By Louie Stout
The future of Michiana walleye fishing got a big boost this fall with multiple stockings in the St. Joseph River and inland lakes.
Some 10,500 walleyes measuring 6 to 8 inches were planted in October in the St. Joe between the Twin Branch and Elkhart dams. The river gets stocked in alternate years by the Indiana DNR and the Michiana Walleye Association.
The nice-size fish were purchased from Gollon Bait and Fish Farm, Dodgeville, Wisc. They should reach legal size (16 inches) in about three years.
Of those fish, 2,500 were purchased by the Michiana Walleye Association as they have done for several years and the bulk of the others were paid for through funds provided by I&M Electric as part of its agreement with the Indiana DNR.
Walleyes that size dont come cheap, but worth it. Their survival is much better than stockings with smaller fish, especially in this climate.
The walleye club pays for its share with proceeds it earns at its annual outdoor show and other fund-raisers held throughout the year.
The St. Joseph River has become one of the states best success stories for walleye stocking and the local club deserves a lot of credit for it.
This years fishing was a little off, like it was for other species in Michiana waters, but 2014 produced a lot of nice keeper-size walleyes. The recent increase in the size limit from 15 to 16 inches should provide even better fishing for quality walleyes in the years to come.
In addition to the river, several lake groups made private stockings with the DNRs blessing this fall. Those include Simonton Lake in Elkhart County (1,024); Little Turkey (500) and Lake of the Woods (800) in LaGrange County; Big Turkey (1,775), Lake George (2,500) and Golden Lake (1,500) in Steuben County; and Fish Lake (530) in LaPorte County.
In addition to fall stockings, smaller walleyes (1.5 inches) were planted last spring at Lake of the Woods (24,000) and Lake Maxinkuckee (199,000) in Marshall County.
District Fisheries Biologist Tom Bacula said his crew surveyed both of those lakes and Bass Lake this fall to determine stocking success from recent years.
Lake of the Woods near Bremen continues to be a top walleye location, he said. We collected walleyes up to 18.6 inches, but our catch of 16-plus fish was above average. Also, the survival of walleyes stocked last spring was well above average, too.
Lake Maxinkuckee continues to baffle biologists. Catch rates remain poor despite changes in stocking strategies. The state has stocked it for decades.
Anglers who catch them often get quality fish, but they have to work for them, Bacula said.
Based on fishing reports we get, Maxinkuckee produces its biggest walleyes in the spring and at night.
Bacula said Bass Lake located southeast of Knox, Ind. offered a mixed bag of results in this years survey. The overall assessment was down, but the number of walleyes 14 inches or longer was above average.
Bass Lake isnt known for trophy walleyes that other lakes produce, but there are higher catch rates, he added. Quite a few get caught through the ice if you can find them.