Lake Patuka large outdoor playground

BYRDIE – Newborns may weigh 8 pounds.

A gallon of water weighs 8 lbs.

So did the fat hybrid striker I picked up early on a hot, hot day on Lake Patuka.

The fish wiggled and went further in, pitting its survival instinct on the hook in its mouth and the strength of my shoulder, arms and hands swinging toward the boat. I felt heavy. Perhaps it was due to a second entanglement of the white type in a wrestling match, this one that weighs 5 pounds or so.

It was two fish, two fish, two fighting fish, two coiled fish. Guide Kevin Hill of Wiper Sniper Charters instructed to pull high on the rod and reel low on the 20-pound test line while standing next to him with a net.

“It’s stronger than any other fish in this lake,” Hill said.

When you wake up before dawn to go fishing, you hope the fish have also set their alarms. On this last day, with just a few people boating on this 8,800-acre Southern Indiana lake, they had. The fish actively participated in the fishing to make the four-hour run a highlight of a three-day visit to a state Department of Natural Resources property just 110 miles from Seymour.

Lake Patuka has 161 miles of shoreline and is famous for its fishing opportunities. But its 25,800 acres, making it IDNR’s largest property, includes a plethora of nature and outdoor activities that also attract hunter families.

Lake Patuka is too popular to be classified as a hidden gem, as in fiscal year 2020 it attracted 657,000 visitors, according to an estimate by the US Corps of Engineers. Estimates of the number of cars that entered the park in the past to one million cars.

Batuka has diverse attractions. There are 455 Class A campgrounds with electric service, as well as 82 fishermen’s camp sites and seven rural sites, which are more rustic. With so many locations, it can still be hard to book a spot for a summer weekend getaway. Some rent cabins instead.

There is a beach that is easy to swim. There are plenty of hiking trails. Dedicated bird watchers look for the freshest species. Park authorities have identified at least 15 active vulture nests and 26 active vulture nests. There may also be occasional encounters with wildlife in the forest.

Lake Batuka is actually a reservoir created by the Corps of Engineers in 1980 by damming 118 miles of the Batuka River. It was established as a source of safe drinking water and for protection against flooding downstream. Stretching across parts of three counties, Dubois, Crawford, and Orange, Batoka is Indiana’s second largest reservoir behind Lake Monroe.

“In 2012, Lake Patuka was voted one of the 50 best places (in the country) to see wildlife,” said interpretive naturalist Dana Rickelhoff.

Rickelhoff recorded wild creatures from memory, neither in order of abundance nor in alphabetical order: turkeys, bobcats, box turtles, white-tailed deer, coyotes, skunks (you might smell them first), opossums, raccoons, mink, chipmunks, gray and red foxes and rabbits;

Reckelhoff whipped up a fishing regulation handbook and examined the fish species that swim in the batuka, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, those hybrid lines, blue catfish, perch, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill and redear.

Catching everyone in one day will be more than just a major tournament.

Hill knows that Lake Patuka contains a variety of fish. It’s just an amateur hybrid hybrid, a specialist. It is a man bruise, and the hybrids are a fish bruise.

Until 6:30 in the morning, the humidity was thick like maple syrup. Today was on its way to 97 degrees. Although the sun was scorching briefly, raindrops fell from the intense humidity. The savings element was the cloud cover.

Hill drives a 22-foot-long pontoon boat. Driving since 2015 after 30 years in law enforcement, he knows the features of patuka and the habits of fish. Bring optimism to the water.

He told me, “We will smoke them.”

I’ve heard it before, but I didn’t count my kittens before they hatched.

We went around with six rods, very sturdy sticks, to fight the strips on an even court, four using lower arms and two “umbrella rods”. It was a fanciful, multi-yellow lure that also resembled lamp shades in some way.

The boat set off a few miles from Pinter Creek.

“It’s the most aggressive fish,” Hill said of Stryers. “They are strong. It is the closest we can get to an ocean fish.”

Large bubble pools appeared on the surface, representing Shad Schools. Shad were delicious snacks for bars, so our goal was to sail into the middle of the school and trick the fish. Sure enough, the trick worked.

Take two rapid fire streaks. It took hustle and bustle and technology to get the fish to the boat. The first was 5 pound.

“They’re going to be bigger than that,” Hill said. “You must be very duper fast.”

I was more steady than fast, but rarely slow enough to allow a determined reader to spit the hook.

Hunting at the 17-foot level, the strippers kept biting. I was fast enough to land on two, and Hill brought one.

