- Where can I find a copy of the administrative rules that regulate hunting and fishing?
The Fishing Guide provides an overview of rules regulating fishing in lay terms. The state also maintains a website with the current set of administrative rules and laws as they appear in the Indiana Code. This site is updated monthly and includes all changes that have been made recently, including regulations for reptiles, amphibians, and mussels. Go to Article 9 in Indiana Administrative Code 312 to get the rules specifically for the Division of Fish & Wildlife.
- I caught a nice fish but don't want to keep it. Can I release it into another lake or river?
It is illegal to move fish from one public water to another without a fish stocking permit. Moving fish between waters can introduce diseases, disrupt the adaptive characteristics of local populations, or cause competition between species that negatively affects game fish and aquatic resources.
- Is tournament fishing regulated in Indiana?
The state legislature and DNR recognize the increasing use of public waters for tournaments and other organized activities and have actively addressed this issue. Anglers who are participating in fishing tournaments must comply with all existing laws and regulations regarding bag limits and boating safety. Individuals who possess fish above their individual bag limit, such as fish transported and released after weigh-in, must have a special-use permit issued from the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. Applications for these permits are reviewed for biological impact on the fish and lake community. If a permit is issued for this purpose, the individuals transporting these fish must have the permit in possession at all times during transport and must comply with all conditions on the permit.
In 2000, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law (HEA 1075) that allowed the DNR to regulate additional watercraft activities involving 15 or more boats on public waters, including fishing tournaments. However, the law did not dictate how group activities and tournaments would be regulated. In October 2002, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission adopted a rule (312 IAC 2-4-1) that outlined a process for regulating fishing tournaments on designated public waters. The contents of that rule are as follows. A fishing tournament was defined as an activity involving 15 or more watercraft used for taking fish where: (1.) persons compete for a trophy, citation, cash, or prize or (2.) a fee is charged to participants. The DNR conducts an organizational meeting between October 1 and November 15 of each year to establish dates for the next year on which fishing tournaments can be conducted. Each organization that receives a reserved date must then submit a completed license application within 30 days of notification or at least 60 days before the scheduled event, whichever is earlier. A license holder must report the results of the tournament to the DNR within 30 days after the tournament is complete.
Tournaments held on state properties (reservoirs), Sylvan Lake, Mississinewa Lake, Salamonie Lake, Lake Wawasee, and Syracuse Lake currently participate in a drawing to control the number, size, and impact of tournaments on public access facilities.
- What are the size and bag limits for largemouth bass or other fish in Indiana?
Regulations apply to "state-owned" fish. This includes permanent streams and any impoundment on publicly owned lands, as well as many waters on private lands. Private ponds that are isolated from streams are excluded. The Fishing Guide provides information on legal limits for all fish and gives more specific information for several species and water bodies. For instance, the size limits listed in the section of the Fishing Guide on "Bass Regulations" show that the legal length is 14 inches for largemouth bass in most inland lakes and Lake Michigan, but also lists several water bodies for which special size regulations differ from the standard restrictions. Please review this list for any water body that you intend to fish. If you have questions after reading the Fishing Guide about regulations or fishing opportunities in a specific water body, please call the Conservation Officer or District Fisheries Biologist for that area.
- Is it illegal to use cast nets to catch game fish?
Cast nets are not approved gear for catching game fish in any Indiana waters (312 IAC 9-7-2 and 9-7-16). Cast nets are only legal for taking bait fish or minnows in most waters. Cast nets cannot be used within 200 yards below any dam on inland waters or boundary waters such as the Ohio River (312 IAC 9-7-15). Cast nets in most waters cannot be larger than 20 feet in diameter, and the mesh stretch can be no larger than 3/4 inch. Minnows taken for bait must not be of any species considered endangered or threatened.
- Can gamefish be used for bait?
