FISHING FORECAST - 2006 IN NORTHWEST AND NORTH-CENTRAL IOWA
Top Hunch for 2006
North Twin Lake-Calhoun County - This lake has it all. Great fishing for a variety of species including bluegill up to 10 inches, yellow bass by the boat load, bullheads that will go over a pound, lots of walleye in the two-pound class and above, unlimited channel catfish fishing and lots of nice crappie up to 10 inches in size. Combine all this with excellent water clarity and you have the makings of a great outdoor adventure. Shoreline fishing is available but the boat anglers will have the advantage.
Worth more than a Day - Upper and Lower Pine Lakes, located _ mile east of Eldora, will provide some of the best bass fishing in northern Iowa. Both of these lakes support bass in the six to seven pound range, with good numbers over three pounds. If you prefer panfish, crappie and bluegill are abundant in both lakes. The Iowa River is within a stones throw of the lower lake dam and produces good catches of smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and an occasional walleye or pike. Camping is available at Pine Lake State Park on the upper lake and rental cabins are available on the Iowa River.
Family Vacation Spot - There's something for everyone in the family at Clear Lake. Walleye, yellow bass, channel catfish, bullhead, or even a muskie provides the angler plenty of opportunities on this 3,700-acre natural lake. Three public swim beaches are available as well as water skiing and sailing. If you don't care for water activities, shop in the many antique stores in downtown Clear Lake or spend some time on one of three golf courses. Visitors are treated to special events held in City Park nearly every weekend throughout the summer, and Lady of the Lake tour boat is docked across the street. Several campgrounds and lodging facilities are available on or near the lake.
Hidden Jewel - Lake Pahoja, Lyon County, is a 70-surface acre man-made lake that provides many hours of recreation for the outdoor enthusiast. The fishing clientele at this little lake is rather localized which is probably due to its location in extreme northwestern Iowa. With recent fish management activities, it is anticipated that the bluegill and crappie fisheries will expand and provide some good angling. This, along with some very good channel catfish fishing, will make this lake an angler's destination. The park area adjacent to the lake is managed by the Lyon County Conservation Board and provides many amenities, including camping pads, cabins, trails, a beach, playgrounds, boat rentals and a covered fishing pier.
River Rat - The Iowa River in Hardin County is one of the most scenic rivers in Iowa and offers some of the best fishing as well. Limestone rock provides rock-rubble substrate throughout the county, which is the preferred habitat for smallmouth bass. Channel catfish and northern pike also inhabit the river and provide self-sustaining populations. Walleye fingerlings are stocked annually and have produced outstanding fishing in recent years. Access is excellent with an abundance of public approaches throughout the county. Many anglers prefer to fish by canoe or small jonboat, however much of the stream is wadeable.
("Snapshots" of Popular Lakes)
Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo County) - Harvest was down on Clear Lake during the past open water season. The reduced harvest was due primarily to fewer yellow bass being caught by Clear Lake anglers. This trend will not change during 2006; however, the good news is the mean size will remain excellent. During 2005, yellow bass harvested averaged nearly 10 inches. Look for good catches during the spring spawning period in shallow water near rocky shorelines. Later in the summer the fish will congregate in deeper water (12-16 ft.) over large mud flats.
Walleye harvest was very good last year during the spring spawning period, but dropped off considerably throughout the remainder of the year. A tremendous yellow bass hatch in the lake provided enough natural feed that walleye became extremely difficult to catch. Fall electrofishing surveys this past season revealed good numbers of 14 to 16-inch walleye available and these fish should provide plenty of opportunity for Clear Lake anglers in 2006.
White bass numbers remain high and channel catfish are plentiful so anglers will find these species available to supplement their catch. Muskie, the fish of 10,000 casts, has increased substantially in recent years. Over 25% of the spring gillnetting sample (2005) were over 40 inches, so not only has the population increased, but size as well. Trolling artificial lures from May through September near the island, Dodges Point, and Billys Reef seem to produce muskie every year.
Shoreline access on Clear Lake has improved over the past few years with the purchase of the Ritz property on the south shore and the Harbor Inn property on the west shore. Development continues at both of these sites; however, a removable fishing pier is already in use at the Ritz, as well as a shelter, bathroom, and improved parking. Similar facilities will be available soon at the Harbor Inn site in Ventura.
Spirit Lake (Dickinson County) - Iowa's largest natural lake is a perennial favorite for anglers and certainly worth the effort. Crappie fishing has been "off the scale" during the past three years and harvest has been three times larger than the historical harvest. Walleye fishing has been very good due to the exceptional 2001 year class and harvest is increasing as these fish reach 14 inches and larger. This will only get better in 2006. Smallmouth bass have been consistently good. Angler accommodations in the Spirit Lake area are excellent and facilities include campgrounds (Marble Beach), a cleaning station and eight hard surface boat ramps at four locations around the lake.
