Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area special place for southern Indiana fishing



Dogwood Lake is a hideaway of sorts within Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area, a getaway for anglers who like the action of hooks being hit hard and often by bluegill, crappie and bass on its peaceful waters.

Tucked into 8,060 acres of park land are 1,400 acres of fishing prospects. Boats are the best idea as equipment to fool the fish, but shoreline casting can work, too.

In a place that has a more restrictive speed limit than a school zone — 10 mph — Jackson County anglers willing to drive about 80 miles and who seek slow-paced surface travel and a quieter location can find solace and fun in what may be the most inviting fishing destination in the region.

Ask Indiana Department Natural Resources fisheries biologist Dave Kittaka, who is so enthusiastic about the lake that his sales pitch will make fishermen’s mouth water.

“Dogwood is probably the most consistent good fishing lake we have in the state, for sure in the southern part of the state,” he said. “We say it has been on fire since 1976.”

There is no such thing as perfect, but April starts to heat up, May is hot, June is inviting and you can’t go wrong in just about any warm-weather month on the calendar. The bite is so strong much of the time that it’s a good thing the state has size limits or the populations might be permanently reduced.

Some Jackson County fishermen who have made semiannual trips to Dogwood for years tell stories of catching hundreds of fish over a few-day period. Of course, they have to throw many back because they are too small to be keepers to save for the grill.

On a Saturday a few weeks ago, the crowds were not heavy and the fishing was only rated fair to good by many, but others who put in their time carried off coolers full of fish for future dining.

Anglers come for short stays or multiple-day stayovers at the adjacent campground. Some are regulars or have been for many years.

“All my life,” said Travis Gibson, 29, of how long he has fished Dogwood.

He was accompanied by his dad, Randy, and daughter, Aela, 6, about to putter out to reel in some sunshine and fish.

“It’s beautiful,” Travis said. “There’s fish in here, and there’s good quality.”

A gaggle of ducks, including some young hatchlings, swam past. A kayaker put in and began paddling out of sight. They both represented scenic decoration on the water.

The Gibsons were about to disappear into wider water away from the dock, as well. Randy did note that the day before when he was out, he had landed a bluegill worth talking about.

“I got a 2-pound bluegill,” he said.

Bon appetit.

Crappie and bluegill in abundance

Chris Flickner of DePauw wore a T-shirt that broadcast “Indiana Crappie Man.” He was not showing off so much as playing along with a tease propagated by daughter Lucy, who posted a video of him and his catch a year earlier.

“Now, it’s a running joke,” he said.

Flickner was with teenaged son Carson, whom he was allowing to park the boat for the first time. As parallel parking lessons go, it was a success with no dinging.

“Not bad for his first time,” Chris said.

Carson held up one notable crappie, lengthy enough to qualify as a legal fish, but it was not completely clear exactly how long it was without a ruler or yardstick handy.

“It was fighting,” Carson said of this highlight catch of the day.

Chris said there have been times 60 or 70 crappie were caught, many of them of the eating variety.

“Oh yes, they will be in the pan,” he said.

Flickner said he wasn’t quite sure how he first heard that Dogwood was a place to be.

“Word of mouth,” he said. And the reputation? “Big fish.”

Kittaka can vouch for that. The size minimum to keep crappie is 9 inches, but he said, “The average sized fish is 10½ inches.” Are they increasing in size? “I really think so.”

The two boats calling it a day at the same time were in partnership, friends, the Flickners and the second boat hauling around Mason Swarens, 15, and his brother, Noah, 14.

They had launched before daylight and put in several hours fishing before packing it in shortly before 3 p.m. Not before making a generous catch, crappie being the specialty for the Flickners, bluegill for the Swarens. Both types of fish were eligible for cooking.

“Fishing’s good here,” Mason Swarens said.

While the Flickners and Swarens concentrated on favorite species, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, yellow perch and everything, it seems, short of sharks, comes up on a line at Dogwood at times.

