Ice Fishing the Slough

Ice fishing in southern Indiana is an iffy endeavor. Many of the state’s northern lakes though, are known to be top producing ice fishing destinations year after year. One such destination is J.C. Murphey, a 1,000-acre lake at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area located near Morocco.

Nothing more than a large marsh, J.C. Murphey was originally designed for waterfowl hunting. Yet the shallow, weed filled waters have long been renowned for quality fishing opportunities. There’s a problem with shallow water fishing holes though, and that is they are prone to winter fish kills.

Known to produce quality bluegill and good numbers of bass, J.C. Murphey is popular with those looking to fill freezers. Special regulations have been established to ensure the lake is not over harvested, but due to unfortunately low water levels, the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists fear that many of the lake’s quality game fish will suffer an extensive fish kill this winter.

Therefore, J.C. Murphey’s lake’s special regulations will be temporarily relaxed starting Dec. 15. to allow anglers to take additional fish home rather than have them succumb to low oxygen levels under the ice and go to waste.

The 25-fish aggregate bag limit on panfish (i.e., bluegill, redear, and crappie) currently in place will be lifted, as will the 18-inch minimum size limit and two-fish daily bag limit on largemouth bass. In their place, statewide bag and size limits will apply for all species.

“Murphey is a high-risk/high-reward system when it comes to fish management,” said DNR fisheries biologist Jeremy Price. “Unlike most northern Indiana lakes, there fish kills are a very real possibility nearly every winter. However, the phenomenal panfish populations that can develop between major fish kill events make it well worth the effort to manage.”

The temporary relaxation of the regulations is scheduled to expire Feb. 28, at which time the 25-fish aggregate bag limit on panfish and the 18-inch bass size limit (and two-bass bag limit) will go back in effect. If conditions improve and the lake level rises significantly before then, the more restrictive original regulations may be reinstated sooner.

“Our ultimate goal is to emerge next spring with as many adult gamefish in the lake as possible,” continued Price, “so if conditions improve and appear adequate to ensure survival until ice off, we’ll act accordingly and reimpose the special bass and panfish regulations.”

Willow Slough FWA is beautiful property I grew up frequenting. From much experience, I encourage you to consider a trip north to try your hand at ice fishing. The experience itself is a blas, and there’s nothing better than bluegill filets from frozen waters. Well, except maybe bluegill filets served with fried rabbit. Bring your shotgun, because Willow Slough has a healthy rabbit population and there’s plenty of season left. If you get cold on the ice, go stomp the brush and try to kick up a few bushy tails.

Anglers should remember that no ice can ever be considered completely safe and are encouraged to use sound judgment and take appropriate safety measures. Ice fishing safety tips are at

See you down the trail…