Micro Fishing Indiana

Portland Arches Park near Covington, Indiana micro fishing

Portland Arches Park near Covington, Indiana

Written by Miciah McNelius

Indiana is similar to many other central plain states of the Midwest that feed into the Mississippi River basin; most of the state is flat corn and soy farmland but also has upland habitat in the southern half of the state, similar to Kentucky. Species diversity is extremely high in Indiana because its water drainages are split between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.

Major Rivers flow in all directions from the state, some flow into Lake Michigan and Lake Eerie to the north but the majority of water flows east and south into the Ohio River, with a small area in northwest Indiana flowing into the Illinois River via the Kankakee River.

Micro fishing on a ditch in Indiana

Much of northern Indiana is a complex of canals and ditches with lots of fish

Indiana watershed maps from Wikimedia and IUPUI.edu

Indiana watershed maps from Wikimedia and IUPUI.edu

The above watershed images are from:

Here are three areas of the state I have had a chance to fish extensively:

Northern Indiana

This part of the state used to be a swampy moraine that today has been dredged and is now almost all farmland. Most of the fishable waters are channelized creeks and ditches that separate farm fields.  These slow moving or standing canals feed the Kankakee and St Joseph Rivers, I usually catch and see lots of Grass Pickeral, Green Sunfish, Golden Shiner, Lake Chubsucker, Tadpole Madtom, and Starhead Topminnow.

Golden Shiner caught using micro fishing tactics

Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)

Central Mudminnow caught using micro fishing tactics

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi)

Fortunately the Mosquitofish has stayed in the southern half of Indiana making this part of the state good habitat for the Starhead Topminnow, since it has trouble competing with the aggressive Mosquitofish.

Western Starhead Topminnow caught using micro fishing tactics

Starhead Topminnow female (Fundulus dispar)

Where there are flowing rivers or creeks in this part of the state I usually catch some fairly common Midwest species such as Logperch, Bluntnose Minnow, Blackstripe Topminnow, Creek Chub, Common Shiner, Sand Shiner, and lots of Spotfin Shiner.

Blackstripe Topminnow caught using micro fishing tactics

Blackstripe Topminnow (Fundulus notatus). Caught in the Elkhart River near Goshen Indiana.

Spotfin Shiner caught using micro fishing tactics

Spotfin Shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera) Male Spotfins often have striking spawning colors

Spotfin are the dominant minnow in all medium to large rivers in Michigan and the northern Indiana.

Sunrise over Wabash River while on micro fishing trip

Sunrise over Wabash River

Central Wabash Valley

This is by far the best part of Indiana for a micro-fishermen and probably my favorite part of the state. The Wabash River is the longest free flowing river east of the Mississippi. This stretch of the valley is fed by many spring fed, high gradient streams.

Pipestone Creek near Peru Indiana as micro fishing habitat

Pipestone Creek near Peru Indiana

Fishing these small creeks, I catch lots of Bluntnose Minnow, Blacknose and Southern Redbelly Dace, Mottled Sculpin, Creek Chub, Striped Shiner, Central Stoneroller, and Rainbow Darters.

Southern Redbelly Dace caught using micro fishing tactics

Southern Redbelly Dace (Phoxinus erythrogaster) needs clean water

Blacknose Dace caught using micro fishing tactics

Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys atratulus) dominate small clean steams in the much of the US and Canada

Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdii) caught using micro fishing tactics

Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdii) is another clean water resident

In the main river channel and large tributaries like the Eel and Tippecanoe Rivers, I catch Silver Shiner, Sand Shiner, Emerald Shiner, Spotfin Shiner, Spottail Shiner, Striped Shiner, Bluntnose Minnow, Silver Chub, and River Chub.

Striped Shiner caught using micro fishing tactics

Striped Shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus)

Emerald Shiner caught using micro fishing tactics

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

The Wabash and tributaries here flow over bedrock and clear up quickly after rain and flooding, also they can be very shallow and difficult to Kayak or Canoe.

Wabash River near Peru Indiana

Wabash River near Peru Indiana

Southern Ohio River Valley

The Lower Wabash and Ohio River are distinctly different in species makeup than central and northern Indiana. For example, the Sand and Spotfin Shiners are replaced by the Steelcolor Shiner, Mississippi Silvery Minnow and River Shiners as the dominant species on the Wabash River.

River Shiner caught using micro fishing tactics

River Shiner (Notropis blennius)

Cypress Swamp in Indiana

Cypress Swamp

The swamps, sloughs, and backwaters along the Wabash and Ohio have some very unique fish species found nowhere else in Indiana such as Flier, Bantam Sunfish, Pygmy Sunfish, Redspotted Sunfish, Cypress Minnow, and Slough Darter.

Flier caught using micro fishing tactics

Flier (Centrarchus macropterus)

On the main channel of the Ohio, I’ve caught Brook Silverside, Steelcolor Shiner, and Silverband, Shiner.

Brook Silverside caught using micro fishing tactics

Brook Silverside (Labidesthes sicculus)

Seasonally, the backwaters hold a high density of juvenile fish from the main river. Many predators enter the backwaters to feed on these and forage species such as Mosquitofish and Golden Shiner. My favorite area is around Horseshoe Lake in the southwest tip of Indiana where the Wabash and Ohio come together.

Besides Mosquitofish and Golden Shiner, there are a lot of Pirate Perch, Orangespotted Sunfish, Grass Pickeral, Brook Silverside, and every kind of juvenile game fish and roughfish.

Orangespotted Sunfish

Orangespotted Sunfish (Lepomis humilis) caught using micro fishing tactics

This is a small sampling of the over 200 species of fish you can catch in Indiana.

Shortnose gar juvenile caught using micro fishing tactics and live bait

YOY Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) caught near Horseshoe Lake

Identification Resources: Fishes of Indiana by Simon/Tomelleri

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