The Midwestern US State of Indiana is perhaps most well-known for its famous auto race, the “Indy 500“, which takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The capital of Indiana is the city of Indianapolis, where you’ll find galleries, theaters, and museums in the city’s lively cultural quarter. It shares a border with another great fishing state, Illinois.
Indiana is also renowned for its extensive fertile and productive farmland, thanks to the glacial sand, gravel, and clay that make up the ground.
The Hoosier State also enjoys many inland rivers, creeks, and streams, and boasts hundreds of natural lakes. That’s what makes Indiana so popular with freshwater anglers. There’s so much awesome fishing here; you’re spoiled for choice!
To fish legally in Indiana, you’ll need a valid fishing license.
All anglers over 18 years of age must have a license with them when they’re fishing in public waterways in the State or its boundary waters.
If asked to do so by an Indiana Conservation Officer or other authorized law enforcement official, you must be able to produce a valid license that’s signed in ink or printed electronically. Note that you will be fined if you can’t produce your license, even if you’ve paid for one, so don’t forget to pack yours with your fishing tackle!
Alternatively, call into one of 525 statewide retailers and pick up a license there.
Top Fishing Locations
Here’s our take on what we think are 10 of the best fishing locations in the Hoosier State.
Every spot we’ve included in our guide offers a challenging, fun-packed experience for every angler, including families!
From pond-hopping in search of brown trout in the spring to trolling deep water for Indiana’s State fish during the summer heat to ice fishing for perch and other large fish like Northern Pike when the lakes freeze over, there’s something to please everyone here!
1. Monroe Lake
Monroe Lake is a 10,750-acre reservoir that’s spread across the counties of Brown and Monroe. Not only is the fishing here really good, but there are also beaches here (open Memorial Day through Labor Day – some of the brightest days of the year, so bring your shades) where your family can chill-out while you fish. Fish species you can expect to catch here during the spring, summer, and fall include:
- Largemouth bass
- Hybrid stripers
- Smallmouth bass
In the winter months, the ice fishing on the lake is very good too.
Local anglers recommend fishing for catfish near to the bottom of the lake, using cut live bait. Crappie are most abundant near to dead logs, brush, or downed trees where they like to hide. Try using grubs and jigs, casting or drift fishing. There’s a generous daily bag limit for crappie of 25, with no size limit.
If you visit Monroe between April and June, you’ll hit prime largemouth bass season. Try using jigs in the deeper water (bring gear to gauge the water depth) for bass and walleye too. Bass up to 9-pounds are frequently caught here!
Fish from the shoreline or launch your boat (or a rental) from one of nine ramps. There’s also pier fishing – perfect for an afternoon’s angling with the kids!
If you enjoy camping, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are lots of well-provisioned campgrounds around Monroe. Alternatively, check out one of the many hotels in Bloomington
2. Geist Reservoir
You’ll find Geist Reservoir (here) in Marion County in the northeastern area of the State just 30-minutes’ drive from the State capital where there are all the hotels and restaurants you’ll need for your stay.
Geist offers almost 1,900-acres of quiet freshwater that’s teeming with many different fish species, including:
- Largemouth bass
- Channel catfish
- Flathead catfish
- Redear sunfish
- Striped bass
Geist Marina offers two public boat launches, and you can rent manually powered watercraft here if you don’t want to bring your own.
Local anglers reckon that the best fishing times here are from 01:30 am to 03:30 am and from 14:00 pm to 16:00 pm. Geist is a great spot if you want to catch fish of a decent size, especially crappie or some really fat common carp.
As well as fishing, the reservoir welcomes kayakers, swimmers, water skiers, and sailboats. On 4th July every year, Geist hosts what’s known as the annual “Blast on the Bridge.” You can enjoy a firework display preceded by a boat parade. Remember to bring chairs!
