Rock Creek Lake
Marshalltown, being in the center of the state has a lot of fishing opportunities by taking a short drive. In a previous article I highlighted all the smaller bodies of water here in Marshall County, and now it time to help you get acquainted with other lakes that are not too far away. As the title states, Rock Creek Lake is this weeks’ focus. Rock Creek holds a lot of memories for me. I have spent countless days ice fishing the lake, camped a few times there, boat fishing for crappies and bluegills and even caught my personal best largemouth bass out of the lake. It is a fantastic park that keeps getting better and better.
The actual lake used to be looked down upon, it was muddy after rains, and the fishing wasn’t fantastic. However, several years ago the DNR started cleaning things up by placing in silt ponds north and west of the lake to curb the silt problem the lake had. This has cleaned things up at Rock Creek, and has improved the overall population of every game fish in the lake. The lake is still on the “shallow” side when it comes to Iowa lakes, but the main basin still has water over fifteen feet deep and a few channel banks that have water around ten feet deep not too far from shore. With the Rock Creek Lake Watershed program great things are happening at Rock Creek, and the future looks very bright.
Rock Creek is located about 25 minutes south of Marshalltown and is about 450 acres in size. The lake has numerous jetties and mowed areas that anglers can fish from the shore with ease. This makes it a popular place in the spring time when fish use shallows to feed up and spawn. The lake also offers four boat ramps allowing access to all parts of the lake even if you are canoeing or have a small boat. When using a boat, you must keep it at 5 mph or lower while on the lake. The lake has a huge campsite, playground equipment, fish cleaning stations at three of the ramps, trail system, bait shop/boat rental, and several large group picnic areas. If you haven’t seen Rock Creek Lake for a few years, do yourself a favor and check it out soon.
On to the fishing … the lake offers, catfish, bass, bluegills, crappies, carp and walleye. The main attraction for this lake is by far the crappie. Anglers looking for a meal of crappies have a good chance at this lake. The population of these fish is strong right now. Most fish are around 9 inches or so, perfect for the frying pan. Remember, 25 is the daily limit on crappies. Crappies seem to be caught all over the lake, and in May the shore is probably as close to a guarantee you will get in fishing. The lake is outlined with rocks and as the weather warms so do these rocks. The crappie will be close to the banks on warmer days and are normally very cooperative when in shallow water. My favorite bait to use for crappies is a 1/8oz lead head jig and plastic tail. I normally rig a bobber a few feet above the bait to keep it at a steady depth. Once I find the correct depth, I cast and retrieve slowly waiting for the bobber to take off. It seems like the black/chartreuse color is one I turn to on this lake the most. If the crappies are not in the shallow bays or along the rocky bank, then take things deeper. Channel banks and deeper brush piles will be where the fish are hanging around. Most every jetty has a brush pile within casting distance and are great places to try. Bring plenty of tackle, because snags are sure to happen around these piles, but so is the catching!
Bluegills are the other panfish in the lake, however the population of them are near what the crappies are. They are in there, and the same techniques can be used to catch them, however I prefer a small garden worm to catch the gills.
As stated, there is plenty of shallow water to fish if you are looking for catfish. I have never tried for this fish at Rock Creek, but I have seen many anglers do so. Shallow bays with the typical catfish rigs should allow you to sample the channel cats at Rock Creek.
Walleyes, the mystery fish of Rock Creek. They have been stocked for several years and just in the past five years almost 61,000 walleyes have been placed in by the Iowa DNR. That may seem like a lot of fish, but when you are talking about a lake the size of Rock Creek, it really isn’t. Typically walleye are not able to reproduce in man-made lakes, but perhaps some spawning occurs. Vertical jigging or pulling deep crank baits will give you the best chance at catching an ‘eye or two.
Lastly, the largemouth bass. This is probably the second most sought after fish in the lake. The numbers have increased the last few years with help from the watershed program. Bass can be found at all depths of water making shore fishing or fishing from a boat fun. When fishing shallow for bass I like shallow running crank baits or flipping a jig and chunk trailer on the rocks. When fishing the deeper waters of Rock Creek I will go with a deep diving crank bait or a heavier jig to feel the depths. Both techniques along with many other bass catching techniques will work at Rock Creek. Remember, bass must be 15 inches long and you may keep 3 per day.
When the warmer weather hits us next week, I can only assume the fishing will heat up too. May is a great time to fish and you can catch large numbers of fish, please think catch and release during May, as the crappies, bluegills and bass all will spawning during this time. Think about the future, release your catch.