Biologist salesman for Dogwood

Kittaka said one reason the fishing is so good is “the water quality is very clear.”

Spring produces spawning bluegill. The speed limit is popular for many, and it’s important because the lake can be challenging to navigate since there are numerous stumps and other barely visible hazards. It’s a matter of safety.

“You can have any size outboard,” Kittaka said, “but you can only go 10 mph.”

In a phrase bound to make anglers think, “That’s a problem I can live with,” Kittaka said. “The biggest problem with that lake is every spot looks good. You can spend a whole week out there.”

Samantha Strouse is spending months out there, all summer in fact. She is working onsite for DNR taking a creel survey, eight hours at a time, checking with those who come off of the water about how the fishing went, what they caught and if they have any thoughts about the place. Some anglers she sees several times a week.

Strouse, 21, a college student at Vincennes, who hopes to become a conservation law enforcement officer, will probably set a Dogwood Lake record for most time spent standing near the shore. She is easy enough to spot, carrying a clipboard and writing utensil.

“I have a pretty entertaining job,” Strouse said. “I get to see what everyone catches.”

And hear the occasional fish story that fishermen love to tell.

While putting a boat into the water, Strouse heard one group of four seeking bass make a bet that the angler with the smallest fish or no fish had to spring for dinner. They were apparently setting up one guy who had never fished before.

“They teased him,” Strouse said. “They didn’t make it around the first corner, they’d only been out 2 minutes, and that guy caught one.”

She was still so close by on shore, the guys could yell back to her from the boat.

“‘Hey, Creel Girl!'” they shouted. “‘Look!’ Those other guys were so mad.”

A lot of the anglers don’t either know or remember her name and just call her “Creel Girl.” One benefit that comes with the job is being able to drop a line from shore when it’s slow with no boats docking for a long period.

“A lot of times during the week, it’s that way,” Strouse said.

Another time, three boys, which she took to be brothers, apparently borrowed the family boat without permission and had an “America’s Funniest Home Videos” time trying to launch it. She watched them with amusement as they struggled and overheard snippets of conversation.

“They were having a heck of a time getting the boat launched,” Strouse said. “One said, ‘We have to call Mom.’ Another older one said, ‘We’re not calling Mom.’ I was standing there chuckling. They just couldn’t back the trailer in right. It took time and a great deal of energy.”

A popular place

There was mixed fishing on this May day, some anglers docking with 14 keepers, one disappointed guy with only one. One boat driver was new to the lake and hadn’t gotten the word in advance about the stumps and the 10 mph speed limit. He was an unhappy dude.

Jonathan Kemp lives in Montgomery, so Dogwood is like his backyard pond. He is able to just drop in on a whim for a couple of hours. He caught seven bluegill.

“Not the biggest,” he said. “We like it a lot here. It’s a beautiful lake. I love the lake.”

Dave Fromme said he had been out about six hours and probably hooked 30 crappie with 10 or 12 keepers.

“A lot of people don’t realize it’s here,” Fromme said of Dogwood and its high-quality fishing. “It’s nice to have the nature to enjoy.”

Blake Hunter of Washington has fished Dogwood by boat and from shore. There is a spillway and creek where bluegill might hide out, and he said he once saw a catfish that had to weigh 20 pounds.

Dogwood was busier than ever last summer in 2020 during the COVID-10 pandemic when people’s choices of entertainment were limited and they headed to the outdoors. But even now with the world going mask-less again, it’s the place to fish.

“It’s always busy every weekend,” Hunter said.

As it should be, in Kittaka’s mind, with a newfound awareness of outdoor pleasures as an offshoot of the pandemic and the steady high-caliber fishing in Glendale at Dogwood.

People who buy fishing licenses support the fishery, and Kittaka said for the most part, the more, the better.

“I’m hoping we’re going to ride the wave,” Kittaka said. “I just wish you would pick up your trash.”

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