Indiana hasn’t always been known as a great state for walleye fishing, but the tides have been changing in recent decades. These days, more Hoosier anglers are targeting walleye than ever before, and more are catching them.
Walleye have a long history of being stocked in Indiana waters with mixed success. But the Indiana DNR has ramped up stocking efforts since 2001. The agency now stocks a bit larger walleye fingerlings in addition to fry in many lakes.
The result has been a clear increase in walleye numbers and sizes. These days, no matter what part of Indiana you’re in, you can drive to a solid walleye lake within an hour or two. And you’ll have a great chance of bringing home enough tasty walleye fillets for fish dinner or two.
That said, different parts of the state offer varying opportunities. Northern Indiana is dominated by relatively small natural lakes, with plenty of rocky structure that walleye love. Southern Indiana’s fishing revolves more around larger reservoirs, but walleye do well here too.
Anglers also should not overlook Indiana’s rivers. The state record walleye is a tie between two different 14-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in the Tippecanoe and Kankakee rivers in the 1970s.
We’re about to distill all of those types of waters down into the very best walleye fishing lakes and rivers in Indiana. You might as well fish the best before you try the rest.
Wherever you target walleye in Indiana, remember that these fish are almost always bottom-oriented, preferring rock, gravel, and other hard-bottomed areas. They have sensitive eyes that give them excellent night vision, and they are averse to bright sunlight.
Other than late winter and early spring, when walleye congregate in shallow areas as they prepare to spawn, the best opportunities to catch walleye in shallow water from these Indiana lakes and rivers are between sunset and sunrise.
You’ll find tactical and tackle tips for the local waters below. Also, be sure to check out the link at the bottom of this article to read our full walleye fishing how-to guide.
Northern Indiana Walleye Lakes
Winona Lake is a natural lake that spans 562 acres in the city of Warsaw in Kosciusko County. It’s home to one of Indiana’s longest-running and most successful natural lake walleye stocking programs.
Anglers net walleye up to 28 inches here, but overall, it’s better to think of Winona as a numbers lake than a trophy walleye fishery. Expect to catch the majority of fish right around the 14-inch ‘keeper’ mark, along with a few bigger ‘eyes.
Winona Lake is a glacial lake with ideal walleye habitat, including ample weed beds and rocky bottom structure. The most consistently productive spots are the two prominent humps toward the lake’s southern end, just north of the Horseshoe area.
Local anglers catch walleye in these areas year-round, but May and June are the most productive months.
Walleyes patrol weed lines and rocky edges around the sides of the humps during daylight hours and move up to the shallower parts around dusk. The larger of the two humps tops out at about 10 feet.
Fishing after dark is a great way to take advantage of the shallower walleye bite and beat the crowds. Expect heavy boat traffic on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
A wide range of tactics can be effective, including trolling crawler harnesses and shad-imitating crankbaits. A live leech suspended just off the bottom beneath a slip float is a great choice when the bite is a little slower.
Bank access to Winona Lake is quite limited, but there is a public boat ramp at the northern end of the lake on Hillside Drive.
Winona Lake is also known for top-notch crappie fishing, and anglers often catch a mixed bag of walleye and crappie.
A 669-acre reservoir in Noble County, Sylvan Lake has established itself as one of Indiana’s best walleye lakes over the last 20-plus years. There may be no other lake where the Indiana DNR’s walleye stocking program has been more successful.
Electrofishing surveys of Sylvan Lake reveal one of the densest walleye populations in the state, and angler reports back that up. Anglers land plenty of healthy walleye every year, including many between 14 and 24 inches.
Areas throughout the lake can yield good catches, but the area along the dam is one of the most routinely productive spots. This part of the lake drops off quickly to a depth of about 18 feet, and the rocky structure along the drop-off produces impressive numbers of fish.
Ice fishing is popular here, and the Gravel Pit Basin toward the upper end of the lake is one of the most popular areas for ice anglers. The area around Antler Point and Chicken Coop Island is also a hotspot.
