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Pickerel Lake, near Laurens on the Clay and Buena Vista county line, will undergo a water level management project to improve its water quality and provide quality habitat for fish and wildlife.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will lower the water level in the 170-acre shallow natural lake this spring. The goal is to lower the lake 3.5 feet during the 2021 growing season and keep water levels down through early summer 2022.
“Pickerel Lake went through a full-scale renovation in 2011 that included replacing the water control structure and installing fish barriers, then we followed that up with a lake draw down to establish aquatic vegetation and to eliminate rough fish,” said Rob Patterson, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR. “When the lake refilled we saw significant improvements to water quality and in-lake habitat. But over the last several years, Pickerel Lake has been showing poor water quality and diminished fish and wildlife habitat.”
The current fishery is dominated by black bullheads, which is an indication of poor water quality and an unhealthy fish community. This fisheries data, coupled with poor water data and diminished habitat conditions indicates that Pickerel Lake needs a renovation.
Lowering water levels will accomplish two goals – it will allow aquatic vegetation to re-establish in the near shore areas that will remove nutrients from the sediment helping to prevent algae blooms, improve water quality and provide fish and wildlife important habitat, and it will provide an opportunity for fisheries and wildlife staff to reset the fishery.
“These shallow lakes need to be actively managed to promote water quality and in lake habitat,” said Patterson. “It is always our goal to maximize the time between water level management projects, but with the information we have on Pickerel Lake it is time to manage water levels to improve the lake.”
Patterson said he expects to see wildlife respond almost immediately to the project with shorebirds and other wildlife taking advantage of the low water and exposed mudflats, and waterfowl using the improved habitat in the fall of 2021. The lake will be restocked with a diverse native fish community, including yellow perch and walleye, in 2022. Anglers should begin catching fish in 2023, and more so in the spring of 2024.