Indiana Fishing Regulations

Last Updated: 26.05.20

Both amateur and professional fishers that are eager to catch fish in the state of Indiana have to abide by the statewide regulations. For special regulations concerning certain rivers, lakes (for which you should get one of the many fishing canoes for sale out there) and fish species you can use the information provided by the Department of Natural Resources.


Who needs a license

You must be a resident for at least sixty days before applying for a resident fishing license. If you are a resident born after the 31st of March 1943 you can apply for a Senior Annual or Senior Fish for Life License. If you’re a non-resident, you need to pay a larger sum for an annual license, but you can also get a one-day or seven-day license.

For salmon and trout fishing in public waters, you’ll need a license and a salmon or trout privilege.

If you’re not yet 18 years old, then you don’t need a license. The same is true for some landowners and farmers as well as people with disabilities.


Fish size and bag limits

Here are the species you can land in Indiana and the amount of fish you can take home at the end of the day. For some of them, regulations state that you can either harvest one species or include any combination of species in the daily bag. Keep in mind that the possession limit in the state of Indiana is two times the daily bag.  

There’s no bag or size limit for bluegill, yellow bass, yellow perch, and bullhead. The exceptions are Lake Michigan, where you can only bag 15 yellow perch a day and J.C. Murphey Lake in Newton County, where you can bag 25 sunfish a day.

The bag limit is generous for redear sunfish, rock bass, and crappie. You can take 25 pieces a day, and there is no size limit for them. The only exception is Dogwood Lake in Daviess County and Hardy Lake in Scott County, where crappies have a 9-inch minimum size limit.

Other generous limits are set for white or hybrid striped bass (the daily bag is 12), catfish (10) and lake whitefish (also 10). There are, of course, exceptions.

The daily limit for black bass is five fish, singly or in aggregate, but the size limit depends on the body of water. Black bass caught in a river has to have a 14-inches minimum size, while those you capture in rivers and streams have to fit in a 12 to 14 inches limit. You can only take three black bass measuring at least 14 inches from the Lake Michigan.

Other limits are set much lower. The daily bag is limited at 3 for northern pike, 2 for striped bass and only 1 for muskellunge and tiger muskellunge.


Lake Michigan

Since the species found in Lake Michigan are of special interest for both fishermen and natural conservation specialists, there are special regulations for the lake and its tributaries.   

One of the rules is that you must catch a salmon or trout by hooking them in the mouth. Otherwise, you must return them to the water. You can’t use trotline, set line or throw line. You can use a ½ inch single hook, but double or treble hooks can only be used with artificial lures and shouldn’t exceed a ⅜ inch.

It’s ok to use bows and arrows for carp, buffalo, gar, bowfin, and shad on Lake Michigan but showing up with spear guns, clubs, gigs, crossbows grab hooks and other types of equipment on the tributaries is strictly prohibited.

The bag limit is set for five salmon and trout, and you can’t take more than two lake trout. The minimum size for both salmon and trout is 14 inches on the lake and its tributaries.  


If you’re an avid fisher and cannot wait to spend some more time in nature, enjoying your favorite activity, you should know that the Indiana Fishing Regulations for the year 2020-2021 have been published. 

The guide contains precious information on who needs a fishing permit, the fishing bag limits, as well as other useful details on how to properly fish, which species to look for, as well as statistics regarding the aqua world. 



An annual fishing license for residents will cost you $17 but if you live outside the state and plan on fishing in one of its lakes regularly, you’ll have to take out of your pocket $35. If you don’t spend more than a couple of days per year practicing this activity, you can also choose a one-day permit that will cost you only $9 or one that is valid for a week and only costs $20.

As a general rule, all 2020 annual licenses and stamp privileges are valid from the beginning of the fishing season, on April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. 

The state of Indiana represents a heaven for passionate fishermen as its lakes, rivers, and creeks are filled with a wide array of delicious fish and hundreds of species of bass, crappie, pike, sunfish, catfish, and sturgeon. 

However, you should know that it is illegal to take any live fish, regardless if it’s native or non-native, and release it into any other public waters without having the right permission to do so. 

The most common types of fishing allowed in the Indian state waters


Ice fishing

If you choose this sport during the wintertime, keep in mind that no more than three lines can be used at once. Also, each line contains a maximum of three hooks or three artificial lures. 

If you’re planning a prolonged fishing trip, you should know that any portable shelters must be removed from the public waters before the ice melts out. And, if you use them before January 1st or after February 15, the structures should be removed daily. 


Float fishing

The Indiana state mentions that any fisherman is allowed to use five floats but with only one hook attached to any floating line. Don’t forget to mark the float with your name, address, or ID number issued by the DNR. 

For safety reasons, float fishing is prohibited in lakes and reservoirs. 



If spearfishing is amongst your favorite activities, you should know that you can use any type of gig, speargun, fish spear or underwater spear throughout the year and at any time of the day to catch a wide selection of fish, including the common carp, buffalo, Asian carp, and shad. 

The most common places you are allowed to use this fishing technique include the Kankakee River, the St. Joseph River, the White River, Wabash River, Maumee River, and others. 