Ice anglers often park at Gene Stratton Porter State Historic Site and walk out onto the lake to reach some of the best ice fishing areas toward the upper end. There is also a public boat launch toward the lower end of the lake with ample parking on Kelly Street in Rome City.
Besides fishing through the ice, the best walleye bite is usually in April and May and again from late September through October.
In early spring, there’s also a good walleye bite in the tailwater below the Sylvan Lake dam.
Starke County’s Bass Lake has gained a reputation as one of Indiana’s most perplexing fishing lakes, one that puzzles anglers and DNR biologists alike.
For starters, electrofishing surveys of Bass Lake have turned up no bass whatsoever, which is almost unheard of for this lake (and unfortunate for its name).
Second, surveys found young-of-year walleye during a period when the DNR had suspended walleye stocking. That finding points to natural reproduction, which is equally rare in Indiana lakes.
In any case, stocking of walleye fry and advanced fingerlings resumed in 2021 after a three-year break, and the walleye fishing here appears to be getting better and better.
Plenty of keeper fish ranging from 14 to 18 inches are available, along with a modest number of larger walleye.
Bass Lake encompasses 1,345 acres, making it the third-largest natural lake in Indiana. It’s quite shallow (just 6 feet on average) with highly turbid water and very little vegetation.
Bass Lake is one of the fastest lakes to warm up every spring in Northern Indiana, and walleye are caught immediately after ice-out.
Walleye usually spend their days in deeper water (15 to 20 feet) and rise up to nearby flats at night to feed. After sundown, a lot of classic presentations work, including crawler harnesses, jig-and-minnow combos, and Rapalas.
Areas around Cranberry Point and the nearby hump are some of the most productive for walleye. Gull Point and the drop-off north of Bass Lake Beach and Campground are also good spots.
Known as a great panfish lake, 1,864-acre Lake Maxinkuckee has also been stocked with walleye for many years, and has developed a quality walleye fishery. It’s the second-largest natural lake in Indiana, with clear water and a ton of excellent rocky habitat.
Walleye over 5 pounds are caught here with some regularity, and 14- to 20-inch walleye weighing 1 to 3 pounds are highly abundant.
The shallow spring walleye bite usually gets going in mid-April, with lots of fish in 5 feet of water or less. Leeches are the top bait this time of year.
Throughout summer, walleye are caught by trolling and jigging at depths between 12 and 15 feet after dark. Crawler harness rigs are effective baited with a minnow, leech, or nightcrawler.
Lake Maxinkuckee has highly erratic bottom contours, with abundant rocky bars, ledges, humps, and submerged islands. It’s all perfect walleye habitat but can also make it challenging for anglers to get their bearings.
Quality electronics and a detailed depth contour map are great tools for finding your way around Lake Maxinkuckee. Try trolling along both sides of Long Point, or over the rocky structure that dominates the eastern side of the lake.
Lake Maxinkuckee is also very popular among ice fishermen, who often jig for a mixed bag of walleye and panfish using jigs tipped with wax worms. Ice anglers also target larger walleye with minnows on tip-ups.
A public access site with launch facilities is located on West Shore Drive.
We also included Lake Maxinkuckee in our rundown of best yellow perch fishing lakes in Indiana, and you’re likely to find schools of these related species (and favorite walleye dinner) while fishing here.
Southern Indiana Walleye Lakes
One of Indiana’s largest reservoirs, Brookville Lake spans 5,260 acres on the East Fork Whitewater River. It’s almost certainly the best walleye lake in Southern Indiana, and a strong case could be made that it’s the best in the entire state.
Brookville Lake is the source of all broodstock for the Indiana DNR’s walleye stocking program. Every year, fisheries personnel collect walleye eggs at the lake. After hatching, about 10 million fry are returned to Brookville Lake to help bolster the population.
Walleye in Brookville Lake occasionally top 10 pounds. Smaller fish measuring 14 to 18 inches are much more common, but you have a real shot at a 5-pounder on any given day.
During an average year, walleye fishing starts as soon as the water temperature creeps into the low 40s. Anglers catch a bunch of walleye on crankbaits along the rocky face of the dam in March, often in just a foot or two of water.
