Indiana’s muskie record turns 10 years old this spring, causing at least one expert to wonder how much longer the record can last.
“We’re due for another state-record muskie,” said Jed Pearson, fisheries biologist with the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “Ten years is a long time to wait.”
In April 2002, Darrin Conley caught a 42.5-pound muskie at James Lake in Kosciusko County.
Conley’s fish, which measured 50 inches long, broke the previous record by George Webster, a 35-pound muskie also caught in James Lake, in 1994.
James Lake, referred to as “Little Tippy” by most locals and anglers, is a 282-acre natural lake near North Webster. Given James Lake produced the last two state-record muskies, biologists think it will likely produce the next one. The question is when, Pearson said.
In addition to producing the last two state-record muskies, lakes in Kosciusko County also have produced the largest muskies registered each year in the DNR’s Fish-of-the-Year program since 1988.
Lake Webster has produced eight “Fish-of-the-Year,” including a 51.5-inch muskie caught by Jeff Kachmann in 2003. Although it was longer than Conley’s state record, it weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces less.
Lake Tippecanoe has produced three “Fish-of-the-Year.” The largest among those was a 48.5-inch muskie caught last year by Joshua Shelhart.
The largest muskie caught at the Barbee lakes and registered to date with the DNR is a 50-inch fish taken in 2010 by Steve Florio.
“Even though these are very big muskies, we think there are even bigger ones out there,” Pearson said.
Pearson, a 40-year employee with the DNR, played a key role in bringing muskie fishing to northeast Indiana in the early 1980s.
Fifteen Indiana lakes and reservoirs are stocked with muskies, with Lake Webster serving as brood stock for the entire program. Each spring muskie eggs are taken from females captured at Lake Webster for hatching.
“We no longer need to rely on out-of-state sources for stocking muskies,” Pearson said. “This has allowed our muskie program to continue to grow over the years.”