By Wade Coggeshall
— Fishing is one leisurely pursuit that’s not exactly conducive to city living. But the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Fish & Wildlife is working to change that throughout the state with its Go FishIN in the City program.
Last week, IDNR officials stocked 11 ponds in Avon, Indianapolis, Carmel, Terre Haute, Lafayette, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and New Albany with catfish that averaged more than 14 inches and 1.25 pounds. It coincided with Free Fishing Day on May 18 across the state. Various bodies of water were stocked in April before the first Free Fishing Day. There are two more such events scheduled for 2013.
Michelle Cain, wildlife information specialist and certified fisheries biologist with the Division of Fish & Wildlife, says the idea behind Go FishIN in the City is to get fish closer to the most people.
“We have these large concentrations of people in urban areas, but not necessarily large concentrations of fish in urban areas,” she said. “We’re taking these family-friendly parks — which have ponds with easy shoreline access — and making it easier for people to go there and catch fish, and maybe even have them for dinner.”
Obvious benefits of the program include getting more people outdoors and introducing those to fishing who otherwise likely would never try it.
“The idea is to give them this opportunity to go out with this basic fishing equipment and catch some fish,” Cain said. “Hopefully they’ll like it and become lifelong anglers.”
Some parks involved in Go FishIN in the City have seen more of a response from the program than others. Krannert Park on the far westside of Indianapolis has had an uptick in fishermen.
“We have had a big increase in anglers at the lake and people coming into the family center excited to tell us about the number of fish they are catching,” Matthew Stone, Krannert’s assistant manager, said in a press release.
“It seems like once people go out and catch some fish they keep coming back because they’re having a great time,” Cain said. “So I think it’s really just a matter of trying it. Sometimes it can be hard to try something new that’s unfamiliar to you. We’re trying to make it as easy as we can.”
This is the first year for Go FishIN in the City. IDNR will continue stocking urban ponds with catfish periodically into this fall. Anyone can take advantage, provided they have a valid fishing license and follow regulations.
In the meantime, officials known as “creel clerks” are going around to participating parks and asking anglers about their experience.
“We’ll use that to evaluate our locations,” Cain said. “We’re hoping to expand it.”
IDNR worked with park officials on the city and county levels to get Go FishIN in the City started. They want as many urban areas involved as possible.
“A lot of it is making sure the parks are easily accessible and have amenities so people don’t have to worry whether there’s a restroom or parking or somewhere for the kids to play,” Cain said.
The parks that are already part of the equation have seen the advantages.
“We’ve had several say they’ve seen a lot more people visiting and fishing from this,” Cain said. “They’re really enjoying the partnership so far.”
For more information, visit the website atdnr.IN.gov/fishwild/7508.htm.