FORT WAYNE — “The lake.”
It is that one ambiguous, all-encompassing summertime weekend and vacation destination for many city and area residents.
“So, what are you doing this weekend?”
“We’re going to the lake.”
And that’s it. No elaboration. Nothing else needed. No one seems to be curious as to the name of the lake, its location or its mysterious allure from May to October. “The lake” is good enough. And away these folks go Friday evening and won’t return until late Sunday.
“I have some friends, … and they moved here from the Dallas area,” says Phil Bloom, director of communications with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “I recall her saying at one time they kept hearing people say, ‘We’re going to the lake, we’re going to the lake.’ She envisioned this massive lake that everybody was going to.”
“The lake” is actually many lakes in northern Indiana, southern Michigan and even northwest Ohio – Saturday and Sunday havens for relaxation and recreation; of sailboats and s’mores. But what of those individuals and families who don’t have a cottage or camper or small trailer near or on “The Lake?” What if they want to swim, or boat, or fish? Where can they go when it’s water, water everywhere, but not a drop to float a bobber?
Bloom says the Indiana DNR division of fish and wildlife stocked 12 ponds throughout the state last year, including Fort Wayne’s Lakeside Park, with channel catfish. According to figures from a DNR survey, nearly 24,000 people fished about 44,500 hours between April and August, and an estimated 12,000 claimed they caught a fish.
“Many state agencies like ours have been involved for years in fish management on a lot of the freshwater lakes and a lot of the reservoir lakes, creating fishing opportunities for people,” Bloom says. “But not everybody can get there. Not everybody has a cottage at the lake, or a grandparent or an uncle or a friend who has a place at the lake, and they want to go fishing. So this program was to bring the fish to the people.”
Yet what if Mom and Dad want to take their youngsters onto the water and fish; to feel the gentle rock of waves lapping the sides of the boat, or to cast a line in any direction they choose? Those opportunities are there, as well.
Marinas on several of the larger lakes in northern Indiana offer fishing boats to rent, as well as kayaks, paddle boats and pontoons. It’s just a matter of finding which lakes have rentals and securing a reservation.
The Corner Landing and the Potawatomi Inn, both on Lake James near Angola, rent fishing boats with outboard motors.
To rent a boat with an eight-horse motor for a half-day (7:30 a.m. to noon, or 12:30 p.m. to 6:30) at the Corner Landing, it’s $60. For a full day, it’s $75, or $270 for a week. At the Potawatomi Inn, the available boats with outboard motors may be rented for $100 per day or $60 for a half day. One outboard motor is 15-horse, and another is 25.
At Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Albion, where 11 lakes are connected, outboards are not permitted. Rowboats, at $5 per hour plus tax or $21.40 for the day, may be equipped with electric motors.
All three places rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boats.
“For northern Indiana, we have 450 natural lakes,” says Jed Pearson, district fisheries biologist with the Indiana DNR.
“The trouble with that is we don’t have very many shoreline fishing opportunities,” Pearson says. “We focus most of our effort into providing the boat ramp. If you want to go and fish at a boat ramp, you can do that. Most of the times they’re in shallow water, close to shore. We do have some ramps that have fishing piers on them.”
If you’re a fishing enthusiast without a lake, Pearson suggests Chain O’ Lakes.
“They have rowboats available, and they’ve got canoes and kayaks available,” he says. “They’ve got all those lakes that are accessible by those boats, so you’ve got a lot of water to cover and a lot of good fishing available within those lakes. In terms of the best area in northeast Indiana, that’s right at the top of the list.”
If getting to Albion or Angola is a challenge, Bloom says area residents may take advantage of the DNR’s rainbow trout stocking program.
“One of the places that they’ve always stocked is right there at Spy Run Creek in Franke Park,” Bloom says. “Certainly our bank-fishing opportunities (are) in a lot of places. … There are a lot of fish facilities below those three main dams at Salamonie, Roush and Mississinewa reservoirs where people can fish.
“Getting the fish is the challenge no matter where you go.”
Even if it’s “the lake.”