If you’ve ever wanted to hold a state fishing record, targeting whitefish in Indiana might be like going all in with a royal flush at a Vegas poker table. Indiana’s whitefish record has been broken eight times since 2012. Phil Duracz of Chesterson, Indiana, is the latest to hold the title of Hoosier Whitefish King. Duracz caught a 9.34-pound whitefish from Lake Michigan near Portage while fishing on March 6. That toppled the record set in 2019 by 1.65 pounds.
According to Michigan Outdoor News, Duracz spotted the fish on his Garmin Electronics in about 50 feet of water.
“I dropped down my bait (a Berkley 3.5 Power Swimmer rigged on a half-ounce jig head) down there, popped it off the bottom and she ate it,” he told Michigan Outdoor News. “I thought it might be a small lake trout because we caught several of those and lakers tend to fight harder.”
Duracz and his buddy Clint Marler are experienced anglers who have caught several whitefish that were close to breaking the record. When they saw this fish near the boat, they knew it’d be a record breaker.
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“Whitefish are usually caught by pier anglers using simple techniques, such as bottom fishing with a slip sinker rig with a short leader, small hook, and single salmon egg or piece of night crawler,” said Ben Dickinson, Lake Michigan biologist with the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife. “As the ecosystem changes due to invasive species, whitefish are switching from eating mostly invertebrates to incorporate more small baitfish such as invasive round gobies. “We’re also seeing more boat anglers targeting them successfully using jigging spoons or small swimbaits worked slowly on the bottom.”
Whitefish are excellent to eat and have been known for centuries as a sustainable resource. Native Americans caught and used whitefish extensively, and European explorers sailing the Great Lakes also told of the fish’s plentiful populations and dining fare. Today, more than 8 million pounds of whitefish are commercially harvested annually, generating the greatest income on the Great Lakes for commercial anglers.
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Great Lakes whitefish are in the Salmonidae family, related to salmon, trout and char. A deep-water fish, they spawn in November and December, usually in shallow water, but may school in water as deep as 200 feet in warmer months.
This is the first Indiana fishing record set in 2021.