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Indianola - Lake Ahquabi State Park and lake are in the early planning stages of a major overhaul to improve park roads, upgrade the campground, fix the lake’s water outlet structure and eliminate the gizzard shad population.
The two projects are not scheduled to begin until fall of 2021, after the recreation season, and have been designed to occur simultaneously to minimize disruption.
Chad Kelchen, supervisor for State Parks in south central Iowa for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said they’re in the design stage so there’s still a lot of moving parts.
“We know our road system will be upgraded to better handle today’s recreational vehicles and based on the final road design, we will know what’s on the table as far as campground upgrades, lodge and shelter renovation, the beach, fish cleaning station, parking lots – we’ll look at all of it,” Kelchen said.
Located five miles south of Indianola, Lake Ahquabi State Park has one of the most heavily used campgrounds in the state. The park is a destination for campers enjoying the National Balloon Classic and often serves as a stopover for migrating snowbirds. It currently has a mix of 110 electric and non-electric campsites.
While the work in the park is underway, the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau will move in to fix the water outlet structures in both Lake Ahquabi and nearby Hooper Lake, and eliminate the gizzard shad in Lake Ahquabi.
Ben Dodd, fisheries biologist with the Iowa DNR, said the repair work will require the lake to be drained so there’s an opportunity to explore additional in-lake habitat improvements. The lake was last renovated in the early 1990s.
“Lake Ahquabi is a heavily used lake and has had a phenomenal run since it was last renovated. We need to drain the lake to fix the outlet structure and a side benefit of draining the lake will allow us to get rid of gizzard shad. We don’t know where the shad came from but we need to address it because gizzard shad have a negative impact to water quality and our game fish populations in these smaller lakes,” Dodd said.
Dodd said fishing regulations will remain in place until this fall, when the DNR plans to relax the regulations to allow anglers to utilize the resource prior to renovation. Both lakes will be restocked with largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, black crappie and redear sunfish.
“There will be limited fishing opportunities in years one and two, but by year three, fishing will be in good shape,” Dodd said.
Lake Ahquabi and Hooper Lake have a loyal following among the local fishing community. While the renovation and restocking is going on, Dodd suggested anglers give Easter Lake a try.
“We renovated Easter Lake recently,” he said. “It’s not too far from Ahquabi and we’ve seen good growth in the fish, especially the largemouth bass.”