One of Iowa’s busiest lakes should get a little more crowded and fishing groups couldn’t be happier.
A new physical barrier on top of the Big Creek Lake spillway should put an end to losing muskie during high water events.
“We lost a lot of muskies when Big Creek had high water in the spring of 2007,” said Ben Dodd, fisheries biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “We are also losing adult walleyes in the same way.”
Dodd has been working on a walleye population study in Big Creek and said within one month of tagging some of the lake’s larger walleyes, one was caught in the Saylorville tailrace, and several months later another was caught nearly 100 miles upstream on the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge.
News that fish are leaving the lake didn’t surprise those in the fishing community.
“Big Creek was not doing what it should for walleye and muskies,” said Ron White, of Ankeny, a member of Central Iowa Anglers a multi species fishing club. “We were not seeing near the big walleye in the lake and we were catching muskie below the Saylorville tailrace.”
Members of Central Iowa Anglers, Recycled Fish, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Big Creek State Park and Fisheries collaborated to install the barrier in late July.
This barrier is a system of 1-5/8 inch horizontal bars spaced 2 inches apart, 29 inches tall on top of the spillway. Based on the hydrographs, the barrier should work for 95 percent of the storm events.
“We will have to wait for the first big storm to tell whether the barrier is going to function properly,” Dodd said. “We installed an experimental test section in 2011 and the vegetation passed through the barrier very well.”
The barrier should prevent most muskie and walleye over 17 inches from leaving Big Creek.
“We’re pretty optimistic about this as far as preventing fish from escaping,” White said. “It’s got to help.”
Previous attempts at a physical barrier did not work because the barrier would serve as a strainer, catching debris heading over the spillway.
Dodd learned of a barrier that has been keeping fish in Kinkaid Lake, near Carbondale, Ill., for years, with little to no maintenance.
The fish barrier was jointly funded by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The structure cost about $8,000 which will be offset by Recycled Fish who will donate a percentage of the proceeds from a September fish-a-thon event.