Crystal Lake Shines in Hancock County After Renovation
Crystal Lake is becoming the popular fishing hole among anglers in and around Hancock County, after a major renovation of the 264-acre natural lake.
The $3 million project lead by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lakes Restoration Program included pumping out 1.3 million cubic yards of sediment, eliminating the fish population and adding a 10-acre sediment pond to trap sediment before it enters the lake. Bass, bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, walleye and northern pike were restocked beginning in 2009.
Clint Witham, of Wesley, started fishing Crystal Lake again after the lake was renovated and has been coming back regularly.
“I came as a kid with the folks, but not much since,” Witham said.
He and his children were fishing from the dock at the boat ramp on the lake’s southeast side. He said they often wade out to fish and have done well. They are enjoying the developing bass fishery.
“It’s the first time I caught a bass on a hook and sinker,” Witham said.
Now, he tries to come every weekend, and Witham isn’t alone.
Anglers from surrounding counties and as far away as Des Moines and Columbus Junction have found Crystal Lake, and stopped at Sheri’s Southside Convenience Store one block south of the lake.
“This past winter I sold the most bait ever over the last 17 years,” said store owner Sheri Moore, of Crystal Lake. “Never have I seen this before.”
Moore said that while it was difficult on business to renovate the lake, it needed to be done. Her store sells minnows, night crawlers and basic tackle, in addition to other convenience items, like gas, pop and snacks.
“When fishing is good, my sales are good,” she said.
Although located near the north edge of town, Moore tied her business to the lake through the store’s name.
“It’s called Sheri’s Southside because it’s on the south side of the lake and I depend on the lake for business,” she said. “The lake is everything to me.”
The lake has also helped attendance at Crystal Lake County Park.
“The campground was busy on holidays, but declining on the other weekends and midweek,” said Jason Lackore, naturalist for Hancock County Conservation. “The use of the lake and the park increased once the water quality and clarity improved.
“People want to go where there is good water quality and good fishing, and since the renovation, they have been coming here from all over the region as well as from Minnesota,” he said.
Lackore has been the county naturalist for 13 years and said the lake use this past year was impressive.
“It was amazing how many ice shacks were here over the winter,” he said.
That good fishing continued this spring.
Witham’s truck is parked next to vehicles from Chickasaw, Kossuth and Winnebago counties. As more anglers learn about Crystal Lake, more will likely make their way here.
And Sheri Moore will be ready for them. She and a few partners also own the only restaurant in town. Crystal Lake Bar and Grill opens daily at 4:30 p.m. and she would be glad if anglers would stop by.