Indiana's Record Fish
Come in all sizes
They come in all sizes — as big as 104 pounds and as small as a few ounces.
They are the record fish caught by anglers in Indiana and tracked by the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife.
The DNR has been keeping tabs on the largest fish of various species caught in the state’s lakes, rivers and streams for more than 50 years.
Today’s Indiana Record Fish Program recognizes 52 species, from the 104-pound blue catfish that Bruce Midkiff wrestled out of the Ohio River in 1999 to the 3.5-ounce flier that Harold H. Otte plucked from a stream in Jackson County in 1983.
“The purpose of the Record Fish Program is to recognize the biggest fish for that species ever caught in Indiana,” said Jamie Smyth, the program’s administrator.
Only one record — a freshwater drum caught by Garland Fellers — still stands from the program’s inaugural year, 1963.
On the other hand, the record for hybrid striped bass has changed repeatedly since it was first recognized in 1985. Jamey Spinks started it all with a rather modest 3-pound, 4-ouncer, but his initial record was bested 15 times over the next five years. The current record is 22 pounds, 2 ounces, caught by David G. Coffman in 2005 in a stretch of the Tippecanoe River in Carroll County.
Some anglers luck into catching a record; others put in nearly a lifetime of pursuit. Either way, once an angler has landed the big one, getting into the record book is easy — if the rules are followed to ensure the catch is ruled legitimate.
“The program goes by weight,” Smyth said. “The fish has to be weighed on a certified scale, and you need to have two witnesses there when the fish is weighed.”
Some additional requirements include providing photographs of the fish and information on location of the catch. A DNR fisheries biologist may meet with you to make a positive species identification.
If you’re feeling lucky, read the program requirements at Fishing.IN.gov before casting. Otherwise, some rules could be easily overlooked, like not freezing the fish and weighing it on a legally certified scale.
One new record was set in 2014 — the 5.1-pound spotted gar that Dale Hass caught at Turtle Creek Reservoir in Sullivan County.
That matched 2013 as one of the leaner years in program history. Donald Hans caught a 4-pound, 6-ounce lake whitefish in Lake Michigan that year, ending a two-year drought in which no record fish were reported for 2011 or 2012.
The last time there were multiple records in the same year was 2010 when Jonathan VanHook raised the bar for striped bass with a 39.08-pound catch at Cecil M. Harden Lake and Lindsey Fleshood broke new ground with a shortnose gar (1.58 pounds) that she caught in the Wabash River near her home in Wabash County. It was the first time shortnose gar made the list.
Besides the big freshwater drum that Garland Fellers caught in 1963, three other records from the program’s early years are hanging on — James Wagner’s 4-pound, 3-ounce white bass caught in 1965, Glen T. Simpson’s 79-pound, 8-ounce flathead catfish caught in 1966, and the 3-pound rock bass David Thomas caught in 1969.
Eight records from the 1970s and 11 from the 1980s remain on the list, but the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s claim 13 records apiece.
What will change in 2015? That’s up to you, your fishing skills and the good fortune to be there when the big one bites.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.