CORNING – Lake Icaria is a popular fishing lake in Adams County in southwest Iowa. It also has a popular campsite. And a popular swimming beach and popular for boating and deer hunting. In fact, Lake Icaria offers year-round outdoor recreation, drawing visitors from Des Moines to Council Bluffs and from across the region.
“It’s quite a target area for southwest Iowa,” said Chad Paup, wildlife biologist for the Grand River Unit of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The Adams County board of directors are investing in the cabins, cottages, beach and marina because they know Icaria will bring people to the area.”
Lake Icaria is a shared resource between the Iowa DNR and the Adams County Conservation Board. Paup employees are responsible for the management and improvement of the wildlife area, the Iowa DNR Fisheries Bureau manages the lake, and the Department of Conservation is responsible for the park.
Paup said Grand River Unit employees are working to reclaim the area from the cedar and woody shrubs that have been gradually replacing the prairie. The felled trees are placed in a heap, then they treat the area with prescribed fire. After the cedars were removed, he said they occasionally find remnants of prairie on some of the areas.
“It’s not everywhere, but it’s in the pockets,” he said. “In southern Iowa, if you don’t manage these areas with fire, they can quickly outrun you. We want native gases and wildflowers here and that requires active management.”
Paup said they rotate the areas they use fire in every 3-5 years and maintain the firebreaks, making it more manageable. The area around the eastern retention pond was burned this spring to put grass on the slopes that will improve and protect Lake Ikaria’s water quality.
“It’s a constant struggle to keep trees and shrubs from encroaching on the grassy areas,” he said.
The DNR works with the Adams County Conservation Board, which owns and manages the adjacent Talty Wildlife Area, to coordinate the use of the prescribed fire to maximize benefits.
“They are great partners and help us manage Lake Icaria to make this place what it is – they look after the park, manage the parking lots, boat ramps and we manage the wildlife area,” said Paup.
This partnership not only benefits visitors to the area by providing quality habitat, but also the animals that roam the area or call the area home.
Staff from the multispecies DNR inventory and monitoring program visited Lake Icaria in 2009 and returned this year to map the diverse species in the area.
In addition to the resident deer, wild turkey, rabbits and pheasants, there are a number of species considered to be particularly vulnerable including Northern Leopard Frogs, Western Fox Snakes, Northern Prairie Kinkers, Baltimore Oriole, Belted Kingfishers, Brown Thrashers, Dickcissels, Common Yellowthroats, Red-headed Woodpeckers , western meadowlark and monarch butterflies.
Lake Icaria has a two-acre wildlife area pond that will serve as a temporary home for 100,000 newly hatched walleye fry from late April to early May, where they will live for 30 days, feeding and growing with little competition and away from predators. At the end of 30 days, these walleye will be about two inches long. The stop logs are pulled and the zander flow through the tube into the 650 hectare lake.
Walleye are a special species here and the lake gets an extra stock of larger 8 inch fish in the fall. These advanced fry have the best chance of survival.
“We’re seeing a lot of 12- to 18-inch fish right now, and fish up to 25 inches are being caught in the winter,” said Andy Jansen, fisheries biologist with the Iowa DNR. He said they used the pond this year to put windshield wipers in place of walleye to increase the windshield wiper population.
The fishery also includes blue catfish, a new addition since 2019, sourced from the Mt Ayr fish hatchery. These fish are now around 14 inches and are beginning to show up in anglers’ catches. The blue catfish join a strong population of the well-loved channel catfish.
“There’s an excellent channel catfish population for all sizes, especially fish from 15 to 25 inches,” said Jansen. “Bluegills run around 7-8 inches and crappies are mostly 7-9 inches with some larger fish available. It’s a good place for kids because the panfish are active and kids generally don’t care about size.”
The fishing piers recently received new riprap and the marina installed new docks and security lighting last year. Bait is available at the marina and from nearby Lakeside Supplies. A fish cleaning station is available at the boat’s main ramp.
“The park staff do a fantastic job maintaining the park and lake facilities,” said Jansen.
The huts and cabins are open all year round.
Bow hunting for deer is allowed in the park.
Lake Icaria is closed to Canada geese hunting.
Trumpeter swans have been released here but have not settled. They nest on ponds in the area.
Sunflower fields offer pigeon hunting. The expansive prairie offers pheasant hunting. Shrubby field edges offer quail hunting.
To reach Brian Rathjen, send correspondence to [email protected] or call (712) 243-2624.
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