Post-spawn walleye congregate around rocky points, the dam area, and the lake’s two major bridge crossings in early April. Backs of coves are also productive, with jig and nightcrawler combos being some of the most effective presentations.
Shad-imitating crankbaits become some of the best lures as walleye gradually transition toward summer haunts. The best bite is after dark along rocky shores and on flats adjacent to the main river channel.
The Wolf Creek and Templeton Creek arms of the reservoir offer a lot of great walleye fishing. Fish can almost always be caught shallow at night, though during the dog days of summer, you may have to focus on 12- to 16-foot depths.
Mounds State Recreation Area is a popular place to launch and fish from shore on Brookville Lake.
There’s also an excellent early spring bite in the tailwater below the dam, which also is among the best trout fishing spots in Indiana.
Brookville Lake also is a solid lake for other types of fishing, including ranking among the best catfish fishing lakes in Indiana.
Indiana’s largest reservoir, 10,750-acre Monroe Lake is a vast, sprawling impoundment that offers excellent fishing for multiple species.
Hybrid striped bass, also known as wipers, are stocked here in abundance, and anglers often catch them along with walleye in the spring.
When it comes to walleye, Monroe Lake (a.k.a. Lake Monroe) doesn’t put up the numbers that Brookville Lake does. So you often have to work for your catch here, but the average size is larger.
Walleye between 20 and 22 inches, which weigh around 3 pounds, are average in Monroe Lake, and anglers boat plenty of fish over 5 pounds. Quality fish are available year-round if you know where to look.
Pre-spawn walleye fishing in March is best in the tailwater below the dam. Walleye stack up in the last 100 yards below the dam and often strike spoons and curlytail grubs.
Fish are also caught on rocky main lake points and the backs of coves this time of year.
After spawning, many walleye stay in the creek arms and bays where they spawned, relating to secondary points. The Allens Creek, Ramp Creek, and Moore Creek arms of the lake are highly productive. The State Route 446 Causeway is another good spot.
Woody cover is often crucial in Monroe Lake and overlooked by walleye anglers. This lake has a lot of timber, and anglers can catch walleye by jigging among the submerged trees close to the bottom or by trolling just outside the timber.
Multiple state recreation areas provide boat launch facilities and bank access on Monroe Lake. Fairfax State Recreation Area has excellent facilities, and is convenient to some great walleye water at the lower end of the lake.
A large reservoir with multiple long, meandering creek arms, Patoka Lake spans 8,880 acres, making it Indiana’s second-largest reservoir. It’s best known as a bass lake, but there’s also a substantial walleye population.
The Indiana DNR stocks walleye fry and advanced fingerlings in Patoka Lake every year, and has established a healthy, stable population. Patoka Lake is one of the southernmost reservoirs in Indiana, and walleye have an impressive growth rate here thanks to a longer growing season.
By their second summer, walleye often reach 14 inches, and anglers land a few fish topping 8 pounds almost every year. That said, Patoka is not a numbers lake for walleye. Most days, you must put in some solid hours on the water to catch your limit of walleyes here.
Because the reservoir is so far south, walleye get moving early in Patoka Lake. You’ll find fish staging in shallower water as early as February when there’s a good bite close to the bank on rocky points and along the lake’s several bridges and causeways.
The fishing is tough during and immediately after the spawn, but persistent anglers catch a lot of quality fish in late spring. Focus on secondary points inside the coves and creek arms, and start shallow and work your way deeper.
The Painters Creek Arm is a perennial favorite among local walleye anglers. Launching is available at the Painter Creek Boat Ramp and Jackson State Recreation Area.
By summer, walleye set up on main lake structure. Patoka Lake has a lot of humps, rock piles, and ledges, as well as man-made structures like old road beds, bridges, culverts, and foundations.
Look for places where the thermocline meets bottom structure, usually around 18 to 20 feet.
Indiana Walleye Rivers
The “Tippy,” as many Hoosier anglers call it, is one of the premier fishing streams in Northern Indiana. Flowing 182 miles from Crooked Lake to the Wabash River, it touches 14 counties and offers a wealth of public access.
