Administrative Rule (Regulation) Changes

The Natural Resources Commission gave preliminary adoption to a number of fisheries-related rule amendments on May 16, 2017. View the proposed rule language here

Public comments can be submitted to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) at: and Click on “Comment on this rule” next to the FW Biennial Fisheries Amendments or mail them to the following address:

Natural Resources Commission
Indiana Government Center North
100 North Senate Ave., Room N103
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2200

You can also submit comments at the public hearing scheduled on Thursday, August 17 at 6 pm (EDT) at the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library, 1120 Stafford Rd, Plainfield, IN 46168.

The deadline for public comments is Friday, August 18, 2017. All comments sent to the Natural Resources Commission regarding these rule changes will be provided to Commission members and Department of Natural Resources staff and will be publicly disclosed and searchable on the internet and in a paper docket as part of the final report. The final report with the request for final adoption is expected to be presented to the Natural Resources Commission at their meeting in September of 2017.

Any rule changes approved by the NRC would not take effect until after final adoption and approval by the Attorney General’s Office and Governor’s Office. The approved permanent rule changes are not expected to take effect in 2017.

Below is a summary of the rule changes:

312 IAC 9-1-3.2: Adds the term “Aquatic life” to be able to be used in different administrative rules when needed and apply to all aquatic species managed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. It would allow language to be used in one rule to apply to all of these species without the need to include the language in multiple rules governing each taxonomic group.

312 IAC 9-6-1: Increases the opening of the throat of legal minnow traps in 312 IAC 9-6-1 to be no more than 2” inches diameter (instead of the current 1”).This has been requested in order to allow larger crayfish to be collected.

312 IAC 9-6-5: Requires the tagging of all live baskets (live boxes, holding boxes, etc.) used to keep fish alive in public waters with the angler’s name and address or customer ID number for both sport anglers and commercial fishers. This does not include baskets/holders that hang over the side of a boat or are located within a boat. The commercial fishing task force has experienced a greater number of fishermen (both commercial and sport fishermen) that are using live baskets or live nets to keep fish alive before processing them or selling them. Many of these live baskets are used to keep sturgeon and paddlefish (roe-bearing species) alive and fresh until such time when the roe can be removed and sold to potential buyers. Fish that are kept in unattended live baskets in public waters (lakes, rivers, streams, etc.) create an enforcement issue for determine ownership of these fish and determining compliance with bag limits and size limits as well.

312 IAC 9-6-6: Eliminates the closure of two streams for fishing from April 15 through June 15, thereby allowing fishing year-round in these two streams: the confluence of the west branch and east branch of the Little Calumet River where it enters the Portage Burns Waterway in Porter County up to the east branch to US 20, and in Trail Creek in LaPorte County from the Franklin Street Bridge in Michigan City upstream to US 35. The Division of Fish and Wildlife has moved stocking on both Trail Creek and the Little Calumet River upstream of the closed areas for biological and social reasons. On Trail Creek, stocking locations have been moved to allow the fish to spread out within the system both in the spring and fall of the year. This will also allow for imprinting further upstream, which when the trout & salmon return as adults, will draw them into upstream reaches of Trail Creek and provide additional fishing opportunities. On the East Branch of the Little Calumet River, stocking of trout and salmon has been moved to Mineral Springs road just upstream from the closed area as a result of National Park Service rules. Only fall fingerlings are now being stocked in the Little Calumet, so there are no longer fish in the spring to protect. The DNR believes that it is more important to provide increased spring fishing opportunity for Hoosier anglers during the spring adult steelhead spawning period. Additionally, it would open lower sections of both rivers for fishing opportunities for large and smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, pike and catfish. All of these opportunities are currently not accessible due to the closures.

312 IAC 9-6-12: Restricts the “gifting” of sport-caught fish to licensed commercial fishermen, roe harvesters, roe dealers, and to others for the purpose of stocking pay lakes. There is a high demand for several of Indiana’s commercial fish species. This idea has been generated out of the continued demand of our roe bearing species (paddlefish, shovelnose sturgeon, and bowfin) and the more recent demand for trophy catfish taken from public waters and stocked in privately owned pay lakes. The DNR does not have a problem with the genuine spirit of “gifting” fish until the “gifting” is used as a disguise to profit those involved on the giving and/or receiving end of this exchange. These fish are being taken from our public waters with sport fishing methods and subsequently “gifted” to commercial fishermen or stocked in pay lakes, both of whom profit from this exchange.

