The way Bill James sees it the Fisheries Section he manages for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife has a simple task.
Make fishing better.
“Fishing is a big deal in Indiana for both recreational and economic reasons,” James said. “But not everyone has equal access to Indiana’s public fishing waters.
“Many of the better fishing spots tend to be a considerable distance from where a lot of anglers live–in the larger cities. Not everyone has the ability to travel long distance to get to a fishing spot, especially kids living in urban areas.”
To help rectify the situation, the DNR is launching an urban fishing program this summer.
Go FishIN in the City will debut at a dozen parks in eight Indiana communities: Avon, Carmel, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette, New Albany and Terre Haute.
Approximately 5,000 channel catfish are being stocked at those sites this summer as an incentive to draw participants into the program. The catfish are being raised by inmates at Terre Haute’s Federal Correctional Complex as part of a partnership between the DNR and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
“No question, this is a creative, special partnership, unlike any I have experienced in over 40 years of conservation work,” James said.
The Terre Haute prison dedicated an indoor fish-growing and aquaponics facility in 2011 as part of a larger initiative to teach inmates farm science skills. In addition to fish, DNR will provide technical assistance and all fish feed.
The DNR and BOP have drafted a two-year implementation plan, with expectations that the partnership will be long-term.
In addition to the channel catfish, the first walleye stocking from the prison program will take place this fall in select northern Indiana lakes.
The cooperative project serves two purposes—increasing fishing opportunities for Indiana anglers and providing education and long-term training for inmates. The fish are hatched at DNR facilities and then moved to the prison, where they are grown to stocking size before being released into Indiana waters.
“We already partner with many city and county park departments to help manage fishing at waters they own,” James said. “These are heavily fished ponds and small lakes, so fishing is often just fair due to heavy fishing pressure and high harvest.”
Lakeside Park in Fort Wayne, Krannert Lake in Indianapolis and Kiwanis Lake in New Albany will benefit from the program.
“These are the waters that we would like to stock several times a year with harvestable size channel catfish, a fish that’s really fun to catch and is also excellent table fare,” James said. “But we have limited means to grow these larger catfish. That’s where the Federal Correctional Complex’s aquaculture efforts can make a difference.”
If the program succeeds as expected, it will enhance a recreational pursuit enjoyed by thousands of Hoosiers that also happens to contribute substantially to the state’s economy.
“Surveys show that Indiana anglers spend more than $800 million a year pursuing their sport,” James said. “Close to 14,000 jobs are tied to the fishing industry in Indiana, and about one million people go fishing each year in this state.
“Those are big numbers, but in the end what matters most is that fishing is a fun, wholesome, healthy outdoor activity that can be enjoyed alone or with family and friends. It can be as simple and low cost as a cane pole and bobber or high tech with big boats, big motors and sophisticated equipment.”
It can be done on a distant lake, or thanks to a new DNR program, in the heart of a bustling city.
For more information about the Go FishIN in the City in your community, visit Wildlife.IN.gov/7508.htm on the DNR website.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.