March can be an extension of winter or a promise of sunny days to come.
But either way, this third month of the year offers a wide variety of outdoor
activities that provide food or drink.
Although all of the hunting seasons that opened last fall are now closed,
and trappers may take only beaver, the spring wild turkey hunt will open
next month and the time to start thinking of that popular activity
(scouting the bird you hope to kill) is now.
Beyond that season (April 27 through May 15), fishing for numerous
species from Indiana’s Lake Michigan shore to the Ohio River awaken from
a winter doze to offer a great variety of angling methods . . . not to
mention a great selection of dishes for dinner tables.
March offer great fishing for such a variety of species because all
species--at least in the Midwest--are coming off three or four months of
cooler air and water temperatures which slowed their metabolism. As the
sun creeps northward, most species of freshwater fish start thinking of
nesting and this requires strong, healthy bodies, brought about by voracious
Throw in the awakening of the food chains in lakes, streams and other
standing waters, and the stage is set for a feeding bonanza by fish.
Although Hoosier angling runs the gamut from salmon (especially coho)
and trout on Indiana’s southernmost Lake Michigan waters and tributary
streams, to sauger, walleye
and saugeye along the state’s
Ohio River border, three members of the sunfish family enjoy far greater
opportunity and popularity.
These species, in order of their popularity in March, are crappies,
largemouth bass and bluegills. The importance and popularity of the sunfish
species will juggle as warmer days come, but for now the crappie is the
best bet although largemouth bass, bluegills, and some of the other sunfish
species will be taken.
As noted above, the sunfish species are more important in the Hoosier
angling scenario in March than the sauger fishing on the Ohio and tributaries,
trout /salmon fish of Lake Michigan and its tributaries. There simply are
more Hoosiers in the central part of the state than at either end.
But sauger and trout/salmon sport fisheries provide a lot of action
and great food.
Although sauger fishing is best below the five navigational dams on
the Indiana shores of the Ohio River, this species may be taken from tributaries
of both the Ohio and Wabash rivers. The mouths of tributaries are best
for sauger, but after periods of high water (especially in late-winter
and spring) this species may be found far up the smaller streams and rivers.
Sauger fishing on the Ohio River proper is best in the swift water below
the five navigational dams (Markland, McAlpine, Cannelton, Newburgh, and
Uniontown--east to west). Although sauger may be taken by bank fishing,
the best fishing will require a boat.
The turbid water below the dams is treacherous, but this is where the
sauger are. Regulations below the dams may restrict fishing activities,
but they are designed for safety of the anglers and should be honored.
Anglers, of course, should wear Coast Guard approved life jackets at all
Sauger may be taken on a great variety of jigging spoons, but artificial
grubs or jigs dressed with live minnows or worms probably take most of
the fish. Whole live night crawlers fished on a two-hook or three-hook
harness is another good bet, and garden worms gobbed on a hook are good.
Most of the action will occur on the bottom and this can require an
ounce or more of weight.
Although Indiana regulations place a 14-inch minimum size limit on walleyes
(15 inches on the St. Joseph River), there is no size limit on sauger,
walleyes and sugeye (a cross of the walleye and sauger) on the Ohio River.
On the Ohio River there are cumulative daily and possession limits of 10-20
The Ohio River, proper, also hosts many other species of sport fish
and any of them may be taken while fishing for sauger.
Indiana fishing licenses will be honored bank-to-bank on the Ohio River,
but a Kentucky license is required for those fishing tributaries on the
As February closed Indiana’s southern shores of Lake Michigan were free
of ice, but there was a lot of ice out on the lake. A north wind could
bring it back in.
Still, small coho salmon were being taken from breakwaters and piers,
not to mention occasional brown trout and steelheads (both winter run and
skamania, summer run).
If the fishing for small cohos runs true to form, this in-close fishing
could pick up any day as water and air temperatures rise.
The fishing for small cohos starts in March each year on Indiana’s part
of lake Michigan because these southern waters lure alewives and the cohos
are hot on their trail.
Brian Breidert, Lake Michigan fisheries biologist for the Division of
Fish and Wildlife, reports that most of the fishing in late February and
the first days of March was in the Michigan City harbor and the Port of
Breidert says the fishing is not fast now, but adds that it will pick
For many years the fishing in late winter and early spring was done
with night crawlers, and squid, but the hottest bait this year for steelhead
is frozen shrimp fished five to six feet below a bobber. For the cohos,
K O Wobblers, a spoon-type artificial lure, are best. However any jigging
spoon could take fish.
Orange is the best color, and Breidert says it probably is the orange
color of pre-cooked, frozen shrimp that makes this bait so popular with
the steelhead. He adds that orange is a good color for artificials like
the K O Wobbler.
At this time of year boat fishing can be risky, but Breidert says shore
fishing is available at the Port of Indiana, the Michigan City Pier and
harbor, Patrick Marina at East Chicago, and the Hammond Marina.
As water temperatures rise good fishing will also be available in Trail
Creek, which offers three public access sites.
Now, about those crappies.
Crappies, black and white, will be found in most of Indiana’s larger
bodies of standing water, but some smaller waters may host Old Papermouth
in good numbers. Streams and rivers may also offer good crappie fishing,
especially those that move slowly and have mud-bottoms.
Small minnows suspended below bobbers probably account for more crappies
than any other live bait or lure, but a crappie may take anything that
moves, including a great variety of artificials.
Because crappies are school fish and move along shorelines, finding
the fish probably is more difficult than catching them.
My favorite rig for finding crappies involves a long pole with fairly
light line, and a casting bobber. With the casting bobber tied to the tag
end of a spinning line and four or five feet of lighter line between the
bobber and the lure, I can cast a very light jig great distances as I search
for fish. This can be accomplished by wading or floating in a small boat.
This fish-finding method can take a lot of crappies. However, when I
find a crappie school, I often go after the fish with other poles rigged
for fishing small minnows.
The fortunes of crappie anglers often rise and fall on the success of
spawning in previous years. A year class of many fish can translate into
smaller fish, but a lot of them. Less spawning success can mean larger
fish, but fewer of them, two or three years down the road.
March also wraps up the pleasant task of digging sassafras
roots for making tea. There still is plenty of time for digging sassafras
roots, but as warmer weather comes sap of the trees rises and the quality
of roots diminishes.