"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Public Access To Indiana Waters For Boaters And Anglers
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Scifres

Duck and goose hunters who jump shoot White River‘s west fork downstream from Paragon will have a new place to launch their boats this year, thanks to the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
It is a new launch ramp on the northeast corner of the bridge east of Paragon, and the DFW’s continuing Public Access program that has been a program of the state organization for several years, but that has gotten more attention in the last few years.
The Paragon launching ramp is one of seven added to the program in the last year, says James Kershaw, supervisor of the program. The six other new ramps are on the Ohio River at Charlestown State Park; the Tippecanoe River at Germany Bridge County Park in Fulton County; Missinewa River at Matthews in Grant County; Shipshewana Lake in Lagrange County; Tippecanoe River southwest of Pulaski in the county of the same name; and Shriner Lake in Whitley County. 
The newest ramp is situated approximately 1.5 miles south of State Highway 67 on Paragon Road.  The site was donated to the division by the Burnett Family and will consist of a parking lot, boat ramp, and a loading platform.  The site will be free for public use once construction is finished.
Although the construction of boat ramps has been rather slow in the past, Kershaw says, changes in construction techniques have made it possible to build ramps in substantially less time.  The site in Paragon was one of the first sites built in the South using pre-fabricated ramps and a pre-fabricated ADA accessible vault.  This technique has been used in Northern Indiana for several years with a great deal of success.  As a result, the division was able to construct this site in a fraction of the time. 
The ramps were concrete poured at the sites previously, but now poured elsewhere in eight-foot by 15-toot slabs, trucked to the site, welded together, and bulldozed into the water.
“The Division of Fish & Wildlife’s public access program was initiated in 1953 and strives to provide free access to Indiana waters for anglers and boaters,” says Kershaw. “ The program is part of a broader statewide access initiative.  In addition to acquiring, developing and maintaining sites, the division works with various local, state and federal agencies to provide access to Indiana’s lakes and rivers.

“To date, the program has funded portions of the acquisition, development and maintenance of 366 public access sites; 211 sites are located in northern Indiana and 155 in southern Indiana.  The list of sites includes 115 on natural lakes; 89 on impoundments; 158 on rivers and 4 on Lake Michigan.  In addition, the division operates and maintains 21 public fishing areas.  Fish and Wildlife’s public access sites do not require a lake use permit,”

Funding for the public access program is derived primarily from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses and from federal aid through the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. This funding is generated from federal excise taxes on motorboat fuel and fishing and boating equipment.  These funds are then distributed to the states according to the size of the state and the number of fishing licenses sold.  This is one of the most effective “user-pay, user benefit” programs in the nation where anglers and boaters provide the financial support for boating access, fisheries management and related programs. The sale of senior fishing licenses in future years will bring additional dollars to Indiana through this program.  The state pays for the acquisition, development and maintenance of access sites upfront and then receives a 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government.

Kershaw says much work still remains. Indiana has more than 21,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams, 452 natural lakes and 580 impoundments.  Free public access is not available or is inadequate at many state-owned waters. Of the 452 natural lakes, less than a third have free public access. Extensive development around the natural lakes has sharply impacted the availability of land as well as its cost. The goal to provide river access approximately every ten river miles is often hampered by the lack of willing sellers as well as the lack of public roads to the rivers in some rural areas.

SUMMER STUDY--Without dropping monickers of the “no-shows,” I hasten to report no progress in last Thursday’s first study committee confab of the summer. Nor can I tell you why the no-shows were that. Instead, I will tell you the names of the four legislators who were present for the first meeting that was intended to consider possible legislation for the upcoming session.

Legislators present were:  Rep. Robert Bischoff, Chair, Greendale, IN; Rep. Robert Cherry, Greenfield; Rep. Daniel Leonard, Huntington, and Sen. James Lewis, Charlestown. Ther are eight legislators on the group and five are needed for a quorum.

Later meetings of the group has been set for tentatively for Sept. 11-2 at Falls of the Ohio State Park, and Oct. 2-3 at Brown County State Park.   

The Summer Study Committee (of long standing), you know, is a series of meetings held to give citizens (a few aliens) the opportunity to air, and maybe have approved, measures for the full legislature. It has worked well over the years.

ON BLUEGILLS--Several anglers have called to report all kinds of little black worms, sores, skin infestations, and other unsightly things about bluegills, but I always say: “Forget ‘em . . . they won’t eat much.”

Randy Lang, a staff specialist for the DFW’s Fisheries Section, confirms my thinking of many years. They are caused by parasites--or maybe internal infections--and mild irritations will not be bad for humans who cut away the infections and eat the rest.

Randy says there are lots of them; to pin the disorders down might require microscopic study. 
In any event, cold weather probably will take care of it.


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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