Walleye are common throughout much of the Tippecanoe River. Early spring is the best time to catch them, and hardy anglers brave the cold to target ‘eyes as they stack up below dams and other obstructions in late March.
But walleye are available in the summer too, when the Tippecanoe is low and its current gentle, making it an excellent canoe and kayak river. Summer walleyes often relate to woody cover like fallen trees and log jams where available.
As in lakes, river walleye typically spend their days in the deepest, shadiest holes they can find. Then, they emerge at night to prowl flats and hunt along seams and current breaks formed by sand bars, boulders, bridge pilings, and other obstructions.
Quite a few walleye swim in the Fulton County portion of the Tippecanoe, where there is an abundance of logs and boulders to hide among. Germany Bridge County Park provides good access.
Walleye are also caught farther south, in the area around Tippecanoe River State Park, though this stretch of river is better known for smallmouths. Overall, the best section of the river for walleye tends to be the lowest 19 miles from Oakdale Dam to the confluence with the Wabash.
The Tippecanoe River also supports a substantial population of sauger—the DNR stocks both species annually—which are smaller than walleye and can be identified by their distinctive, dark blotchy coloration. An angler caught the 6-pound, 1-ounce state record sauger here in 1983.
From its headwaters just outside South Bend, the Kankakee River flows 133 miles from Northern Indiana into Illinois, eventually emptying into the Illinois River. This river can be challenging to fish but also kicks out a lot of big walleye.
It’s a productive river for a variety of species. In addition to being tied with the Tippecanoe for Indiana’s walleye record, it has also produced a former state record northern pike in Indiana and a former record smallmouth in Illinois.
The Kankakee of today looks very different than it did centuries ago. In many places, the river has been channelized and its course straightened Only remnants remain of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, which was once the largest wetland in the northern United States.
Still, walleye fishing has improved dramatically since the year 2000, thanks to ample stocking in both states.
There’s a significant walleye run in April, and anglers catch lots of 4- to 6-pound walleye this time of year.
In general, the Kankakee River has a lot of woody cover. Log jams are abundant, and fallen trees almost obscure the bank in places. There are also plenty of deep pools and gravel-bottomed areas where walleye gravitate.
One of the best areas to fish is the Kankakee Fish & Wildlife Area. This state preserve offers ample access for bank fishing and small boats. The area is located at the confluence of the Yellow River, which has a decent walleye population in its own right.
Farther down the Kankakee, there’s also a lot of great walleye water as the river approaches the Illinois state line.
Anglers can target walleye with brightly colored jigs tipped with nightcrawlers, not only in the main river channel but also in ditches and sloughs off to the sides.
St. Joseph River
Indiana is home to two St. Joseph rivers. Both are in the northern part of the state, and both have walleye. It can be confusing.
The St. Joseph River we’re talking about today—a tributary of Lake Michigan that flows through Elkhart and South Bend—is widely regarded as the better of the two. The river begins in Michigan, swings through Indiana, then crosses back over the state line.
A modest population of walleye inhabits the St. Joseph River year-round, and they’re often caught during the evening hours along current breaks. Try tossing live minnows in areas where there’s a seam between a strong current and relatively slack water.
But walleye fishing in the St. Joseph River really peaks during the spawning run in early spring. Some serious walleye swim upriver from Lake Michigan, and lots of them. A few 10-pounders are often caught from the river during March.
One of the great tailwater fisheries in the river is below the Twin Branch Dam in Mishawaka. Although the dam has a fish ladder that allows fish to access areas farther upriver, walleye still congregate below the dam in great numbers in spring.
Farther upriver in Elkhart, plentiful public access through city parks and an abundance of rocky river structure combine to create some great fishing opportunities. The Elkhart Dam was demolished in 2020, but the area remains productive.
For what it’s worth, the other St. Joseph River, a tributary of the Maumee River whose waters eventually reach Lake Erie, also offers some solid spring walleye action. Try below the dam at Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne.
Catch More Walleye
If you’re still wanting to improve your tactics, take a read through our simple guide to walleye fishing techniques and tips.