IN.gov - Skip Navigation

Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

DNR Home > Divisions > Communications > Outdoor Indiana Magazine - Archives > Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2010 > Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2010 - Feature Stories Outdoor Indiana - May/June 2010 - Feature Stories

Director's Column
Creature Feature
BIG OUTDOORS - North Webster
War & Peace

Director's Column

Get someone hooked on fishing
People who know me know that I love to fish.
Robert E. Carter, Jr.

Director Robert E. Carter, Jr. Fishing is a wholesome—and therapeutic—activity. To me, there’s nothing more relaxing than casting a line onto quiet waters. It’s amazing how quickly the challenges of the day can vanish. Catching fish is always the goal, but this simple connection with the natural world seems to matter more.

It’s a passion that began when I was about 8 years old and my brother Shawn was 10. We’d hop on our bikes on a warm summer day and ride to the strip pits not far from our Clay County home.

This was coal country, where hundreds of lakes and ponds came into being after surface mining operations closed. These steep-walled pools are scattered across southwest Indiana and provide endless opportunities for anglers of all ages to catch bluegill, largemouth bass or whatever else is biting.

At the time, I never would have guessed that years later I’d have the good fortune to be director of the DNR and its Division of Reclamation, which oversees converting former surface mines into productive land and water resources, including the kinds of places where Shawn and I discovered the joy of fishing.

Memories of those childhood days filter back into my mind every year at this time. I’ve never lost that passion for fishing and am proud to have passed it along to my son Kade.

You can do the same with your children, other relatives and friends. June is the perfect month to test the waters and turn someone on to fishing, no matter his or her age.

Indiana is blessed with an abundance and variety of fishing opportunities. There’s Lake Michigan to the northwest, the natural lakes in the northeast corner, reservoirs and rivers scattered across the state, and the Ohio River along our southern border. And, of course, all those strip pits.

They all have fish of one kind or another—bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, striped bass, pike, muskie, and crappie.

Warmer days are here. Summer is right around the corner. Think I’ll go fishing.

Back to the top

Creature Feature

Ambush bug (Phymata))
By Ben Shadley

An ambush bug, with killer beak folded and tucked under chin and abdomen, waits for an insect meal in a Marion County garden. It’s a good thing ambush bugs average only about 13 millimeters long. If they were much larger, an afternoon walk in the garden might be considerably less relaxing.

Their method of feeding seems vicious, which, given the relatively gruesome practices of the insect world, is really saying something. Also consider that these carnivorous insects frequently attack prey many times their own size, and this bug begins to look fearsome.

As its name suggests, this bug lies in wait, hidden, until its prey moves within range. Then it attacks, holding its soon-to-be meal with powerful front legs just before it employs its killing technique.

The ambush bug sticks its beak inside the unlucky captive while it’s still alive and sucks out the insides. The prey doesn’t last long, and soon the bug discards whatever shell remains.

But don’t worry, unless by some twist of evolutionary fate these insects grow considerably larger, we’re safe for now.
DNR entomologist Marcus McDonough assured that won’t be happening any time soon. For now, a hard, well-placed slap will protect you from becoming a hapless victim.

McDonough, a nursery inspector, is living proof. He frequently encounters ambush bugs.

"They’re not uncommon in gardens across the country, but often go unseen because of their effective camouflage and habit of staying very still."

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

An ambush bug, with killer beak folded and tucked under chin and abdomen, waits for an insect meal in a Marion County garden.

Back to the top

BIG OUTDOORS - North Webster

Water skied in a small town. Fished in a small town. Hunted near a small town. Dixied in a small town. Met a mermaid in this small town.
By Marty Benson
Photography by Frank Oliver

Chae Dolson has been hooked on muskie fishing since 1994. For the last 10 years, Dolson has operated a guide service in North Webster. Muskie are known as the fish of 10,000 casts.The miller couldn’t have known his dam would spawn what may be the state’s best little outdoors town.

Thomas Boydston likely never heard the term “outdoor sports” before or after he bought his workplace in 1847. Such activities generally had a purpose similar to that for milling grain - sustenance.

