Warm weather, cold weather, rain, sleet and snow … sounds like March in Iowa to me. This has certainly been true so far this month. I was able to ice fish in March once again this year, which I didn’t think would happen, and a short week later caught my first bass out of my boat. I don’t think that has ever happened for me in my life. However, that just means it is time to start the open water fishing season, if you haven’t already. Fishing this time of year is very tricky, the weather creates days that are only made for a duck and are just not conducive for fishing. It also can raise the river overnight to a muddy mess, which isn’t good for anything. Mother Nature is in full control. The temperatures are swinging up and down on a day-to-day basis which hasn’t allowed the water to warm up much. This past week was a typical “Mother Nature” week, 60-degree days and 30-degree days, it just isn’t fair! However, looking at the extended forecast, temperatures in the 50s are quite common as we begin April.
As the warm weather has shown itself and some timely rain, nature is keeping pace with its annual routines. The grass is green, flowers are shooting up through the dirt, and new plant life can be seen everywhere you turn your head. Spring is slowly coming to Central Iowa, and so are some great fishing opportunities.
I am going to highlight the areas anglers have right here in Marshall County. First and foremost is the vast expanse of the Iowa River. This section of the river is known for smallmouth, catfish and walleyes. There are numerous other kinds of fish that swim the waters but these three species are the most common that anglers chase. Fishing interior rivers is what I grew up doing, and the chance of catching nice quality fish out of small rivers is great if you do your homework. The river in this county covers miles and miles of terrain, most of which is private land. An angler must search out parks to access the river or dock a small boat to take full advantage of the treasures of the river. A quick look on the Marshall County Conservation website will show these park areas best. I have learned in my river fishing that the best areas to fish are the ones that are the hardest to get to.
Sand Lake, which is just east of Marshalltown on Main Street is our largest lake. It is about 100 acres and is by far the deepest lake in the area. That being known, it will be the slowest lake to warm up too. Sand Lake offers every species the Iowa River does, as it can flood into this lake. The most abundant species in the lake is the bluegill. These can readily be caught from shore using live worms. Crappies, bass, walleye, perch, yellow bass, carp, catfish, drum, white bass and wipers can all be caught here. You just never know what you might tangle with at Sand Lake. Live bait seems to work best here as the water color is normally pretty clear. Slip bobbers and jigs with live bait are my favorite way to fish this lake. I find that you have to move often here, but once you get a bite you will be set to get many more. It’s a fun place to fish, as you just never know what might be on the other end of your line.
Green Castle lake is just south of town and should allow some nice fishing opportunities this year. The lake has had a recent overhaul with new fish stocked and plenty of new fish structures. Bluegills, Crappies, Largemouth bass, Red-ear sunfish and catfish all inhabit the small lake. Most angling can be down from the shoreline as the park is always well kept with mowing up to the edge. Also as part of the overhaul, a small boat ramp has been added for kayaks and canoes to use the lake. This will offer some great new fishing locations as you can now check out what is “out” on the lake. With its relative small size, only 16 acres it is easy to fish and should be full of fish this year. Green Castle would be on the top of the list to take a child as the fish won’t be huge, but should be plentiful (remember, NO minnows allowed at Green Castle).
Moving on to the most interesting lake in Marshall County. The Landfill Lake has offered fishing for decades. It is only seven acres in size and is located inside of the county landfill. This is why it might be the most interesting place to fish, as it is only open during regular business hours, and not at all on Sundays. So fishing this little lake is limited. The lake is full of largemouth bass, bluegills, catfish and some crappies, too. It is a typical small lake, and really fishes just like a farm pond. The water is normally very clean looking so be sure to have plenty of natural looking baits to offer the fish.
One last area to consider are the water retention ponds on the south side of town. They have bluegills, crappies and largemouth bass in them. They are already starting to fill up with vegetation, so if you want to try your luck in these, get there soon.
I hope you get a chance soon to get out and try an area lake or pond. If you have access to private ponds, those are great this time of year, too, as they warm up very quickly. Don’t forget to get a new license if you are 16 years or older and leave your fishing areas cleaner than they were when you got there.