A banded bald eagle recovered near Vincennes gave DNR personnel a chance to measure the success of bald eagle reintroduction in Indiana over the past 20 years.

On September 30, a wild bird rehabilitator responding to a call about an injured bald eagle arrived to find the bird deceased. A closer look revealed the eagle wore two bands – one on each leg – inscribed with numbers and a letter. After the bands were reported to ReportBand.gov and DNR state ornithologist Allisyn Gillet was contacted, parts of the eagle’s history were revealed.

Bald eagle H81 was banded as a nestling at Hovey Lake Fish & Wildlife Area on April 20, 1998. The same year, DNR biologists were closely tracking nesting eagles to monitor how the population was growing after the successful bald eagle reintroduction program.

Bald eagles were listed as endangered when Indiana began its reintroduction program in 1985. The program took place over five years, when 73 young eagles were released at Monroe Lake to form the base of a new population of nesting eagles. After the birds grew up and returned to nest in Indiana, biologists kept track of the number of nests and the number of young in each nest. Nestling eagles were given a set of leg bands so they could be identified in the future.

The year H81 was born, Indiana had 11 successful eagle nests, and 20 eaglets survived long enough to leave the nest. Indiana’s eagle population has been steadily growing, and in 2019, over 300 bald eagle nests were reported.

Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of endangered species in 2007 and from the state list in 2008. Although this was the first time H81 was reported since she was banded 21 years ago, it is likely she was nesting in the area for years, possibly on the Wabash or the White River south of Vincennes. The clean water and healthy numbers of fish in the rivers provide a home to many pairs of nesting eagles each year.

The bald eagle reintroduction program was the first endangered species restoration project initiated by DNR Nongame and Endangered Wildlife staff. The project and ongoing research would not be possible without donations to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund, the main funding source of all nongame and endangered species research and management.

Individuals interested in donating to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund can donate online at on.IN.gov/nongamewildlifefund.

Lake Michigan Stocking Increase

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced a plan to increase stocking in Indiana’s Lake Michigan waters. The new, interim plan comes in response to a recent Lake Michigan Committee (LMC) recommendation to increase lake-wide stocking levels.

“Lake-wide data indicates the predator-prey balance in the lake has improved,” says Jeremy Price, DNR fisheries supervisor and Indiana’s LMC representative, “and the size of the salmon out there certainly supports it.”

Beginning in 2020, Indiana’s stocking quota will increase by nearly 87,000 Chinook Salmon equivalents. Chinook Salmon equivalents are conversions fishery managers use to evaluate impacts of different salmonid species on prey fish populations.

The new stocking quota adds back about half of the cuts made in 2017, when DNR managers reduced Chinook Salmon and eliminated lake trout stockings from Indiana waters.

The DNR plans to increase chinook stocking by 150,000 fish in 2020, a move made possible through the increase in stocking quota and additional reductions to stockings of steelhead and Coho Salmon.

Fall fingerling Skamania Steelhead will be discontinued on the Little Calumet River and substantial cuts to fall fingerling Coho stockings will be replaced with fewer, but larger, spring Coho yearlings. Similar changes on the St. Joseph River enacted in 2015 have proven extremely successful at increasing salmon returns.

“The new plan gets us back to stocking chinooks annually at all three of our ports,” says Ben Dickinson, DNR biologist for Lake Michigan. “When we cut Chinook stocking in 2017, we promised our anglers that we’d try our best to get back to three ports annually. Today we are pleased to deliver on that promise.”

While some hatchery logistics still need to be resolved, the plan is mostly set for 2020. Price and Dickinson intend to take input from anglers on the plan through one or more public meetings this winter.

“We think most anglers will really like this strategy,” Price says, “but we want to give folks an opportunity to tell us what they think before making this the stocking plan for 2021 and beyond.”

Great Crappie Fishing

As water temperatures cool down, crappie fishing heats up. Fall is a great time to fill your freezer with fish in preparation for a long winter. Crappie begin moving into the shallows to feed when water temperatures dip into the 60s. Structures such as tree stumps, logs, rock ledges, or docks will usually hold good numbers of fish. Targeting them with jigs and minnows may be an effective way to catch big crappie.

Crappie are managed with a 25-fish bag limit throughout the state with no size limits except at Dogwood and Hardy lakes, where there is a 9-inch minimum. A valid fishing license is also required.

Readers can contact Jack Spaulding by e-mail at jackspaulding@hughes.net.

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