312 IAC 9-7-3: Restricts the number of channel catfish that can be taken from Fidlers Pond (Elkhart County), Failing Lake (Steuben County; also known as Gentian Lake), and Flat Fork Creek Park Ponds A and B (Hamilton County). This change is intended to promote and enhance the sustainability of fishing opportunities at waters where harvest is likely to negatively impact the quality of fish populations due to factors that include intense levels of fishing pressure and subsequent harvest and lake characteristics that result in low fish production potential.

312 IAC 9-7-5: Increases the statewide minimum size limit to 24 inches for northern pike and modifies the statewide daily bag limit of three (3) to include no more than one (1) per day over 30 inches. Hamilton Lake (Steuben Co.) would be the only exception to the statewide rule, where the daily bag limit would be six (6) northern pike per day with no minimum size limit and the daily bag could include no more than one (1) per day over 30 inches. The current regulation was established to distribute the catch and protect adults until they could spawn at least once. However, recent survey data indicates that the minimum size limit for northern pike should be increased to 24 inches because females are not mature until they reach this length threshold. Increasing the minimum size limit to 24 inches would better align with the current regulations established by neighboring states and protect females until they could spawn at least once. Opportunities to catch large northern pike at Hamilton Lake have declined and surveys indicate that the population has an over-abundance of small northern pike. Therefore, the proposed “Hamilton Lake exception” aims to: (1) allow anglers to utilize the abundant population of small northern pike; (2) enhance the size structure by increasing the number of northern pike ≥ 30 inches; and (3) ensure that natural reproduction of northern pike is sustained by large fecund females.

312 IAC 9-7-6: These changes in subsection(d) would remove the slot limit for largemouth bass on the three lakes in Shakamak State Park and four lakes in the Hoosier National Forest in Perry County, making the largemouth bass size limit the statewide limit of 14”. Gizzard Shad were found in large numbers on three lakes in Shakamak State Park and four (4) lakes in the Hoosier National Forest during recent fisheries surveys last year. This slot limit is designed for optimum Largemouth Bass harvest, however, since Gizzard Shad are now abundant it needs to be changed to a 14 inch Largemouth Bass minimum length limit (the statewide rule in 312 IAC 9-7-6(c)). The 14 inch minimum length limit is designed to reduce bass harvest and increase Largemouth Bass numbers. The increase in the Largemouth Bass population is needed to help reduce the Gizzard Shad population by predation, which in turn will benefit the Bluegill population by reducing interspecific competition. Increased Gizzard Shad predation is our only feasible method to helping save the Bluegill fisheries at these lakes. The changes in subsection (i) would promote or enhance sustainability of fishing opportunities at these waters where harvest is likely to negatively impact the quality of fish populations due to factors that include: intense levels of fishing pressure and subsequent harvest, lake characteristics that result in low fish production potential, or other unique fishery characteristics.

312 IAC 9-7-13: This change increases the daily bag limit for lake trout taken in Lake Michigan and its tributaries to three (3) per day instead of two. Lake trout are a frequent target by charter fishing boats in summer, and by recreational anglers in spring and fall. However, since Michigan’s limit is three Lake Trout and Indiana’s is two, frequently these boats leave Indiana waters to catch lake trout in Michigan. Furthermore, anglers catching 3 Lake Trout in Michigan waters cannot fish Indiana waters upon their return as their legal Michigan bag limit of Lake Trout exceeds that of Indiana. These factors combine to cost Indiana anglers additional fishing opportunities as well as costing the state one-day license sales from charter trips. If the bag limit was raised in Indiana to 3 fish, some charter boats would remain in Indiana to fish, which would possibly increase the dale of one-day fishing licenses. Additionally, having the same bag limit as Michigan would simplify regulations and be less confusing for anglers, as many of them fish in both states waters during the same fishing trip.

