Friday the 13th proved lucky for a Crown Point angler who broke the record for biggest lake whitefish caught in Indiana. Dustin Meeter landed his 6-pound, 3-ounce lake whitefish on Lake Michigan near Burns Harbor in Portage on April 13. The fish measured 25.5 inches long.
Meeter’s fish marks the sixth record lake whitefish since the state established a category for the species in 2012. It bested the previous record, caught by Alexander Ciesielski in 2017, by nearly a half-pound.
Meeter caught the whitefish from a boat while fishing with two other friends. Earlier in the day, the friends had trolled for Coho salmon and caught their daily limit. They then headed toward shore to jig for lake trout.
“Within a minute, I caught that whitefish,” Meeter said. “It was the best day of fishing I’ve ever had.”
Last year, Meeter caught the first whitefish of his life in the same spot under similar circumstances. Unfamiliar with whitefish and unaware of the state record, he simply took the large fish home.
He didn’t bother to look up the record until a friend suggested he do so. But he had already filleted the fish. Meeter thinks the 2017 fish also may have been a record-breaker. Nonetheless, “it was great eating,” he said.
Meeter submitted his most recent whitefish to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff for official weighing the Monday after he caught it. He said he plans to have the fish mounted for display.
Whitefish have long been targets of commercial fishing operations in northern Lake Michigan due to demand for their flaky white flesh. Recently, sport anglers began targeting them in southern Lake Michigan, which prompted Indiana to place a bag limit regulation of 12 fish in 2011.
The best fishing times and locations in Indiana waters have been from shore along marinas and breakwaters during March and April, and again during spawning in November. Fishing is best when water temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to DNR Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert.
“They can be caught using simple techniques,” he said.
Shoreline anglers often bottom-fish using a small weight, a 12- to 24-inch leader, a small hook and single salmon egg or piece of night crawler. Jigging is productive for boat anglers in the spring. Lake Whitefish feed on the bottom on zebra mussels, bugs and worms.
Meeter said he isn’t sure how long his record will last. “Will it be beat? I’m sure it will,” he said. “I’m just hoping it stands for a little while.”
Volunteers needed to build fish habitat structures
You can help make Monroe Lake a better place for fish during a special volunteer day on May 19. The day is part of the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife's Reservoir Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program. RAHEP builds fish habitat in reservoirs where natural structure is lacking.
Volunteers will assemble more than 50 wooden structures from pallets, which will give fish a place to live and hide from predator fish, according to program coordinator and southern fisheries research biologist Sandy Clark-Kolaks. The work day runs from 9-11 a.m. at the DNR office at 5596 E. State Road 46 in Bloomington.
Monroe Lake is a nearly 11,000-acre reservoir near Bloomington. It was chosen for the program because of the property’s strong partnerships with local entities. The work day is the first of several volunteer days planned for this year at Monroe Lake, with an overall goal of building 200 structures.
DNR fisheries biologists will place the structures on the lake bed during summer and fall. Once the structures have been placed, maps will be created to show the GPS coordinates, the depth and structure type. The maps will be available to the public.
Volunteers should dress for working outside and bring snacks and water, protective eyewear, gloves and cordless drills. Volunteers are encouraged to register in advance at www.wildlife.IN.gov/8301.htm though unregistered walk-in volunteers are welcome, too.
Learn more about RAHEP at www.wildlife.IN.gov/7665.htm
Indiana Dunes family birding day on May 19
Visitors can bird-watch, build bluebird boxes, see live bird banding and more at a special youth and family birding day at Indiana Dunes State Park on May 19. The day is part of the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, a celebration of the migration of birdlife through the Indiana Dunes region, May 17-20.
The youth and family birding day runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the nature center. All activities are free after paying the standard park admission fee of $7 per in-state vehicle or $12 per out-of-state vehicle. Participants who have already registered for the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival will not be required to pay the admission fee.
Every participant will receive a free grab-bag full of birding guides and goodies. Additional activities include hourly intro-to-birding hikes and bird identification quizzes with prizes.
The Indiana Dunes Birding Festival is a partnership with the state’s major environmental groups highlighting the Dunes area’s rich biodiversity and bird-watching opportunities. The event is organized by the Indiana Audubon Society and includes both the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park as site hosts.
More information on the festival is available at https://indunesbirdingfestival.com
Indiana Dunes State Park is located at 1600 North 25 E. Chesterton, IN 46304.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to him in care of this publication.