Too much of the time we hear about bodies of water or fish species that are experiencing problems, and it’s good that we learn about those problems because if we don’t know about them, we can’t fix them. We’re often hearing about the water being too dirty or too clear, the fish being too big or too small. It’s good to hear about bodies of water and fish populations that are recovering or have recovered. I was on one of those success story lakes this week. I joined a couple of local anglers on Clear Lake on a chilly, blustery day when the fish shouldn’t have been biting too good, but they were. We caught plenty of eating sized walleyes and some that were too big to eat. We caught yellow bass that were perfect for they fry pan, and we caught a bunch of nice crappies. All that action in half a day, from a lake that twenty years ago was a bullhead lake and with questionable water quality. Today, Clear Lake is one of the premier fisheries in the Midwest for walleyes and muskies with a bunch of up-and-coming year classes of crappies, perch, and other species. Let’s check out Clear Lake.
Clear Lake is a 3,600 acre body of water in north central Iowa. It is surrounded by the communities of Clear Lake and Ventura.
Kevan Paul is a fishing guide on Clear Lake, Bill Bunn is a long-time Clear Lake resident and angler. They were my hosts on this trip. We started fishing a wind-protected shoreline and caught a couple small walleyes. We realized that if we wanted to have more action, we would need to fish some wind-blown areas, so we did. And the action picked up right away. We set out a spread of slip-bobbers tipped with jigs and leeches or crawlers. While those rigs floated up the ledge from deeper to shallower water, we made short casts with sixteenth ounce jigs. The walleyes didn’t show a preference: We caught’em with jigs and we caught’em under the bobbers. Nice walleyes! Plenty of fifteen to twenty inchers with some shorter ones in the mix also, which bodes well for the future of Clear Lake.
We then moved into shallow water and used thirteen foot rods with a two foot section of line and a tiny Fire-Fly jig attached to it. We dipped this offering in pockets in the reeds and caught crappies up to twelve inches and some really nice bluegills. Years ago these species weren’t present in Clear Lake: Now they’re there and the population is going to get only better if anglers allow them to: We’ve gotta’ release the majority of those crappies. Eat the yellow bass that are caught right along the crappies.
Several factors enabled Clear Lake to rebound so notably. The water coming in is much cleaner now due to a rejuvenated marsh that feeds the lake. Other water coming in is also cleaner.
Additionally, the west end of the lake was dredged a few years ago, creating an entirely new environment. The west end twenty years ago was a bowl four feet deep and covered with mud. It’s now a diverse ecosystem with depths to twenty five feet and lots of structure. Vegetation is growing in the deeper water and provides lots of habitat.
Clear Lake is a true success story that was created by lots of folks, professional and volunteers. Clear Lake is an example that we can create outstanding fishing and other water-related opportunities when the desire is there. And for most of us, the desire is there.
PHOTO CAPTIONS: Kevan Paul took this crappie from less than two feet of water. The crappie fishing on Clear Lake has blossomed in recent years.
Photo 028—-Clear Lake has always been home to walleyes, but one like Bill Bunn is displaying before releasing it were not common.
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