"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Wading and Fishing Indiana Steams
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

As the sun moves northward in the spring many Hoosiers gravitate to streams and rivers for a great variety of recreational pleasures, and that can  and that can translate into trespass problems. I do not intend to diminish the values of standing water in the overall outdoor recreation scheme, but the real quality outdoor experience most often comes on moving waters--more specifically rivers and streams. 

My experiences on streams and rivers of Hoosierland have led me to believe that the person who has his/her feet on the bottom enjoys the surroundings more than one who has his fanny parked on a boat/canoe seat. Let’s face it, wade-fishing a stream or river exerts a far greater physical tax on the human body that blissfully floating a stream, but it can bring greater rewards, piscatorially or otherwise. Unfortunately, wade-fishing streams and rivers also can bring problems with riparian landowners. 

As one reader of this column writes: 

”I have been trying to find the law in Indiana about stream fishing rules and wading.  I want to know if I can wade and fish any stream in Indiana or are there only certain streams that can been fished with waders . . . Is this the case on all streams in Indiana or only on certain ones. Can you shed some light on this situation?”
The above note arrived via e-mail at the time I was getting geared up to wade some of my old favorite streams for fishing. During all of more than half a century of float and wade-fishing streams the length and breadth of Indiana, the most important criterion for measuring legal availability of stream and river beds seemed to depend upon navigability of the waterway in question. 

There always were questions concerning who owned what in terms of streambeds, and those questions still creep into the scenario when anglers are looking for places to fish (and pursue other outdoor interests) on streams and rivers. 

In the late ‘80s Steve Lucas, director of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission’s Division of Hearings, took on the task of determining navigability of Indiana’s streams and rivers. Incidentally, navigability of streams and rivers is largely dependent on whether streams and rivers in question were navigable at the time the territory gained statehood in 1816. Navigability, of course, is not that simple, but that is a good starting point. 

Lucas enlisted the aid of conservation officers of all of our 92 counties, and most of the Department of Natural Resources' divisions, especially the Division of Water Resources, and Outdoor  Recreation. The result was a document completed in 1990 that addressed many aspects of ownership as related to stream and riverbeds. That document, still changing from time to time, will be found on the Natural Resources Commission’s web site: http://www.in.gov/nrc/

When this web page opens, click on “Lake Michigan and Other Navigable Waters.” Then click on “Navigable Waters Roster,” and “Roster by Waterway,” an alphabetical listing of stream/river names, or “Roster By County,” a listing of streams in the various  counties. It is a remarkably useful compendium of information on the availability of stream/river beds of the state. 

But even with this wealth of stream/river data, those who use the streams and rivers for a myriad of outdoor recreation activities must be willing (even eager) to recognize and respect private ownership. 

HOOSIER NATIONAL FOREST--More than 100 people last week attended the threeForest Service meetings designed to clarify the Hoosier National Forest’s Proposed Forest Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Forest staff discussed the five alternatives in the Proposed Plan and gave tips on how best to provide comments that may affect the final alternative chosen for implementation. 

The question-answer sessions covered a range of topics including recreation, wildlife and timber management, and future budgets  and staffing. ”I was pleased with the turn out for the meetings,” said Judi Perez, the Forest Planning Officer.  “Our goal was to explain the rationale behind the five alternatives and increase the public’s understanding of the trade offs. From the feedback I got, I think we did that.” 

Proposed Forest Plan documents and maps are available on the Forest’s website, http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier, and at several statewide public and university libraries. Written comments can either be sent to the Forest Service Bedford Office, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 47421, or through the Forest’s website. The public comment period ends June 27, 2005.

Click on thubnail image for enlarged view.

smallmouth.jpg (42130 bytes) The lure and lore of Hoosier streams and rivers is apparent in this picture of a wading angler sharing the joys of the outdoors with a husky smallmouth bass . . . later released
longeared.jpg (62175 bytes) The male longear sunfish is one of the most beautiful fish found in Hoosier streams and rivers . . . And though it seldom weighs half a pound, it is a tasty fish. 


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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