312 IAC 9-7-14: The changes in this rule simply insert the language from 312 IAC 9-7-9 (Crappie) and 312 IA 9-7-10 (redear sunfish) into this rule so that all requirements for these species in inland waters are all in one rule. 312 IAC 9-7-9 and 312 IAC 9-7-10 would also be repealed. There is no change to the statewide limits for crappie and redear sunfish as the result of these rule changes. The only change would limit the taking of bluegill, redear sunfish, and crappie to an aggregate bag limit of fifteen (15) fish of any combination of these species from Fidlers Pond (Elkhart County), Failing Lake (Steuben County; also known as Gentian Lake), and Flat Fork Creek Park Ponds A and B (Hamilton County). This change would promote and enhance the sustainability of fishing opportunities at these waters where harvest is likely to negatively impact the quality of fish populations due to factors including the intense levels of fishing pressure and subsequent harvest and lake characteristics that result in low fish production potential.

312 IAC 9-7-15: This change would prohibit the use of a cast net, seine, or any other device used to collect bait extending from a dam downstream 500 yards, including the Ohio River. Asian carp are known to congregate below dams and can be easily confused with other bait fish. These tail water areas are popular areas for people to collect bait. Implementing this rule would help prevent the spread of Asian carp into other aquatic systems and assist law enforcement by eliminating the conflict of bait collection and mis-indentification of target bait species (some species look very similar).

312 IAC 9-7-16: These changes require the tagging of setlines and trotlines that are left unattended in the Ohio River, making it consistent with requirements for setlines and trotlines set on inland waters (312 IAC 9-7-2). The use of fish spears, spear guns, and underwater spears are already allowed in subsection (h) for these species of fish but are being combined in subsection (c) to help users understand what equipment can be used to take these species.

312 IAC 9-8-1: Adds definitions of commercial fishing gear, hoop nets, screened eggs, seines, and slat traps to clarify legal commercial fishing gear and requirements for screened eggs. Requires the tagging of a fish-holding basket, live box, live net, or any other structure or equipment in which aquatic life is contained or held and left unattended. This does not include live wells or other devices that hang over the side of a boat or are located within a boat. Also prohibits the possession of sport fishing gear or participation in a sport fishing activity while onboard a boat in which commercial fishing gear is actively being set, retrieved, or transported; is en route to set or retrieve commercial fishing gear, or that is transporting fish captured with commercial fishing gear.

The commercial fishing task force has experienced a greater number of fishermen (both commercial and sport fishermen) that are using live baskets or live nets to keep fish alive before processing them or selling them. Many of these live baskets are used to keep sturgeon and paddlefish (roe-bearing species) alive and fresh until such time when the roe can be removed and sold to potential buyers. At present, roe harvesters have to travel great distances to sell the roe from these fish. As a result, they are pressed for time to get the unprocessed roe to the dealer for processing before the fish or the roe begins to spoil. Current federal regulations and state regulations in Indiana restrict the removal and processing of the roe to dealers with a registered HAACP plan, filed with the USFDA. Therefore, most roe harvesters attempt to keep the harvested fish alive and fresh long enough to facilitate the transport to a roe dealer, or to allow the dealer to come to them (which could be once or twice a week). Many of these roe harvesters use live boxes to keep these fish alive, and do it in a clandestine fashion in order to prevent theft of the fish. Others keep their fish in live baskets that are near their residence and can be easily seen.

Trophy ‘cat’ fishermen have also been known to use these same procedures to facilitate the catch and release of large catfish during catfish tournaments, or to facilitate the live transportation of trophy catfish to pay lakes. Therefore, the tagging/labeling of these live baskets/boxes is important to know whose fish they are.

It is understood that many people that purchase a commercial fishing license, particularly in inland waters, only use the nets for a couple of months out of the year and use them in conjunction with their sport fishing gear (bank poles and trotlines). Allowing sport fishing activities (in which catch is not reported) to coincide with commercial fishing activities (in which fish that are kept are required to be reported) can lead to inaccurate commercial fishing harvest reports or complete non-compliance with commercial fishing monthly reports. If checked by an enforcement officer, a commercial fisherman running nets could just simply claim that all fish were caught via sport fishing methods. The required commercial fishing monthly harvest reports are an important tool for fisheries managers because they allows managers to analyze trends in commercial harvest and they imply potential changes to the fisheries over time. Therefore compliance and accurate reporting are necessary to be able to properly analyze these trends, and the addition of this proposed rule should increase reporting compliance of commercial fishermen.

312 IAC 9-8-2: Changes the reporting requirements to match current state forms and removes language for Lake Michigan license holders since no commercial fishing is allowed in Lake Michigan.