The body of water the dam produced, first called Boydston Lake, was originally separated into anywhere from two to seven lakes, depending whom you ask. Today’s singular lake, dubbed Webster in 1879 for the town adorning its shoreline, covers nearly a square mile.

The seductive Kosciusko County water, woods and their treasures beckon enthusiasts of varied interests year round.

“This is about as far south as you can get for four seasons of outdoors,” said Chae Dolson, a local muskie fishing guide. “We’re right at the edge.”

Ice and snow sports abound during months when most Hoosiers slosh through a wintry-mix purgatory. Fishing, both ice and ... well, melted ice, thrives in North Webster, which added the directional designation the same year the lake’s name became official. The change distinguished the local post office from the unincorporated namesake in Wayne County. The locals still prefer plain old “Webster,” which is situated in an area where water abounds.

“There are 80 lakes in (this county) with public access,” Dolson said. “It’s a treasure trove of fishing.”

The sport being his livelihood, that’s the raspy-voiced guide’s focus, but his words adequately describe the town’s overall outdoor bounty. The 900-or-so-person haven offers a smorgasbord of options, presented with a disarmingly friendly welcome.

Fishing pervades life in North Webster, even its annual Mermaid Festival, which will happen for the 65th consecutive year in June. When the event started, its purpose was to mark the start of fishing season. Bass was the prime target species. Although bass and other fish still have many local fans, muskies now turn the town’s reels.

“There is no question that (it’s) the best muskie fishing spot in the state, especially for numbers of muskies,” said Jed Pearson, DNR fisheries biologist.

Dolson, who also takes clients on other area lakes to “hunt,” as some call pursuit of the elusive monster fish, agreed.

“Here, this is the fish of 1,000 casts, not the fish of 10,000 casts like it is at some of the bigger lakes (in other states and Canada),” he said. “It’s easier here than other places.”

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

Chae Dolson has been hooked on muskie fishing since 1994. For the last 10 years, Dolson has operated a guide service in North Webster. Muskie are known as the fish of 10,000 casts.

Back to the top

War & Peace

Fort Harrison’s Roots, Part II
By Marty Benson
Photography by John Maxwell

Thomas Huebner of Homecroft sent us this slide of elk in Brown County State Park he took in 1965. No elk remain in the park today. Retired DNR biologist John Olson said the elk eventually wandered outside the park and were killed or hit by cars. For many people, state parks mean peace; with its history, Fort Harrison State Park means war, too—or at least preparation for it.

Most times these days, nature’s quiet pervades the grounds, despite the semi-urban location. Periodically, military displays and reenactments interrupt, sparking emotions as few other state parks can.

Interpretive naturalist Jeff Cummings witnessed this in the park’s nature center during an annual display on World War II’s Battle of the Bulge a couple of years ago.

“A fella came in with a walker with his daughter who was maybe in her 60s,” Cummings said. “I let them experience the exhibit. Then I asked them what they thought. The lady was very nice about it but he had this scowl on his face.”

Sensing an unsatisfied customer, the naturalist asked the elderly gentleman if he could answer any questions.

“I figured he might be unhappy with the changes the civilians had made to his fort,” Cummings said, recalling comments he occasionally gets.

To a degree, the assumption was figuratively true.

“He looked at me with electric blue eyes, that, even as old as he was, made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and said in broken English: ‘Your soldiers were children and your officers were boys. Had we not run out of gas and bullets, we would have killed them all and sent you back to England.’ ”

The former German officer had fought in the famous battle, been captured and somehow ended up in Indianapolis that day. When the man left, Cummings assessed the featured photos from a new perspective.

“You looked at the Germans and they were hard-bitten professional soldiers,” Cummings said. “They looked like they chewed on fence posts. Our guys looked as though they had been selling hot dogs and popcorn nine months before they had gone in the Army.

“Just ‘boys’ - that guy was right.”

Now aged and hardened, if lucky enough to have survived the war and challenges of senior citizenry, those World War II vets visit the park during such events with reflective eyes. As many as 200,000 Americans who fought in the war, including most Hoosier participants, spent their first few days of service on the grounds of Fort Harrison.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

An actor portrays a U.S. Army medic treating a soldier during a World War II Battle of the Bulge reenactment in January at Fort Harrison State Park.

Back to the top