Angler creel surveys are being conducted by the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife on the St. Joseph River below the Elkhart Dam in downtown Elkhart.

The creel surveys began early this month and will last three months. Similar surveys were conducted in 1999 and 2004. Anglers contacted by a DNR creel clerk can help the DNR manage the downtown Elkhart fishery by participating in a two- to three-minute interview.

As the ice fades, walleye, the most popular fish stocked by the DNR in the area, are moving upriver, including to the Elkhart location, to spawn. This creates one of a few early season walleye hot spots in northern Indiana. Early spring is a great time of year for shore anglers to connect with walleye and March can be the best month.

Although walleye spawn when water temperatures reach the mid-40s, fish are presently staging from the dam downstream to Elkhart’s Main Street. While the shallow gravel bars and the swift current make boat angling difficult and often dangerous, shoreline anglers can find plenty of space to fish from Elkhart’s Island and Bicentennial parks and Indiana Michigan Power Company’s fishing pier.

Spring walleye fisheries with conditions similar to the downtown Elkhart spot are also available on the Salamonie River below the Salamonie Lake dam in Wabash County; on the Mississinewa River below the Mississinewa Lake dam in Miami County; on the Tippecanoe River below Lake Shafer’s Norway dam in White County; and on the Tippecanoe River below Lake Freeman’s Oakdale Dam in Carroll County.

For best results in any of these spots, DNR fisheries biologist Neil Ledet offers the following tip:

Try lead head jigs fished with a white or chartreuse plastic curly tail grub. While crank baits and jerk baits take their share of fish,  lead head jigs as described, sometimes tipped with a minnow, seem to be the most popular lure.

Rocky snags are common. If you fish a jig, try one with a thin wire hook that will straighten when snagged. This may leave a burr on the point of a hook but that can be easily removed with a couple of passes on a hook file.

Slow retrieve is key, regardless of the bait or lure used. With these temperatures, walleye are not in the mood to chase fast-moving baits.

While dusk and dawn are typically productive, anglers shouldn’t overlook the first few hours after dark.

Anglers should fish deep pools, eddies or other breaks in the current as walleye will hold near the bottom behind a submerged bolder or log. Although walleye can travel in fast moving water, they are not built for holding in fast current for long periods of time.

If the water is high and extremely fast, don’t hesitate to fish close to the bank—walleye will move there to escape the current.

Logo courtesy Indiana Department of Natural Resources

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