The Great Outdoors


Willow Slough fishing regulations temporarily relaxed
Fishing regulations designed to promote quality bluegill fishing at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area’s J.C. Murphey Lake will be temporarily relaxed starting December 15. The change addresses the 1,000-acre Newton County lake’s unusually low winter water levels. It allows anglers to take additional fish home rather than have them succumb to low oxygen levels under the ice and go to waste.
The 25-fish aggregate bag limit on pan fish (i.e., bluegill, red ear, and crappie) currently in place will be lifted, as will the 18-inch minimum size limit and two-fish daily bag limit on largemouth bass. In their place, statewide bag and size limits will apply for all species. The change is necessary because of the combination of the lake’s low water levels, ice and snow cover, and fertile waters. DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists fear that many of the lake’s quality game fish will suffer an extensive fish kill this winter.
The lake, which was originally designed as a waterfowl hunting marsh, has long been renowned for its quality fishing opportunities; however, the same shallow, fertile waters that make for quality fishing make it especially prone to winter fish kills.
“Murphey is a high-risk/high-reward system when it comes to fish management,” said DNR fisheries biologist Jeremy Price. “Unlike most northern Indiana lakes, their fish kills are a very real possibility nearly every winter. However, the phenomenal pan fish populations that can develop between major fish kill events make it well worth the effort to manage.”
The temporary relaxation of the regulations is scheduled to expire February 28, at which time the 25-fish aggregate bag limit on pan fish and the 18-inch bass size limit (and two-bass bag limit) will go back in effect. If conditions improve and the lake level rises significantly before then, the more restrictive original regulations may be reinstated sooner.
“Our ultimate goal is to emerge next spring with as many adult game fish in the lake as possible,” continued Price, “so if conditions improve and appear adequate to ensure survival until ice off, we’ll act accordingly and re-impose the special bass and pan fish regulations.”
While all statewide bag limits and minimum size limits will be in effect, some Willow Slough property rules and restrictions will still be in place. As an added measure to conserve spawning stock, no fishing will be allowed in the immediate vicinity of the aerated, open-water area near the main office. Additionally, annual closures of certain parking areas frequently used by ice anglers, such as Patrol Road and Birdhouse Point will be imposed until deer hunting muzzleloader season closes on December 19.