“Three robberies,” he said.

Hill sometimes experienced frantic activity with several temptations to grab fish at once.

“I’m fine with two at once,” he said. “When you get three, four and five, it gets crazy.”

We must be very lucky.

We should head to the “school bus,” Hill said, an apparent reference to a school with stripes.

“We’ll see if they play hockey,” he said. Or he will play with a hook.

no. But soon after, one fish emerged as a hardworking man. I wrangled him to the boat, which was 18 inches long, a light grey. We released that fish like its cousin.

With the temperature warming up on the hottest day of the year, we headed to the beach, perfectly satisfying return with nine hybrids and one light gray for me.

My wife, Debra, a very rare hunter, and dog, Boston, joined me in a rental booth close enough to the official entrance to Batoca, and we could throw a baseball at her.

While there were several private summer houses nearby and hotels dozens of miles away on French Lick, we discovered a pet-friendly cabin in the woods with a covered porch and grill. Comfortable, yet roomy enough with all your cooking and lounging essentials.

Owner Kevin Jenkins and his wife stay in the cabin during the cooler half of the year and live in a 65-foot-tall houseboat in Batoka during the warmer months.

We were close enough to visit the French Lick Resort, although we skipped the fancy $27 hamburger restaurant. There aren’t many restaurants near Patuka and if a visitor brings something to eat, except for Schwartz Family Restaurant down the road in Eckerty, they won’t miss out on much.

Had it not been for the steamy, Louisiana-like air, we might have taken a walk. There are 1,000 acres of trails with a walking distance of one quarter of a mile. Patuka also has a paved bike path (baby carriages welcome) and a fitness trail where one can do exercises along the way.

The Corps of Engineers Dam in Batuka also features hiking trails. There are “beautiful views of the water and a view of the dam’s inlet structure, the dam itself, the waste water and downstream stream,” said Rickelhoff, noting what makes Batoka a reservoir.

On this particular day, there was little crowd on the beach, although Patuka added 1,200 feet of new sand last year to combat erosion.

“I hope one day we will add more sand,” said Rickelhoff.

Patuka offers weekly shooting shoots, an 18-hole golf course and in-season fishing. It’s hard to complain about the $7 Indiana resident car entry fee. If you are bored in patuka, it is your fault.

Tom Todd, owner of Tom’s Guide Service, offers a different fishing experience at Lake Patuka. Using light handling, a 10-pound test, and waving grubs and deer from his 18-foot aluminum boat, Todd hunts down black and white crappie and yellow bass.

The weather might have been thaw, but the breeze kept Tom, Depp and I breathing on the patuka as we dropped the lines to 20 feet or so, Deb for three hours, and me for seven.

Todd has been a longtime diesel truck driver, mentoring since 2008. He toned down the competition in bass fishing in favor of taking dozens of grandchildren on fishing, then switched to mentorship. Once he weighed north of 300 pounds, Todd trimmed 6-foot-6 to 200, to the point that old friends don’t even recognize him.

At first, the fish were attracted to the line of Todd. Three quickly lifted out of the water. Depp hit a yellow bass fish and got into it with ease. She added two more fish before backing off the heat, but only after tying my jeans. Tom hung one of my shoelaces. I tied my bag. I’ve never been wrong about having a yellow bass before.

Between the molds, Todd and I moved leisurely to various hunting grounds, distracted by the nests of eagle and eagle. An impressive winged osprey over the head.

Batoka is not just for Indiana residents. Todd, who was surprised at first, said he drove several foreigners, including the happy fishermen from Holland.

Visitors to Patuka “come from everywhere,” said Rickelhoff. The visitor center registration book shows two sites from many countries. Foreigner-favorite Rikkelhof’s story dates back to circa 2018. A husband and wife from Germany shipped their RV across the Atlantic and made their way across the United States, camping at Lake Patuka.

Tom, who saw a deer that morning while preparing his boat, led us to the beaver dam. The structure was impressive, but the beaver didn’t show up. By the time we stopped at 3pm, the number of fish caught and released was 20, 12 by Tom, five by me, three by Deb.

Todd was raving about the 1 pound of white crappie I was dunked in.

“This is a rare species of crappie for this lake,” Todd said. “I guarantee there are people who fish in this lake almost every day and have never fished one this big before.”

would like to know. These old friends from the trucking world are a little jealous that he spends so much time at the gorgeous Lake Patuka.

They say, “Boy, I made it,” about todd fishing every day. Tom Todd smiled and said, “Which I do.”

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