The state of Indiana has specific regulations that govern how large a fish must be for an angler to keep it. Although there are no weight guidelines for fish in Indiana, there are strict regulations regarding how long a fish must be for it to be considered a "keeper." Indiana has a large variety of fish within its lakes, ponds, reservoirs, streams, brooks and rivers, and anglers that fish these waters must be aware of the regulations.
The size limit guidelines dictate the legal length of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Unless otherwise posted, the legal length for these species is 12 inches for those caught in rivers within Indiana and 14 inches for those caught in lakes, including Lake Michigan on the state's northern border. However, certain bodies of waters in Indiana have their own legal lengths for bass: 15 inches is a legal fish on Patoga Lake and Dogwood Lake, while a 16-inch bass is legal to take home on Cecil M. Harden Lake in Parke County. Other lakes, such as Loon Lake and Robinson Lake, require a bass to be 18 inches long to be a keeper, with the Turtle Creek Reservoir in Sullivan County dictating a bass be a whopping 20 inches long to be legal. Other Indiana lakes have slot limits on bass, meaning fish between specific lengths cannot be kept. No bass between 12 and 15 inches long can be kept if caught from several lakes, including Hayswood Lake in Harrison County. These regulations are posted where there is access to the water for fishing at these lakes and are also in the Indiana Fishing Guide published by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. There is no minimum size length for yellow bass, white bass hybrids, rock bass and striped bass in Indiana.
Brown trout, lake trout and steelhead trout that anglers catch on Lake Michigan must be at least 14 inches long to be legal. Inland waters have a much smaller legal length for trout species, with the minimum length being only 7 inches for brook, lake, rainbow and brown trout. There is an 18-inch minimum placed on brown trout caught from Oliver Lake, Olin Lake and Martin Lake in LaGrange County, as well as the tail waters of Brookville Lake in Franklin County, Indiana.
Other Game Fish
Game fish such as walleye and the walleye-sauger hybrids found in Indiana must be 14 inches long to be kept. The exceptions are those walleye caught in the Ohio River, which have no minimum length regulation covering them. Also, walleyes taken from the St. Joseph's River must be no smaller than 15 inches long. Muskellunge and tiger muskies in Indiana must be at least 3 feet long to end up on someone's wall as a mounted trophy or on the dinner table. The northern pike must be 20 inches in length; the channel, flathead and blue varieties of catfish must be 10 inches long and the shovelnose sturgeon, an ancient breed of fish found in Indiana, must be 25 inches long. The way to measure this particular species is from the tip of its nose to the distinct fork in its tail.
There are several kinds of Indiana fish that don't have a minimum length, meaning an angler can keep them no matter how large they are. This is due to the fact that these fish species are abundant in the state's waters. Bluegill is one such species, as are their cousins the red-ear sunfish. Crappie and yellow perch have no minimum length in Indiana, and neither do bullhead, a type of smaller catfish found everywhere in the state and often the first kind of fish that children in the Hoosier State catch as they are introduced to fishing.