By Louie Stout
Indiana muskie anglers can breathe easy.
The egg-taking project at Webster Lake last month was a huge success and the healthy adult fish population bodes well for the immediate future.
DNR biologist set nets March 29, and in 21 net lifts over the next few days they caught 352 muskies that produced 645,250 fertilized eggs.
That is really good news since the DNR was unable to take eggs in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“The overall catch per net lift was the best we’ve had in all the years we’ve been doing this,” said Hoosier Biologist Tyler Delauder. “The fish looked good with the majority of the adult fish in the 32 to 36-inch size range.
We had 25 that were 40 inches or longer.”
The fish were stripped and fertilized at Lake Webster bank and then released safely back into the lake.
Those eggs went to the Fawn River Hatchery in northern Indiana before being shipped to the East Fork Hatchery in southern Indiana where they will be hatched and fed to a stockable (10-inch) size this fall. Webster produced all of the eggs for all Indiana muskie lakes.
Some fish will be held over until next spring when they will be bigger (13 inches). It’s part of an experimental project that started in 2016 and has produced tremendous results so far.
DNR officials hated missing last year’s egg-take but point out that muskie lakes are less vulnerable to missed stocking years because the fish live so long and most muskie anglers practice catch-and-release. In addition, Webster has a 44-inch size limit while the muskie minimum for the rest of the state is 36 inches.
“We’ve seen 15- to 20-year old muskies in our lakes,” said Delauder.
Muskies grow rapidly at first but taper off. Males grow slower than females.
The lake took a hit a few years ago when survival wasn’t good. Adjustments were made at the hatchery and in stocking cycles, which resulted in better survival and more fish in the lakes.
And while there weren’t many giant muskies caught during the netting project, the high number of fish captured was a positive indication.
“I think we’ll be seeing really big fish at Webster within five years,” Delauder added. “For numbers, this lake is the best you can find in Indiana.”