Column: Greene-Sullivan offers outdoor diversityJuly 15, 2019
By Brandon Butler
“Greene-Sullivan” refers to a region comprised of two adjoining counties; Greene and Sullivan. Small towns — Linton, Dugger, Jasonville, and Sullivan — are major points of civilization in and around Greene-Sullivan, but the true essence of the area is found in the wilds of thousands upon thousands of acres of reclaimed coal fields.
Forests, once completely wiped away by mining companies, have grown back dense, and what for a longtime were little more than deep scars on the Earth’s surface are now hundreds of lakes offering diverse angling opportunities.
A great appeal of the Greene-Sullivan region is the amount of public land and water available to those who seek outdoor recreation away from crowds, in the relatively crowded Midwest. Greene-Sullivan State Forest, Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), Minnehaha FWA, Fairbanks Landing FWA, John Hillenbrand FWA, Shakamak State Park and Turtle Creek Reservoir are all located within the two counties and combine to offer tens of thousands of acres of public access for fishing.
It seems to me, most anglers who regularly visit the region do so out of appreciation for its resounding wilderness feel. Little development exists on any of the public pits. Most shorelines are heavily wooded creating a beautiful backdrop for scenic angling experiences. In a part of the country where most lakes and reservoirs are lined with summer homes, often serving primarily as hotbeds for pleasure boaters, Greene-Sullivan anglers are left to enjoy the solitude and serenity of wild spaces.
All of the public areas named above offer quality angling experiences, but the Greene-Sullivan State Forest is the heartbeat of the region. What makes the state forest, which consists of 2,500 acres of water spread out across 9,000 acres of land, so appealing is its diversity of opportunity. It’s not really known exactly how many bodies of water are actually inside the boundaries of the forest.
Many of the forest lakes are isolated and well removed from the roadside. This provides the angler who is willing to invest a little work in their efforts of arrival the chance to fish relatively unpressured water, most often all by their lonesome.
There are 75 different lakes with boat ramps. Some of the ramps are well suited for typical bass boats, but some are pretty rough, and drop off steep from the bank, so they’re more suited for smaller Jon boats. And since all of the forest lakes are restricted to electric motors, a lot of people come to the forest specifically to fish from canoes, kayaks and float tubes.
Swimming in the unknown number of lakes are abundant numbers of bluegills, bass, crappie, catfish, rainbow trout and musky.
When asked to name a few specific bodies of water that are prime fishing holes, Dave Kitaka, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources regional fisheries biologist said, “It’s tough to say because there are so many places to fish, and so many different types of fishing. I mean, there’s bass and bluegill in abundance throughout the forest, hit or miss crappie and catfish, and the rainbow trout in Airline Lake. But I’d have to say, the musky fishing in Bass Lake is the highlight.”
I’ve been fortunate to live and fish extensively in renowned states of the country like Colorado, Montana and Michigan. All deserving of their notoriety and praise.
But even in those epic outdoor paradises, I never found a place that exudes such a simple stance of natural relaxation as the Greene-Sullivan. If ol’ Huck Finn were around, I’ve no doubt he’d feel at home, hat pulled down over his eyes, floating the day away with a cane in his hand, fishing one of the region’s many secluded waters.
In my opinion, it would be tough to design a better weekend escape, than tossing a fly rod in the back seat, a tent in the trunk, strapping a canoe to the roof, and heading to the strip pits. Greene-Sullivan is the diamond-in-the-rough region of Indiana.
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