Ice fishing at Hickory Grove Lake

Hickory Grove Lake which sits about 25 miles west of Marshalltown is a hot spot for panfish in this area. This park is used all year-round and for many reasons. It has two concrete boat ramps for boats, kayaks, and canoes, numerous areas to have a picnic, modern and primitive camping sites and lake that is full of panfish. It is a small park and the lake is about 100 acres. This is your typical, “great things come in small packages” lake. If you haven’t gotten to know Hickory Grove Lake, it is about time you do.

Ice fishing is in full swing and the ice is great at this lake. The recent warmer weather did soften things up a little bit, but colder weather is predicted for next week and the ice fishing season will continue to be a good one. If you are looking to catch bluegills, crappies and catfish through the ice your best chances are at Hickory Grove. As mentioned, this lake is full of bluegills and crappies too. The best and most reliable way to catch panfish through the ice at Hickory Grove is to fish the many brush piles located in the lake. These will hold bluegills and green sunfish most days. The crappies are a bit harder to locate in this deep lake, but things to look for are areas close to the deepest water or channel areas. Crappies tend to stay on the move during the winter often times moving with the channel and pulling up on brush piles or flats to feed. If you are after larger fish, then the channel catfish is what you will be searching for. These fish love spoons and waxworms. Keep these bouncing near the bottom of the lake in mid-range depths. These fish will also stay on the move, so like the crappies, sitting and waiting them out is a good idea.

While the catfish will tug on your line the most at this lake, the popular species during the ice fishing season are no doubt the bluegills and crappies. These are the fish that I target when visiting Hickory Grove Lake. I hope the following tips will help you catch more fish at this lake, as well as others for the remainder of the ice fishing season.

Smaller the better: the ice season is well past half over and the fish have seen many baits come and go. When mid-winter is upon us it is time to adjust our baits and go with smaller offerings. Small jigs and small baits like spikes seem to work the best. Many days a waxworm is just too big for bluegills and crappies to bite. Mid-winter causes this as well as high barometric pressure. Go smaller for more fish in the late ice fishing season.

Stay Mobile: this time of year it is vital to stay on the move to keep catching fish. While ice fishing think of every hole you drill as a “cast” during the summer time. Some days the fish might be directly in the brush pile, while other days the feeding fish are on the outside of the brush pile. Drilling multiple holes in one small area can tell you this quickly. I wish I understood why fish relate to the outer parts of brush piles but some days they sure do. The only way to know for sure is to stay mobile and try many different holes.

Depth of water: besides staying mobile and moving around a particular area you must also seek out different depths of water. Try deeper water and shallow water too. At Hickory Grove shallow water is considered to be around 12-15 feet while the deepest water is around 30 feet deep. Some days fish will locate shallow or they may be very deep, you must try a variety of depths to fine-tune where the fish are feeding that day.

I hope you get a chance to get out and try ice fishing, especially at Hickory Grove Lake, it is one of my favorite lakes in Central Iowa to fish and the bluegill fishing is second to none around here.

While ice fishing at Hickory Grove, there are a couple great areas to enter the ice safely. There are two boat ramps, one on the southeast side of the lake and one on the northwest side of the lake. There are also two areas that you should use extra caution too. There is a large spillway on the west side of the lake at the dam area and two large culverts on the far east side of the lake. These should be thought of as off-limits during the ice fishing season due to the moving water that both possess.

The ice season is still going strong, as always no ice is safe ice so be careful, take a friend and your safety picks and rope.

Contact Todd Reed at and visit