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Muskies in Indiana lakes? No fish story, DNR insists

The fish caught is only a foot long.

But the Indiana Department of Natural Resources pulled the juvenile muskie from Ball Lake in Steuben County where the fish hasn’t been stocked for about five years.

So that means the fish may have been naturally reproduced and it would mark the first time a muskie was born naturally in any Indiana lake, according to the DNR.

Officially, the fish are known as muskellunge and are the largest member of the pike family. Large muskies are prized by sport anglers.

DNR biologist Nick Ledet and his survey crew netted the fish last month in shallow water on the north side of the 87-acre natural lake southwest of Hamilton Lake.

From 1997 to 2008, the DNR released 6,700 muskie fingerlings – a young fish about the size of a finger – into Ball Lake, according to the DNR’s statement.

However, a survey revealed few fishing Ball Lake fished for muskies and only a few were caught.

“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 though this young fish is believed to have appeared in the lake the old-fashioned way, DNR officials do not believe muskies will ever reproduce at Ball Lake in a way that will sustain the population.

“We don’t expect reproduction will make a significant contribution to muskie populations at any Indiana lake,” Ledet 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 are vulnerable to predator fish.

Few muskies 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.”

rgreen@jg.net

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