Rock Creek Lake fishing

In the next few weeks I am going to take the opportunity to help everyone in the Marshalltown area of the local fishing resources that we have within a short driving time. This week I chose to begin with our largest lake and the one that is closest, Rock Creek Lake.

I have taken two trips to Rock Creek Lake since the ice has melted away. It is a lake that holds a lot of mystery, a large panfish population and some giant largemouth bass. Let’s take a closer look at Rock Creek Lake and the fishing it will offer in the moth of April.

Rock Creek Lake is large lake for Iowa. It is known as the largest man made lake in the state. It is a little more than 600 acres and was built for Central Iowans to enjoy. Fishing is by far the most popular thing to do at Rock Creek, along with a stay at their wonderful campground.

The fishing in Rock Creek Lake is very popular by the locals because it offers a lot of species for anglers to target. The most popular species that I have seen anglers go after is the abundant crappie. Both species of crappie swim in the lake, the black crappie and white crappie. They are brothers and sometimes are hard to identify exactly what species you have caught. It really makes no difference, as both types of crappie live in the same areas, are caught with the same lures, grow to be the same size, and taste equally good. Crappies are a popular target at Rock Creek Lake because their numbers are very high in the lake. Anglers, with a little bit of research, the right tackle and the right bait can catch crappies in high numbers, especially in April.

This is the time of year that fish will start to come up shallow to feed heavily after the ice goes out. As the ice starts to disappear, the water temperatures are warming quickly. All fish are cold-blooded, so as the water warms, so do they, when they start warming up, they need more food to keep their body going. This is nature doing its work in the spring. When fishing for crappies at Rock Creek, go shallow in April. Stay in the middle section of the lake and focus your efforts around brush piles. There are numerous brush piles scattered all over Rock Creek Lake, and many are within a long cast of shore. Once you find one, catching will soon follow. A simple bobber and live bait setup will catch crappies. You may also cast small jig heads with artificial tails too. When you are getting good bites on live bait, try an artificial, as they may hit them just as well. When setting up a bobber rig, make sure and use small bobbers and small hooks. A big mistake that I see many anglers doing is using tackle that is too big for panfish. Small bobbers will allow you to see light bites and the small hooks will help the hook get into the mouths of the fish so you can reel them in. Small minnows or a small chunk of worm will work the best on your hook.

Bluegills, another species in Rock Creek Lake, can be caught in the same fashion and places on the lake as described for the crappie. These two species are often grouped together by anglers. Both species are referred to as “panfish.” This coming from the great taste they have as you fry them in a pan. There are many bluegills to catch in Rock Creek, and you may know right away that you have one on, as they fight a bit harder than the crappies.

Bass is another popular species that is sought after at the lake. Rock Creek has many bass tournaments every year, showing that the bass population is going strong. There is one next Saturday open to the public, information can be found by clicking over to This will let you know all the information for this very informal bass tournament.

Bass can best be looked for at Rock Creek with crankbaits and spinnerbaits. This can be accomplished from shore or your boat. In the spring, just like the panfish, the bass can be shallow. April is the best time to fish from shore and make sure you stay mobile if you are looking to hook some bass. Take one pole and a few lures and get ready to walk. Two great places to go looking to get some bass from shore would be just north of the beach, and along the campground on the northeast side of the lake. These two areas are great for two reasons. They both have rock and a few scattered trees in the water, and they are relatively shallow. A shallow running crankbait or a spinner bait will probably get you hooked up with a springtime Rock Creek bass. If you can’t get any hits on those fast moving baits, then switch your lures to slower moving targets like jigs or texas-rigged plastic baits. Remember, all bass must be released if they are less than 15 inches long.

Catfish are also present in Rock Creek Lake. Go to the large bays and use cut bait or prepared bait for these big cats. I have seen several reports of channel catfish more than 8 pounds in the lake. Catfish will relate to the shallow bays looking for dead fish to eat and forage on any fish that is injured from the harsh winter season. I do not fish for catfish in the lake, but the bays are where the reports will tell you to go.

Those four species will keep you busy at Rock Creek Lake, there is the occasional walleye, and drum, but not in the large numbers as the bass, bluegill, crappie or catfish.

Don’t forget, if you haven’t bought your 2015 fishing license you need to do so. Anyone 16 years or older needs one to fish in the state of Iowa. It’s the best $20 you’ll ever spend. Be safe and leave our area lakes more beautiful than when you arrived.

Contact Todd Reed at and visit