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Virgin Lake, near Ruthven in Palo Alto county, 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 222-acre shallow natural lake this fall. The goal is to remove enough water from the lake in the coming months to allow managers to get rid of common carp.
Local DNR staff last managed water levels in Virgin Lake in 2011. The lake went through a full scale draw down and was allowed to refill in 2012. Water quality, habitat conditions and recreational opportunities improved immediately. Unfortunately, record amounts of precipitation in 2018 and 2019 caused water to overtop fish barriers and allowed common carp into the lake. This high water and the reintroduction of common carp have severely degraded habitat conditions.
“We use water quality, habitat conditions and fish community composition to determine the health of a lake. After the previous draw down we saw significant improvements in all three categories. Those conditions persisted until common carp got back into the lake following some major rain events in 2018. Since then water quality and habitat conditions have declined,” said Rob Patterson, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR.
Lowering water levels will accomplish two goals – it will allow aquatic vegetation to re-establish in the near shore areas that protect shorelines and help prevent algae blooms, improve water quality and provide fish and wildlife important habitat. After the fishery is reset, the lake will be restocked with native fish.
“These shallow lakes need to be actively managed to promote water quality and in-lake habitat,” said Patterson. “We’ve watched conditions at Virgin Lake steadily decline over the last several years. With the drier than normal conditions this is an excellent opportunity to manage the lake and return it to a healthy clear water state.”
Local DNR staff plan to begin removing water from Virgin Lake in late summer 2022 and plan to begin refilling the lake in late summer 2023 and refilled in 2024 unless the conditions prevent a full fishery renovation. The lake will be restocked with fish as soon as conditions allow. Stocked fish grow quickly and should reach harvest lengths in as little as two years.