecenbarger Little Crooked Lake

Whitley

Common Carp

32.5

Jeff Armstrong Bass Lake

Starke

Crappie

18.3

Mike Pasini Private Lake

Johnson

Flathead Catfish

50.0

Jason Metz Eel River

Clay

Freshwater Drum

26.5

Sheena Donald Ohio River

Switzerland

Green Sunfish

11.0

Luke Tincher Private pond

Orange

Hybrid Striped Bass

30.0

Hao Wu Tippecanoe River

Carroll

Largemouth Bass

29.0

Greg Burchett Private lake

Ripley

Longnose Gar

43.3

Tristan Mobley Wabash River

Gibson

Northern Pike

42.5

Robert L. Kelley Marsh Lake

Steuben

Rainbow Trout

20.0

Larry A. Sheets Olin Lake

LaGrange

Redear Sunfish

12.0

William Endorf Midland Lake

Greene

Rock Bass

11.8

Jeff Armstrong Lake Maxinkuckee

Marshall

Sauger

23.5

Jeff Armstrong Tippecanoe River

Marshall

Shortnose Gar

28.3

Johnathon Marshall Wabash River

Parke

Smallmouth Bass

20.5

Steven O. Williams Tippecanoe River

White

Spotted Gar

24.3

Mark Losee Simonton Lake

Elkhart

Steelhead

38.1

Tristan Weaver Trail Creek

LaPorte

Striped Bass

40.3

Kody Neece Hardy Lake

Scott

Sucker

25.0

Joseph Bickel Wabash River

Huntington

Walleye

27.5

Mark Holbrook Tippecanoe River

Pulaski

Warmouth

9.5

Mark Losee

Simonton Lake

Elkhart

White Bass

19.5

Jeff Armstrong

Lake Maxinkuckee

Marshall

White Catfish

28.0

Shawn M. Harris

Bischoff Reservoir

Ripley

Yellow Bass

11.0

Kody Neece

Hardy Lake

Scott

Yellow Perch

14.5

Sullivan Hubert Lake of the Woods

Marshall