It is illegal to possess, for any reason, a game fish that does not meet the bag limits or size limits indicated for that species. Any legally-caught fish may be used as bait. However, it is illegal to use live carp or gizzard shad for bait. Live shad are allowed to be used as bait at Brookville Lake, Cecil M. Harden Lake, Monroe Lake, Patoka Lake, Lake Freeman, Lake Shafer, Hardy Lake, and the Ohio River mainstream, excluding all embayments. Live goldfish are legal baitfish. Do not dump bait buckets or move any live fish from one lake or river to another waterway. The introduction of live fish into a water body is stocking and requires a permit from the DNR.
- Why is it illegal to use live gizzard shad for bait in most waters?
It is illegal to use live gizzard shad on most waters. Even though gizzard shad are native to Indiana, they can be detrimental to fisheries where they were not previously established. It is illegal to move live fish from one body of water to another. To keep gizzard shad in their native waters, there is a restriction on when they can be used. Another issue is that small gizzard shad and two species of invasive carp (bighead and silver carp) look similar when they are juveniles, and it can be difficult to distinguish these species. To prevent the further spread of invasive carp, use of gizzard shad is limited to waters where they already have established populations.
- Is it legal to use a light to attract minnows at night to fish for crappie?
Yes, the use of lights is allowed. There are no restrictions on fishing hours. Some lakes do have restrictions on boat speeds during certain hours. The Fishing Guide provides information on current fishing regulations and allowable gear.
- I caught a strange looking fish. Should I report it?
If you catch an unusual fish, such as an aquarium fish or exotic species, take a close-up picture of the fish that would show identifying characteristics, measure its length, write a description of the color, behavior, or other unusual characteristics, and report the location and date to the District Fisheries Biologist in your region. You can also report it using the Fish Identification Form.
- How do I submit an entry for a big fish that I caught?
The Fish of the Year and State Record Fish programs provide recognition for anglers who catch large fish in Indiana. Eligible species for the official competition are on an established list of the most common sportfish in Indiana. Recent additions to this list have been significant species that have been introduced to the state in the past several decades. You are welcome to submit an entry from a species not on the list, as the information may be useful to fisheries biologists in determining the sizes of various fish species in Indiana; however, it is unlikely that a fish species not on the list will be entered in the official competition. Categories are Fish of the Year or largest fish of each species caught between January 1 and December 31. The State Record Fish contest is for the largest fish of each species caught in recorded history. All entries must be postmarked by December 31 for Fish of the Year. Shortly after the new year, entries are reviewed to determine the largest fish of each species. The anglers with the largest fish receive a certificate and patch. The list of species and instructions for submitting a large fish entry is in the DNR Fishing Guide. Questions may be directed to the North Region Fisheries Supervisor, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, 260-244-6805. If you have a fish you would like to enter, we need the following information. Entry forms are in the Fishing Guide, but you can also submit the following information in any format:
- Name and address of angler with telephone number
- Good photos that show the species of fish and the fish’s measured length.
- girth (distance around belly of fish)
- weight, as measured on a certified scales (e.g., at a bait shop or grocery store) for State Record Fish
- date caught
- name of water body
- type of tackle
- lure or bait used
- name of store and address where weight was taken, with phone number, for State Record Fish
Record Fish Program
Division of Fish & Wildlife
402 W. Washington St., Room W273
Indianapolis, IN 46204
- Is “catch and release” always the best tool for fisheries management?
Catch-and-release is an important fisheries management technique promoted by the DNR. Fish must be handled carefully and released in good condition to reap the benefits of catch-and-release fishing. Do not dispose of unwanted fish within your bag limit by dumping dead or dying fish in waterways. However, the fisheries in Indiana are also managed for a harvest that is carefully monitored through creel surveys (i.e., asking a statistical sampling of anglers what they are catching and keeping) and fish surveys (shocking, netting, or trapping a statistical proportion of the population). Most sportfish populations in Indiana can withstand a harvest. If there is evidence that the harvest is negatively affecting the size, growth rate, or age distribution of a species, fisheries regulations are adjusted to protect the population. While many anglers in Indiana are fishing for recreational purposes, there are also anglers that fish for subsistence. Fishing provides a healthy and inexpensive means of supplementing food resources. If you have further questions about a particular species or location, please contact the fisheries biologist who covers the counties of interest.