West Okoboji (Dickinson County) - Iowa's deepest natural lake at 136 feet is a regional anomaly for Iowa lakes. This lake has some of the best water quality in the state and with its bays and varied shoreline is home to a very diverse fishery. Anglers can expect to catch a number of species from the scrappy bluegill to the mighty muskie. This diversity attracts anglers of all ages and abilities from the tiny tot with the snoopy rod to the pro angler. The bluegill has been a staple for both the open water and ice angler for the last four years. This species has exited many a dock angler during the open water season and the sight fishing ice angler during the winter months. The fairly stable large and smallmouth bass populations have attracted the casual and tournament angler to this lake for years and will continue to do so in the future. The muskie population has been on the increase for the past several years and has shown dividends with this top predator thrilling the persistent and dedicated muskie hunter. Walleyes and yellow perch are very cyclic in this lake and provide countless hours of fishing recreation.
Silver Lake (Dickinson County) - This 1,070 surface acre natural lake at the edge of Lake Park provides many hours of fishing recreation. The lake has been a very consistent producer for some very fine walleyes, throughout the year. A variety of techniques are employed to entice old marble eyes to the creel from wader fishing with live baits and artificial lures to slip bobber fishing off a dock. Channel catfish were stocked in the lake for three years starting in 1998. This species has expanded into a harvestable population as indicated by our netting surveys with 86% of our catfish catch in the 16 to 24 inch range. Silver Lake has also been a traditional bullhead area for both novice and experienced anglers.
Black Hawk Lake (Sac County) - Channel catfish will be excellent starting right after ice out using shad entrails. The action will last into the fall. Bullheads will be excellent with a large year class of 8-10 inch fish present. Walleye will be fair with a good number of fish above the 15-inch length limit. Yellow bass will be good, primarily in the early spring when they come to shore to spawn. Excellent numbers of 8-10 inch crappie abound in Black Hawk. Usually the fall is better than the spring bite. Great shoreline access is available to some of the best fishing spots.
Storm Lake (Buena Vista County) - Channel catfish will be excellent. Large numbers of fish in the 2-5 pound range are available. The best spot in 2005 was where the dredge water returned to the lake on the east side. White bass fishing should be fantastic throughout the open water months with lots of white bass above 12 inches. Try trolling crankbaits in open water or casting twisters from shore. Walleye numbers are increasing due to the stocking of larger fingerlings. Male walleyes averaged 19 inches while the females averaged 20.7 inches in the spring surveys. Fish up to 10 pounds will be caught this year. Crappie will be slow but what you catch will be nice, up to 15 inches. The marina in the early spring is your best bet as these fish move into the warmer water shortly after ice out.
Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo) - Harvest was down in 2005, but should recover some in 2006. A fall electrofishing survey showed good numbers of 14 to 16 inch fish.
Iowa River (Hardin) - 2005 survey revealed excellent numbers of one-pound fish, with walleye up to 10 pounds collected.
Des Moines River (Kossuth & Humboldt) - Both the East and West Forks have produced good catches in the spring and fall in recent years.
Silver Lake (Dickinson) - Good numbers of 13-18 inch fish will be creeled. Excellent opportunities exist to catch a trophy-sized fish. Crank baits in July.
Five Island Lake (Palo Alto) - Smaller fish will enter the creel in 2006. Good walleye growth, will sustain the fishery.
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - Good numbers of 14 inch and larger fish available (2001 year class). In the spring - fish after dark. Later in the season fish a jig and a minnow through the weeds or cast and retrieve a nightcrawler.
Storm Lake (Buena Vista) - Good population. Males average 19 inches while females average 20.7 inches in the spring. Trolling crankbaits or vertically jig along the new dredge cuts. Don't forget that there is a 15-inch length limit with only one fish over 22 inches allowed per day.
Yellow Perch: (4)
Rice Lake (Winnebago) - Good fall and winter fishery.
Silver Lake (Worth) - Dense population, sorting required, fish up to 10 inches collected in 2005 survey.
Lake Cornelia (Wright) - Nice size fish (10 inch +), but don't expect many limits.
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - Yellow perch anglers will see an upswing to the fishery, as good numbers of fish will be available during the 2006 season. Yellow perch 9-10.5 inches will be common in the catch and will sustain the fishery for the fall.
North Twin Lake (Calhoun) - Huge numbers of quality bullheads. Lot's of fish over a pound in last year's survey.
Black Hawk Lake (Sac) - Bullheads and lot's of them sum up the fishing potential. Most fish are between 7.5-8.5 inches.
Dog Creek Lake (O'Brien) - This small lake again has the potential to provide anglers quality fishing during 2006. Fish the north and west ends of the lake - early.
Silver Lake (Dickinson) - You can "fill the bucket" at Silver Lake with good numbers of large fish.
Center Lake (Dickinson) - Fewer bullheads will be caught in 2006; however, anglers will continue to harvest fish approaching 12 inches.
Crystal Lake (Hancock) - High density of _ pound fish.
Rice Lake (Winnebago) - Springtime, shortly after ice-out will produce good results.
