Column: Kayaking opportunities abound

Photo Provided by Brandon Butler
Kayaks offer a great way to access many waters for fishing across Indiana while at the same time providing exercise and new experiences. There are many underrated bodies of water to kayak in Central and Southern Indiana.

By Brandon Butler

There are many advantages to fishing from a kayak. They’re usually light, making them easy to transport and control. One person can handle most and you can take them anywhere — they’ll even fit on top of most vehicles.

Kayaks also provide exercise. They don’t use gas or batteries, so they’re environmentally sound. The list can go on. Here are a few Indiana waters where kayaks are great to fish from.

West Fork of White River
Urban areas rarely receive the recognition they deserve in terms of outdoor opportunity. Visual perception often clouds reality causing many otherwise perfectly sane outdoor-minded individuals to turn up their noses at natural enjoyment within city limits. To do so is a mistake.

Indianapolis is a great city. Travel from Indy in any direction, and within an hour you’ll have passed many excellent fishing destinations, but the funny thing is, you don’t even have to leave the capital city to find great fishing. The West Fork of the White River, running right through downtown, is loaded with smallmouth.

Bill James, former chief of fisheries for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, once told me the West Fork of the White River north of Indianapolis is one of the best waters in the state for smallmouth bass fishing. A trip down this waterway helps one understand why.

The river is strewn with obvious structure to cast to along the shore as well as out towards the middle. The shoreline changes often from tree lined, to rip rap, to level sand, and to steep mud. Feeder creeks spill in along the river’s course. Fish could really be anywhere along the rocky bottom, but around the obvious structure, and at transition points is where you should focus your attention.

Driftwood River
Indiana’s Driftwood River is a classic example of the old adage, dynamite comes in small packages. At only 16 miles long, the Driftwood offers anglers a good-sized, diverse, fish filled water in an attractive natural setting. Located just east of I-65 at Columbus, the Driftwood is an easy hour’s drive from both Indianapolis and Louisville.

Formed by the confluence of the Big Blue River and Sugar Creek, and terminating at its own confluence with the Flatrock River where the two join to form the East Fork of the White River, the Driftwood essentially is the neck of an hourglass connecting two larger courses of water. It’s home to a number of fish species, including bass, sunfish, catfish, and carp, but smallmouth bass are the most common quarry of anglers.

“Because it’s so short, and usually blows out a couple of times each spring, the Driftwood just isn’t one of those rivers you hear people talking about. That doesn’t mean it’s not an outstanding fishery though,” said, Derrick Filkins of FlyMasters in Indianapolis. “The Driftwood is actually a great river to float, because there are some really deep holes that hold numbers of fish. When the river blows out, a lot of the wood structure washes away, leaving the deep holes as the best holding spots.”

Greene-Sullivan Strip Pits
 “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 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. All of these public lands and waters are located within the two counties and combine to offer exceptional 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. It’s a perfect place for paddling.

See you down the trail…

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