3. Lake Maxinkuckee
At over 1,800-acres, Lake Maxinkuckee (located here) is the second biggest natural lake in Indiana and is a brilliant spot for ice fishing during the winter months. Lake Maxinkuckee is found close to the small town of Culver in the southwest of Marshall Country.
Although Lake Maxinkuckee is not a resort, there are a few small motels and privately-owned hotels close-by, and Culver has lots of family-friendly restaurants and grills that are not overly expensive. Alternatively, the large city of Gary is only about an hour’s drive away, and here you’ll find bigger hotels.
The fishing at Lake Maxinkuckee is incredible! Here you’ll find fish species including:
- White bass
- Redear sunfish
- Yellow perch
During the winter months, you’ll enjoy some excellent ice fishing that frequently produces nice catches.
The Lake has a marina, boat launch ramp, and there’s boat rental available if you want to fish from the water.
Although there are no campgrounds right on the Lake, there are a couple nearby, and there are also some lodgings, a bait shop, and a restaurant.
4. Eel River
Eel River (located here) is a small, idyllic waterway that flows for 110 miles, mainly through farmland and narrow wooded areas from its source as a shallow stream to the north of Fort Wayne. Although the river banks can become crowded with thick trees and vegetation, there are plenty of kayak friendly sections for those who want to take to the water.
Once you make your way through to the shoreline, the fishing here is excellent. You’ll catch plenty of rock bass and smallies, channel catfish, and bluegill. Further downstream, you’ll find redhorse sucker too. Fishing here is relaxing and peaceful. As you wait for a bite, watch out for great blue herons, kingfishers, sandpipers, and wood ducks.
There are six free campsites around the Eel River, which are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you prefer not to spend your stay here under canvass, there are a few hotels dotted around the area too.
5. Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is located in northwest Indiana, close to the bustling town of Gary. Michigan is a brilliant place to spend a vacation with your family because there’s so much to do, as well as fishing!
Check out the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which extends 25-miles eastwards from Gary. There are dunes, prairie areas, bogs, and wetlands to explore. You can camp along the shores of the Lake or stay in one of the South Shore hotels if you prefer. Close-by there are golf courses, shopping destinations, casinos, and other family-friendly attractions too.
So, what about the fishing? Well, if you prefer not to use the municipal boat ramps to venture out onto this vast body of water under your own steam, there are plenty of fishing charters for hire, and there’s lots of challenging prey to be pursued.
From May through mid-July, you’ll find Michigan stocked with Chinook, brown trout, and steelhead. In the winter and fall, Coho salmon are the catch of the day. Walleye and brown trout can also be caught here. From mid-June through mid-August, watch out for some decent-size steelhead. Winter-run steelhead are also found here from late October through March.
From June through to mid-September you can catch lake trout, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and other species of sunfish from the public pier or a boat.
6. Patoka Lake
Patoka Lake Marina can be found (here). The Lake is spread across Crawford, Orange, and Dubois Counties in the southern part of Indiana. At 8,880-acres, Patoka is the second-largest reservoir in the State, and it’s a beautiful place to relax and wait for the fish to bite. You can rent a boat (or bring your own) for a day trip, or stay longer in rented lodging.
Fish species found in Patoka include:
- Largemouth bass
The standing timber that’s been provided to attract fish makes this spot a mecca for bluegill and largemouth bass.
7. Summit Lake State Park
Summit Lake Park (located here) became the State’s 19th state park in 1988 and can be found in east-central Indiana, close to the town of New Castle. The park extends over 2,680 acres and includes a popular 800-acre fishing lake.
The Lake is equipped with three boat ramps, and you can camp here all year round. There are also a couple of open, rentable shelters for day use, as well as water and comfort stations.
The white ibis who frequent the Lake will give you valuable clues to the location of some great fish. And there is excellent fishing here! Watch out for the following species:
- Yellow perch
- Channel catfish
Most of the Lake shoreline is gravel or rock, but the base is mud and dirt. That can mean that the vegetation gets thick in places, although it doesn’t cover the first three to six feet of the bank, so access is still pretty good. You’ll find plenty of bass lurking in the areas of heavy cover around the drop-offs and out in the deeper channels during hot weather.
