Statement as issued Friday by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources:
A 12-inch muskie captured last month by DNR biologists in Steuben County marks the first indication of natural reproduction of the popular sport fish in any Indiana lake.
While electrofishing for largemouth bass, biologist Neil Ledet and his survey crew netted the one-year-old muskie in shallow water on the north side of Ball Lake, an 87-acre natural lake.
Ledet thinks the fish came from natural reproduction because the DNR quit stocking Ball Lake five years ago. From 1997 through 2008 the DNR released 6,700 muskie fingerlings in the lake.
Stockings were discontinued when a survey revealed few Ball Lake anglers fished for muskies and few were caught, despite the fact that adult muskies were present.
“Unlike some lakes where muskie fishing is popular, the muskie program at Ball Lake never caught on,” Ledet said. “We think muskies from the stockings are still present, but finding the young one was a surprise.”
Even so, Ledet doesn’t believe enough muskie reproduction will ever occur at Ball Lake to sustain the population. And finding one young muskie is no indication others are out there.
“We don’t expect reproduction will make a significant contribution to muskie populations at any Indiana lake,” he said. “Reproduction that may occur will always be low and inconsistent.”
Although lakes stocked by the DNR with muskies may contain habitat suitable for spawning, biologists suspect the egg fertilization rate is low, hatching success is limited, and small muskie fry are vulnerable to predator fish.
Odds are very few survive.
“Muskie fishing in Indiana, just like our walleye and inland trout programs, depend entirely on stocking,” Ledet said. “Without stocking, muskies would likely disappear from our lakes.”