Where to Fish
- Where can I fish for northern pike? What waters are recommended for other fish?
Fisheries biologists recently compiled 40 years’ worth of northern pike surveys from 107 lakes and found which lakes have historically good pike populations. Pike appear to be thriving in certain Indiana watersheds, especially in larger lakes such as lakes Wawasee, Syracuse, and James, where densities may be increasing. Northern pike are also abundant in the natural lakes of the upper Fawn River, lower Turkey Creek, and middle Tippecanoe River drainages. Anglers looking to tangle with these toothy predators might try five recommended pike fishing lakes: Big Chapman Lake, Dewart Lake, and the Wawasee/Syracuse lakes chain (Kosciusko County); or Hamilton Lake and the James/Jimmerson/Snow chain of lakes (Steuben County). These lakes have decent public access and good pike populations. Other notable pike lakes are Jones and Waldron (Noble County), Hogback and Deep (Steuben County), Center (Kosciusko County), and Pretty (LaGrange County). Information on recommended places to fish for certain species and location of public access sites is available in the “Where to Fish Interactive Map”.
Concerns about Eating Fish
- If fish taste bad, are they contaminated?
The taste of fish depends upon the species and what they have eaten. Taste is an individual preference and is not a good indicator of the presence of contamination. Off-flavor can often be removed through preparation. Algae can cause a bad taste in water and fish that is rarely toxic. Toxic chemicals do not necessarily alter the flavor or color of the fish. Eating larger, older fish can present a health risk if those fish have accumulated materials that are toxic to humans over their lifetime, such as PCBs and mercury. If your fish are in an isolated pond that has not received drainage from industrial facilities or other toxic chemical runoff, eating them probably presents a lower risk of contamination. Risk can be reduced by trimming fat and skin from the fish and by cooking. However, mercury is deposited from the air and can build up to toxic levels in older fish in any waters in the state. Mercury cannot be reduced by trimming or cooking. Risk is also perceived differently by individuals and depends on various factors in an individual's life. Pregnant women and children are at higher risk of negative effects due to exposure to chemicals in food. Guidance on fish preparation to reduce risk is available in the Fishing Guide and in the Fish Consumption Advisory.
- How does the state determine where consumption advisories apply?
Three agencies within the state work together every year to provide improved access to this important information. They are the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Indiana Department of Health (IDOH), and Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The IDEM annually collects fish and conducts tissue analyses. Each year, they review and improve their methods to ensure that the most effective data are collected to adequately assess risk to the angling public. Within the past several years, the three agencies have agreed to use the more protective “risk based assessment” (RBA) analysis that was developed for fish in the Great Lakes region. This change from the FDA action levels caused more waters to be posted in the advisory, as the levels of mercury which trigger listing was lowered. The IDOH issues hard copies of the complete fish consumption advisory and has posted it on its website every year since 1998. The DNR publishes an annual fishing guide, which also contains a full-page explanation of the significance of fish consumption advisories and how to obtain the complete advisory. The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife prints and distributes one-half million copies of this guide each year.
- Is it safe to fish on the White River between Anderson and Indianapolis?
Fisheries surveys and reports from anglers suggest that the White River suffered a serious setback with the fish kill of December 1999. While the state can stock a limited number of sportfish species that are available from state or commercial hatcheries, the majority of the 72 species that provide diversity and forage for the upper West Fork White River fish community are nongame species that are not raised in hatcheries. These fish must recover through migration and natural reproduction over a number of years. The Department of Health has indicated that anglers can return to using the fisheries advisories which were placed on this stretch of river prior to the 1999 incident. More information on fish consumption advisories is located on the Indiana State Department of Health website.