Channel Catfish: 9
Scharnberg Pond (Clay) - Good numbers of "nice" sized channel catfish are available from this county area. Traditional baits are in order; however, don't overlook live bait such as nightcrawlers.
Silver Lake (Dickinson) - Virtually untapped fishery. Try fishing at night with live bait such as chubs or crawlers and a bonus walleye may be added to the stringer.
Ingham Lake (Emmet) - Excellent angling during 2006. Restocked in 2001, these fish have had excellent growth with good numbers of fish 15-17 inches available.
Storm Lake (Buena Vista) - Try fishing a bobber and live bait around the islands in May and June and drifting a leech or crawler in the summer months. Lot's of fish!
Brown's Lake (Woodbury) - Catfish in the one to five pound range and in excellent body condition abound in this oxbow lake of western Iowa.
Boone River (Hamilton) - Scenic river with lot's of fish between _ and 2 pounds.
Iowa River (Hardin) - 2005 survey showed good numbers of fish in the three to five pound range.
Lake Cornelia (Wright) - High density of fish that are underutilized.
Crystal Lake (Hancock) - 2005 netting survey revealed an abundant population of one to two pound catfish.
Upper Pine Lake (Hardin) - Dense population, with many over seven inches.
Eldred Sherwood (Hancock) - Lot's of nice fish caught on the weed line in 2005.
Brushy Creek (Webster) - Huge year class of eight to nine inch bluegills. 2006 should be a banner year. In May and June fish the north end.
North Twin (Calhoun) - Lot's of big 'gills in this lake. Fish in the shade of the docks during the summer and fall with a little leadhead.
Yellow Smoke Lake (Crawford) - Drift fishing a small leadhead tipped with a waxworm is a great way to catch the 8-10 inch bluegill in Yellow Smoke.
Dog Creek Lake (O'Brien) - Fish the submerged shallow water timber during the spring. Growth throughout the summer will provide an upswing to the fishery from now through the 2007 season.
Lake Pahoja (Lyon) - Quality (6.0-7.9 inches) size fish dominate the catch.
Center Lake (Dickinson) - Fish near the overhanging and submerged brush. Density on the upswing.
Black Hawk Lake (Sac) - Fall fishing is just as good as spring so anglers have two prime times to catch a mess of nice crappie. Fish average 8-10 inches but 14 inch fish are available.
Crawford Creek Lake (Ida) - Drift fishing using a small leadhead tipped with live bait is very effective in locating and catching crappie in this 62-acre prairie lake.
Beeds Lake (Franklin) - Excellent numbers of both white and black crappie in the seven to nine inch range.
Briggs Woods Lake (Hamilton) - Eight to nine inch crappies provide year round angling.
Lower Pine Lake (Hardin) - Fish downed trees along shoreline in spring and drift fish in open water during the summer.
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - 2005 was the best in years. Fish the north end shore, Hales and Templar Lagoon in the spring.
Largemouth Bass: 4
Brushy Creek Lake (Webster) - One of the state's hottest bass lakes. Good water quality + habit = good bass numbers.
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - Anglers will experience excellent catches of fish >15 inches; however, anglers are strongly urged to practice catch and release of this predator species.
Upper Pine Lake (Hardin) - Good size structure, with many fish greater than three pounds.
Smith Lake (Kossuth) - High density of football-size bass observed in 2005 survey.
Smallmouth Bass: 4
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - Fine population of "smallies". Action begins shortly after ice out around shallow rock piles on sunny, calm days using jigs and minnows. As the water warms the fish disperse to deeper rock piles and emerging weeds and can be caught with live bait and artificials.
West Okoboji (Dickinson) - Consistent producer. Fish are 15-inches and larger. Rocks are the key early with rocks, weeds and weed lines productive in the summer. Leeches are a good summer bait.
Iowa River (Hardin) - Forty percent of the fish collected in 2005 survey were 12 inches or greater.
Boone River (Hamilton) - Fish over 18 inches collected in most recent survey.
Northern Pike: 4
Spirit Lake (Dickinson) - Good numbers of angler acceptable sized fish and larger will be common to the specialized Spirit Lake angler. An indicator of this increased pike population is the steadily increasing net catches of this species during walleye brood stock netting operations.
West Okoboji (Dickinson) - Good numbers of large fish are caught every winter. During the open water season fish early and late in the season for the best results and use large baits such as chubs or large artificial baits.
Winnebago River (Winnebago, Hancock, Worth, Cerro Gordo) - Stocked with fingerlings annually. Produces nice fish both spring and fall.
Iowa River (Hardin) - Three to six pound fish observed in survey between Alden and Iowa Falls.
Muskie populations in Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo), Spirit and West Okoboji (Dickinson), and Brushy Creek (Webster) have matured in numbers and size. Late summer and fall are peak periods.
Yellow Bass: 2
Black Hawk Lake (Sac) - Thousands of yellow bass harvested in 2005. 2006 should be just as good. Fish a small leadhead on a windy shoreline.
Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo) - Harvest was down in 2005; however, size increased to a 10-inch average. Expect a similar year in 2006.