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IDNR Report

Indiana Conservation Officers Tim Janowski and Bryan Beneke have been selected as the 2022 District Officers of the Year.

Janowski oversees District 10 includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke, and Pulaski counties. Beneke works in District two that includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley counties.

Janowski is assigned to Lake County where he has served since 1998. Beneke is assigned to Allen County where he has been a conservation officer since 2015.

By Louie Stout

Angler with 2 burbotAngler with 2 burbot

A few years ago, we rarely heard of burbot, a freshwater member of the cod family, being caught in Lake Michigan.

Yet, in the past two months, the Indiana record has been broken three times.

The first occurred in December when Scott Skafar of Valparaiso caught two over 10 pounds, breaking the 1990 record of 7 pounds, 11 ounces. His biggest, 10.2 pounds, remained the record until last week when Phil Duracz of Chesterton broke it with an 11.4 pounder.

“I won’t be surprised if the record is broken again this year,” said Duracz, who catches them regularly and fishes Lake Michigan often during the winter. “I believe there are some 14 to 16 pounders out there.”

Adult burbot primarily feed on other fish species such as round goby, sculpin, and yellow perch. Native to Lake Michigan, they are sometimes called eelpout, lawyer or poor man’s lobster and have a single chin-barbel or whisker, similar to catfish whiskers.

Indiana Lake Michigan Biologist Ben Dickinson said he doesn’t believe there is a population explosion of burbot, but rather ideal conditions for catching them.

“First, we’ve had some really warm and calm weather the past few years so people can get out on Lake Michigan in late December and January when the fish are in close.

p>Phil Duracz has done it again.

Phil Duracz with record-setting burbotPhil Duracz with record-setting burbot

The avid Chesterton angler, who currently owns the Indiana whitefish record, has added the burbot to his list of fishing accomplishments.

Duracz was fishing Lake Michigan near Gary with his 14-year-old son Hunter Jan. 10 when he hooked the state record around 7:30 that evening.

“We caught six other burbot prior to that, including a few that might have been close to the record,” Duracz said. “But when Hunter netted this one, he said we might want to get it weighed since it was bigger than the others.”

It weighed 11.4 pounds, breaking the former record that was set in December in Porter County Lake Michigan waters at 10.2 pounds.

Burbot, also called eelpout or lawyer, are the only native cod species of fish in Lake Michigan. They are good to eat and often called “poor man’s lobster.”

By Louie Stout

If you’re looking to break the winter boredom, the All American Outdoor Expo is this weekend at the Fort Wayne Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

You’ll find some sport show deals, including from exhibitors like Lake Drive Marine that will be exhibiting Skeeter, Phoenix and Lund fishing boats, as well as several other outdoor-related companies.

Visit www.ftwayneallamericanoutdoorexpo.com for details.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the Fort Wayne Boat Show will be held Feb. 9-12, also at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. For details on that show, visit www.fortwayneboatshow.com.

Need a reason to take another deer this reason? How about donating one to help fight hunger?

Indiana hunters are encouraged to donate their harvested deer to the Sportsman’s Benevolence Fund to support hungry Hoosiers during the upcoming seasons.

Administered by the DNR Law Enforcement Division, the Sportsman’s Benevolence Fund provides grants to Hoosiers Feeding the Hungry, Dubois County Sportsmen Club, and Hunters and Farmers Feeding the Hungry to pay for processing fees when hunters donate legally harvested deer to the program.

 The steps to participate are simple:

  • Enjoy a deer hunting experience.
  • Harvest your deer.
  • Drop off your field-dressed deer at a local participating processor.
  • Processing fees are paid for by the Sportsman's Benevolence Fund.
  • The processor will create healthy venison burger to distribute to food banks.