Exceptions regarding the endangered species and their trade

A fishing license doesn’t grant you the choice to buy, sell or barter any type of fish, turtles, frogs, reptiles, or amphibians you catch in the Indiana state waters. However, all caught fish can be kept in an aquarium as long as it meets the legal bag limit and size requirements. 

Some fish species, including the bantam sunfish, lake sturgeon, channel darter, gilt darter, greater redhorse or Hoosier cavefish are considered endangered. Therefore, it is illegal to possess these fish or take them at any time, especially since most of these species are rather small in size and can rarely be caught while angling. 

If you catch any Asiatic clam, bighead carp, black carp, silver carp, round goby, rudd, walking catfish, white perch, zebra mussel, quagga mussel, snakehead, tubenose goby or zander, you should immediately kill them. They are considered high-risk predators and, by killing them, you protect Indiana’s native fish and mussels species. 


Last, but not least, boating represents one of the most popular ways to fish in any water across the country. In order to do so legally in the Indiana state waters, all motorboats must be registered. Electric boats can be used on state-owned, licensed, or leased lakes smaller than 300 acres. 


Free Fishing Days

If you’re looking to save a buck, watch out for these free fishing days during the 2020-2021 season. All Indiana residents can enjoy free fishing on May 3rd, June 6-7, and September 26. Don’t forget that all other rules and regulations apply, so make sure you catch the right fish, use the right bait, and measure or weigh your fish to be able to take it home with you. 


Is it safe to eat your fish?

Although most avid fishermen practice recreational fishing, nobody stops you from eating your prey. Fish is an important source of proteins, vitamins, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that support the cognitive function of the brain, strengthen the bones, and ensure improved mobility.

Although the Indiana state does everything it can to reduce fish poisoning cases and make sure it is safe for human consumption, there are still some things you need to take into account before grilling your bass or catfish. 

The most common concerns about fish meat are represented by the presence of harmful substances inside the fish, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls. When ingested regularly, these substances are poisonous to the human body and can lead to severe health affections. 

These contaminants are persistent in the environment and, when they are found at low levels, they do not pose a health risk. If you’re not sure which Indiana state waters are safe, you should reduce fish consumption from any of the species found here. Pregnant and nursing women, children age 15 and younger, as well as elders are the ones most exposed to poisoning. 

Generally speaking, consuming fish from lakes and reservoirs is less dangerous, as most of these waters in Indiana are kept clean and under control.

However, rivers and streams are harder to control as their waters could be contaminated anywhere along the stream. The most common species of fish (both freshwater and saltwater) that can be consumed without restriction include salmon, shellfish (crab, scallops, oysters, shrimps, clams), herring, tuna, sardines, cod, squid, trout, farm-raised rainbow trout, and whitefish. 

Freshwater perch, mahi-mahi, lobster, white tuna or halibut should be eaten once a week, while shark meat, swordfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, marlin or Chilean sea bass shouldn’t be consumed more than once a month. 

If we’re talking about fish that you can usually find in the Indiana waters, species such as walleye, white, striped or hybrid trout, sauger, silver carp, spotted bass, sunfish, largemouth bass, flathead catfish, common carp, buffalo, bullhead, smallmouth bass, Northern pike, rock bass, sauger or freshwater drum can be consumed once a month. 

Largemouth bass can be found in places such as Clear Lake or East Fork White River, while the channel catfish is mostly present in the Mississinewa River, Ohio River, St. Joseph River, or West Fork White River. 


Lake Michigan regulations

Lake Michigan is one of the most popular fishing destinations in the state and counts for millions of visitors every year. Some of the most common fish types you’ll find in these waters include Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon, pink salmon, brown trout, lake trout, yellow perch, lake whitefish, and the steelhead trout. 

The daily bag limits you to fish and bring home only 5 total salmon and trout, 15 yellow perches, and 12 lake whitefish. 


Ohio river regulations

Another welcoming fishing destination is the Ohio River. Here, you can fish for various types of bass (including largemouth, smallmouth, striped, rock, yellow, white or hybrid), catfish (blue, channel, flathead), crappie, and sauger. You may also find sturgeon but, as we previously mentioned, this species is protected by the law, and it is prohibited to fish it. 

Sportfishing is a common activity on the Ohio River but comes with its set of rules and regulations, significantly different than what you may usually find in other Indiana waters. 

For instance, you can fish the Ohio River bank to bank with a license issued in another state but in order to fish embayments or tributaries, you will need a special license issued by the Indiana or Kentucky authorities. 

Poles, hand lines, float-fishing methods, and setting lines with one single hook are the permitted methods for sport fishing in the area. Trotlines can be attached only to a tree limb, bank pole, or a tree trunk while snagging is strictly prohibited. 

If you own a sport fishing license, you are not allowed to take any paddlefish from the Indiana waters, including the Ohio River. 

The river has multiple spots suitable for fishers of all ages and skills but bear in mind that some access fees may be charged. Usually, dams are the best places to fish but, as a general rule, it is prohibited for any person to take fish within 200 yards below any dam, except by hand lines or fishing poles. 



To sum up, the waters of Indiana are the perfect place to polish your fishing skills and catch some delicious species at the same time. There is a wide variety for all tastes, and the good thing is you can enjoy some quiet time in nature, practicing social distancing, and still making the most out of the current uncertain situation. 



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