Language currently in 312 IAC 9-8-4 and 9-8-5 is inserted into this rule as subsections (k) and (l) to help commercial fishing license holders see all of the rule language in one place. This also helps prevent duplicate language in multiple rules for the same license holders. Changes in subsection (k)(3) and (l)(3) clarify legal commercial fishing gear and prohibits their use in a tributary of the Wabash River. Some of these are already illegal with the prohibition on the use of wings or leads on nets. Others are archaic language used to describe the devices, or the devices are no longer used. Many of the approved commercial fishing devices allowed by rule have not been used by commercial fishermen in years, sometimes decades. Commercial fishing harvest reports from commercial fishermen indicate that many of the items of gear reported to have been used does NOT include items such as dip-nets, basket-nets, basket-traps, or trap-nets. Some of these terms can be used synonymously with each other, and can virtually mean the same thing. In addition, it has been documented that these nets have been modified in ways that they can no longer be considered the device that they were intended to be used (i.e. ‘hoop net’). Documented cases where hoop nets with leads were used as entanglement devices allowed commercial fishermen to use them as ‘hoop nets with leads’, when in reality they became a ‘gill net with a turtle net at the end of it’. Defining these two devices affords greater clarity to both commercial fishermen and enforcement personnel, without affecting the effectiveness of the device.

312 IAC 9-8-3: Repeals the rule authorizing commercial fishing on Lake Michigan. Commercial fishing was closed in 1997 pursuant to IC 14-22-14-9. There is no need to have a section of commercial fishing regulations designated to commercial fishing on Lake Michigan if there is no commercial fishing allowed there. Commercial fishing on Lake Michigan does not look like it will open up again in the foreseeable future due to the yellow perch population.

312 IAC 9-8-4 and 312 IAC 9-8-5: Repeals this language since it has been added into 312 IAC 9-8-2 in subsections (k) and (l).

312 IAC 9-8-6: Adds the language “at which time all fish taken by the gear must be removed” to

prevent commercial fishermen from leaving fish (particularly roe-bearing species and trophy catfish) in their nets for extended periods of time in order to comply with harvest or size restrictions. Simply stated, this addition makes it clear to commercial fishermen that the fish have to be removed from the net each time the net is tended.

Also clarifies that commercial fishing gear cannot be used beyond the bank of the Ohio River, the ordinary high watermark of the Ohio River, or within 50 yards of the mouth of a stream. The need for this change stems from the varied interpretations by commercial fishermen as to the location of the dividing lines between our rivers and their tributaries. The locations of these dividing lines are particularly subjective in high water and flood conditions. There is a need to clarify where the dividing line is between a river and its tributaries in order for commercial fishermen to know which waters are open to commercial fishing and which waters are restricted. The appropriate limits for commercial fishing activity should not go beyond the ordinary high watermark as defined in 312 IAC 1-1-26. Prohibiting the use of commercial fishing gear beyond the ordinary high watermark will limit the use of commercial fishing activities to public waters and restrict the encroachment of fishing activities onto private property.

Also clarifies reporting requirements in 312 IAC 9-8-6(l) to conform to what commercial fishers are expected to report on the state forms reporting the monthly harvest. Language for commercial fishing reporting guidelines are currently not similar for inland waters and the Ohio River. The proposed changes are an effort to ‘clean up’ the current language to make reporting requirements more similar and clear for all commercial fishers. Also, all reports should be required to be written in ink to prevent smudging or accidental erasing of data on them. The DNR has already made efforts to modify the monthly harvest reports for the commercial fishers to ease some potential confusion, and should do the same with the corresponding regulations. These proposed regulations will help get more accurate harvest information out of the commercial fishing reports which in turn will increase our ability to analyze trends regarding commercial fisheries.

312 IAC 9-8-7: Allows the sale of processed roe (caviar) to anyone, but only allow the selling of roe or unprocessed roe only to licensed Indiana roe dealers. This is not well defined in the current regulations, and needs to clarify who can legally possess roe. Only licensed roe harvesters and dealers should be permitted to possess roe. This allows the DNR to keep track of where the roe originated from and where it is going and is consistent with requirements in IC 14-22-13-2.5.

312 IAC 9-8-8: Requires a roe dealer’s license to purchase screened eggs, not just roe, or to process roe or screen eggs into caviar for human consumption. Also requires records to be maintained for a period of 5 years.