If you love the outdoors, there are few things more relaxing (and thrilling) than standing on a shore casting a line into the water and patiently waiting for a fish to take the bait.
In Northwest Indiana (and just beyond), there are many places to enjoy fishing — from ponds to creeks to rivers to small lakes to the mother of all region bodies of water, Lake Michigan.
In fishing, skill and experience definitely matter, but it should not deter novices from trying their hand at it and it’s a great parent/child activity that can encourage bonding and teach lessons such a patience, perseverance and focus while instilling a love of nature in young ones.
Brian Breidert, fisheries biologist for Lake Michigan with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, said there are several places in the Region where you can catch catfish, bass and panfish (also known as bluegills) and may be good locations for those new to fishing.
“Robinson Lake in Hobart is one that we stock with catfish,” Breidert said. “It gets a lot of shore access use.”
Breidert said Hammond Marina, East Chicago Marina and Whiting Beach Park have fishing platforms, provide easy access and can be good places to start if you are new to fishing.
However, he reminds users to be mindful of surroundings and put safety first.
“I would suggest and recommend that if there are families with children that are going to be out there on breakwaters, to make sure they have life jackets for their children because the lakefront can be precarious at times,” Breidert said.
“Another place is Willow Slough,” he said. “You can catch panfish and bass in the lake down there. It’s a DNR (Department of Natural Resources)-owned-and-operated property.” Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area is located in Morocco, Indiana.
For those who want to learn more on how to fish or want to introduce children to it, Breidert said that fairs are an ideal place to start. Indiana State fair has a stocked fishing pond.
“It has an educational component and is a great opportunity for families to not just enjoy the fair, but visit the DNR building and learn more about the DNR programs,” he said. “They have a live fish display and a fishing pond out back.”
He said the Lake County Fair offers some of the same, with the stocked Fancher Lake on the fairgounds.
If you are looking to fish from a boat rather than from shore, many of the lakes in the area have boat launches. The Indiana DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife has a wealth of information on where to fish, including which spots have public access and boat launches.
State parks typically offer areas for fishing, and if you’re looking to rent a boat, you can do so at Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, Indiana. Rentals are available by the hour or by the day.
Lake Michigan has 45 licensed tour operators between Hammond and Michigan City. Charter fishing can be expensive, but you will not need to purchase gear because the boat will be equipped with poles and other necessities. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the expertise of the captain, who can take you to a prime spot where it’s likely you’ll snag some salmon, trout or bass. Fish is then cleaned for you, so you can take it home ready to cook.
“It’s a great experience if you can afford to do it,” Breidert said.
Across the state line into Illinois is Powderhorn Lake, where Theresa Vanderbilt, of Lansing, has fond memories of fishing at as a child and continues fishing at today.
“We used to live on 113th, and my father worked at the steel mill over there,” Vanderbilt said. “I fished there a lot as a kid. It’s close to home and we can go on the spur of the moment and we take our grandkids with us.”
The 192-acre Powderhorn Lake Nature Preserve includes the 48-acre lake and is the first dedicated state nature preserve in the city of Chicago.
She’s also done a lot of fishing from Wolf Lake on the Illinois side in Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood. The 804-acre lake straddles the Indiana and Illinois stateline and there’s ample access for fishing from both states.