Also, for hardy anglers, ice fishing for yellow perch is good in the winter.
You can rent boats here, including canoes, rowboats, and paddle boats; note that the whole lake is idle speed only.
There’s a swimming beach that’s open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. When you’re done fishing, check out one of the four easy hiking trails that wind through the pretty scenery around the Lake.
8. Potato Creek State Park
Potato Creek State Park (found here) is a State Park that is located in the north-central part of Indiana, about 12 miles to the southwest of South Bend. Within the Park is 327-acre Worster Lake where you’ll find plenty of catfish, bass, and crappie.
Worster Lake is a pretty spot, and there’s plenty of camping around here if you want to make an overnight trip.
One of the most successful fishing targets is bass. You’ll find them hiding in and around the wooden stumps and pads that line the perimeter of the Lake. Try fishing for largemouth bass with Texas-rigged chigger craws, or green pumpkin for best effect.
Anglers fishing this location should be aware that it can get breezy over the Lake, with gusts up to 30mph on some days. That can make finding somewhere secure to anchor your boat important so that you don’t waste time drifting. Be sure that you have a strong trolling motor and decent batteries!
9. Lake George
An excellent fishing spot for experts and beginners alike is Lake George Dam in Hobart. The Dam is located just under half a mile from the town of Hobart in Lake County. There are plenty of campgrounds around this beautifully scenic and peaceful fishing spot; ideal for those who want to enjoy some downtime while catching a few fish too.
Fish species are surprisingly plentiful here, and there’s lots of variety too, including one or two surprises you might not be expecting to find on your line! You can expect to encounter the following:
- Largemouth bass
- Green sunfish
As you can see, the fish patrolling the varied depths of these waters and the surrounding area lend themselves to fly-fishing, spinning, or bait-casting, whatever your pleasure.
Access is excellent. You can park conveniently at the Lakefront Park and stroll along to the dam. For those who want to enjoy the experience of fishing in this lovely location from the water, there’s a boat launch too.
10. Winona Lake
Winona Lake is well-known for its bass fishing. Located (here) in Kosciusko County, this small, scenic lake offers big possibilities for the dedicated bass fisherman, regularly producing five to six-pound fish.
As the area is fairly well-developed and populated, you’ll find the Lake can be busy with recreational boaters. For this reason, it’s best to get out on the water in the early morning hours, before the crowds arrive. You’ll want to make sure that you have the right gear to tackle some of the larger fish you’ll run into.
When you go looking for largemouth bass in this gravelly, muck-bottomed lake, try the eastern shoreline. It’s shallow here, extending out to roughly 200 feet from the shore and the water is thick with the heavy vegetation that is so loved by largemouth bass. The average depth of Winona is around 30 feet, with an average depth of clarity of seven to eight feet.
Fish the three channels to the north end of the Lake and one to the south, especially during the spring where bass tend to congregate. You’ll find plenty of perch and shad living in the Lake, providing a primary food source for the bass, and using lures that imitate these species works well.
It’s certainly worth staying in this location for a few days if you’re into bass fishing. There are plenty of campgrounds and cabins nearby with very good facilities to make your stay comfortable and profitable too!
Wrapping it up:
Although it’s freshwater fishing only here, the State of Indiana offers some first-class recreational sport for the keen angler.
Enjoy fly-fishing for trout in quiet rivers and streams, or take to the wide expanse of Lake Michigan in search of salmon and steelhead. When you’ve tired of fishing, why not head out with your family to check out local attractions, family-friendly grills, and chic downtown shops in one of the cosmopolitan cities close to our favorite fishing spots.
Indiana offers great sport and fun for you and your family all year round and should undoubtedly be included on your list of fishing locations to visit.