A tale of two lakes: Yellowwood and Starve Hollow

starve hollow lake

Indiana saw two new impoundments come into the Hoosier landscape in 1938. Two reservoirs with very similar origins, characteristics, and fates: Yellowwood and Starve Hollow Lake.

Yellowwood Lake sits nestled between Nashville and Bloomington in northwestern Brown County. Totaling 130 acres, it is very scenic year-round with fall foliage vistas that are incredible. The lake and surrounding forest offers hiking, camping, paddling, fishing, birding and more. Yellowwood allows electric trolling motors but I always paddle it. However, for the non-paddle crowd, a john boat will work fine and the entire lake is easily fishable in a day.

This lake was dredged a few years back and the jury is still out on how much the fishing has recovered. Being only a few miles from home, this is one of my more frequently fished local spots. Recently WildIndiana publisher Brent Wheat, and I spent a day paddling and fishing the lake. The weather was decent for a late summer day with mixed clouds and blue sky. On the very first cast of the day I landed a nice sized bluegill. Things looked promising. And then… nothing. We got skunked.

Of course there was the stereotypical ‘old fisherman’ at the ramp, as we were putting in, who told us all about the six-pounder his buddy caught last week. But nothing of the sort was to be in store for us.

For bass, crankbaits can be very difficult to fish on this lake because the coontail weed is thick and most everywhere. However, smaller latex worms on a weighted shank hook or weedless jig heads with a either a bright green or mucky green colored body are always productive for me. I even frequently catch catfish on this setup in the spring. As a matter of fact, this is one of the few places I regularly catch cats in the upper portion of the water column (most often in the 3-5lb range). Bluegill fishing is very good on this lake in the spring, as well, with lots of 8-10 inch fish and an occasional twelve-incher. And, when the locust are on in late summr, fishing on this lake can be incredible!

This lake is truly a fun place to be in mid- to late-spring with a fly rod. The biggest drawback to fishing Yellowwood is that after early summer the bite is either on or off, and for me it is often off after early July. One thing I have noticed is that the fish did seem to increase in size just a bit in the years since dredging. While this lake can be finicky, it is well worth a day or weekend trip.

If you are camping, try to get down in the grove of pines in the Red Pine Camping Area. The sites are beautiful with an incredible view up through the canopy. Also, there are morels in those surrounding hills, or so I’ve heard.

Another favorite impoundment, Starve Hollow Lake, was born in the same manner as Yellowwood, a product of the Works Project Administration. At 145 acres, it is only slightly bigger than its watery counterpart in Brown County and is surrounded by the Starve Hollow State Recreation Area within the Jackson-Washington State Forest not too far from Brownstown, Indiana.

The 280-acre recreation area contains one of my favorite campgrounds. With a long string of lakeside sites that all boast incredible views of the lake, it is often possible to fish right from shore. This was made even easier when this lake was also dredged a few years ago.

Just like Yellowwood, sediment from upstream had just about doomed this lake. When dredging was done, a strip all along the campground shore line was cleared down to a depth of around eight feet creating open fishing water along a line of lily and lotus pads where the dredging stopped. This break line can be very productive. Large bluegill can be caught all day long in this lake from early spring to mid-summer. Ten-inch fish and a few twelve-inchers a day are common.

The bass in Starve Hallow have recouped post-dredging, as well. Chartreuse and lime green twist tail jigs are a favorite while a weedless worm slithered through and over the lily pads can trigger some surprising early season bass strikes. Two pounders are common in this lake and eager to put up a fun fight. A Starve Hollow lunker rarely exceeds four pounds and a few 5-6 pounders have been reported, but not very often.

Early morning and evening fly fishing sessions are one of my favorite methods on this lake- the fish respond very well to a fly. Also, the later season bite seems stronger here. All in all this lake is one of my favorite local escapes. It is incredibly scenic and you can camp and fish right along the shore. Starve Hallow is well worth the visit if you haven’t yet done so. You will want to return.

Both of these lakes were born at the same time. And, both nearly succumbed to sedimentation. Through the cooperation of several agencies and the dedication of farmers in the watershed to improve practices, we should be able to enjoy them for some time to come. Yellowwood and Starve Hollow lakes are two of Indiana’s small water gems, get out there and enjoy them!

In the meantime, here’s to bent rods and straight whiskey. Keep the inside of your waders dry and the outside often wet.

Don Cranfill
A native Hoosier, and son of a tournament fisherman, Don literally grew up on the water. Early in life he developed a passion for two things, paddling and fly fishing. Don can often be found stalking the limestone creeks of southern Indiana for Smallmouth Bass, while the off seasons are spent crafting custom hardwood canoe and kayak paddles, making figured-wood fly tying bases and developing the ultimate fly. Contact: HoosierFlyDaddy@gmail.com or at SmallWaterAngler.net


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