TERRE HAUTE —
“I love fishing,” Hester Page said with a big smile as she sat in her wheelchair along the bank of Maple Lake at the Maple Avenue Nature Park.
While she usually catches sunfish, bluegill and whatever else will jump onto her hook, Page said she was hoping to land some of the rainbow trout recently released in the lake by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources as part of its Go FishIN in the City program.
Several anglers ringed the city’s newest recreation area this past week as word of the trout stocking spread through the community.
On Thursday near a large tree along the southeast bank, Rob Thompson and Steve Allen had almost caught their limit of five rainbow trout each after fishing for a couple of hours.
“I came here Tuesday fishing and didn’t have no luck,” Allen said. “I talked to a fella who’d caught his limit and he suggested some bait, so I went to Gander Mountain and got bait, and then came back — and caught nothing.”
But on Thursday, Allen’s luck had changed as he had four trout on a stringer by 1 p.m. and was trying for his limit.
Thompson was having a lot of luck, as well. He caught the limit of five trout per day, but kept fishing for other species to enjoy the day and relax.
An Indiana fishing license costs $17, and a trout stamp is an additional $11, which may seem expensive. But both Allen and Thompson agreed the price was worth the fish.
“I don’t mind paying it,” Thompson said of the license and stamp, “because they’re stocking the lake for you, and it’s expensive to buy trout in the store.”
Indiana-licensed anglers fishing for trout are required to have an $11 trout/salmon privilege stamp, but can also purchase a one-day fishing license for $9, which includes one-day trout/salmon fishing privileges. The licenses can be purchased at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/5330.htm, or anywhere licenses are sold.
The DNR, in cooperation with Terre Haute Parks and Recreation, stocked the 11-acre lake with 549 trout last week. Last fall, DNR stocked channel catfish in the lake. The nature park opened to the public last year, but for years the property was an attractive nuisance visited by anglers who trespassed to get to the water.
Now it is a focus of the city and DNR through the Go FishIN in the City program, an initiative to promote urban fishing.
“We want to encourage people to start fishing,” said David Kittaka, DNR fisheries biologist.
The success of the program will be measured through periodic creel counts, when a creel clerk interviews anglers and inspects fish caught to compile statistical data concerning recreational fishing.
DNR clerk Jake Heeb was greeting anglers as they left the fishing area from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, examining the fish to identify species and sex as well as number and size of the fish.
This data will also give the DNR a better sense of how people are catching fish.
Heeb interviewed 13 anglers, and three of them reported that they were targeting rainbow trout. The rest of the anglers were fishing for bass, bluegill and catfish.
Heeb documented nine trout harvested, and 11 caught and released.
One lifelong resident of the Maple Avenue area spent about an hour at the park, trying to get his reels in shape for a season of fishing.
“This is the best money the politicians ever spent — right here,” 93-year-old Paul Sanders said as he talked to Heeb. “Get the kids out here fishing. Get them off their butts and out from in front of the television.”
Sanders recalled how Third Street — today’s U.S. 41 — used to stop at Maple Avenue. Today, U.S. 41 and Indiana 63 extend northward at that point. Maple Lake is a backwater of the Wabash River, but back in Sanders’ youth, access to the lake was obstructed by woods and brush.
Today, a smooth ribbon of concrete encircles the lake, with offshoots of mulch at cleared intervals around the lake to provide access to the water. Sanders said that his son, who lives in Michigan, visited a few days ago, and they were able to walk around the lake and talk about fishing.
“You can sit out here and not have a care in the world,” Sanders said of the relaxation of fishing.
Heeb said the DNR hopes that people will fish the trout and catfish out of the lake to supplement their dinner tables. The fish are not native to the lake, and if the water warms up too much, the trout may not survive since they are coldwater fish.
But, since the DNR plans additional stocking of the lake in April, May and June, there should be plenty of fish to catch all summer.
“I don’t care much about catching catfish. I’m afraid of them,” said Sandy Chapman as she loaded her gear into her pickup truck after an unsuccessful afternoon on the lake shore.
She said she just started coming to the lake this year, but she plans to come back.
“Fishing is my favorite thing to do,” she said.
The park has easy access from the street with a large parking area and a boat ramp in progress. The park is open from dawn to dusk. It currently has no restroom facility, but there is a small pavilion and covered picnic tables.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.