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Crappies top choice for anglers at Rock Creek Lake

May 12, 2012
By TODD REED , Times-Republican

In the world of fishing, the most popular question is always, "are they biting?" My belief over my countless trips to area lakes are that 95 percent of the time, yes they are biting if you can find them. No, I don't catch dozens of bass or crappies every time I go out fishing, but the fish are almost always biting. The sometimes hard part of that statement is the "finding" part. I had a very humbling experience this past weekend at Rock Creek Lake. A good friend of mine, David Bowles, and I were set to go fishing for some crappies at Rock Creek. Three dozens minnows, a few rods and bobbers and we were off in the boat to go catch some fish. Well, the "catching" part is always the most fun, and at times is the part that all anglers fail at. As we started fishing that morning, I thought we were headed down that path too, the failing part. We fished shallow, deep and kept moving along the lake with no, and I mean NO crappies what-so-ever. I was starting to think that this trip was going to be a bust.

We just kept fishing, and even in May, the topic of ice fishing came up several times, as we frequent that lake often in the winter time. As we were discussing some ice fishing success, boom, the bobber took off. I set the hook and the first crappie of the day came in the boat. From that point on, in the next 30 yards of rocky shoreline, we must have caught two or three dozen crappies throughout the day. However, if we drifted too far north or too far south, there were no bites at all. We found three different areas that morning that had the crappies piled up, and we had a great time. A dismal looking fishing day turned into a great one. We kept moving and trying different things until we "found them" and find them we did. A great lesson to you as you head out to your favorite spring time destination, keep moving and trying different things until you find them and make a fishing day a catching day!

Rock Creek Lake is an awesome lake for panfishing, mostly for crappies. You can expect to catch a lot of crappies (the most of any area lake) and most of them will be eight to ten inches in length. Rarely will you catch one bigger than that, but they are in there. Rock Creek is a lake that stretches out over 400 acres just south of Marshalltown. It has a lot of access to fishing even if you do not own a boat. Most of the northern part of the lake can be walked around by bank anglers. There are numerous jetties that get you to closer to deeper water as well. This is very important in the upcoming weeks of late May and June as the fish will migrate to the deeper water.

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Crappies are the top choice of many anglers at Rock Creek Lake. Crappies are easily caught on live minnows throughout the lake, keep moving and searching for them. Once you find where they are biting, you can enjoy a fun filled day of catching fish.

There are several species in Rock Creek Lake, including; crappies, bluegills, walleye, largemouth bass, catfish, and drum. Most anglers go after the bluegills and crappies, however more and more anglers are starting to target the walleyes, as their population has grown over the years of DNR stocking. Of course, the bass are quiet popular too, and that population is strong right now also.

Rock Creek is a shallow lake, with most of it being less than ten feet deep. It has an old creek channel going through the entire lake, which is a magnet to panfish in the summer and winter time. You must have a boat to access that fishing area though. Another key feature to the lake is the rocky shoreline. Most of the lake, especially the part accessible by shore, is lined with chunk rock. All fish species love this structure as it leads to algae growth and plenty of crawdad hiding spots too. The algae leads to smaller fish staying shallow and all species of fish love to eat crawdads.

If you are after the panfish in the lake, then minnows are your best bet. Some days when the fish are really hungry, you won't need them, but I always like to use them when I can. Minnows are a crappies favorite meal, and if you can get the smallest minnows possible, bluegills will eat them up too. Small redworms are great for bluegills as well. I use both a colored lead head and live bait with a bobber or just cast a small jig with a small plastic tube attached to catch the panfish. If you are after the cats that live in the lake, cutbait and prepared catfish baits will catch them as usual. One more nice thing about Rock Creek Lake is the onsite bait shop. It is located at the northeast part of the lake and they offer live bait and all different kinds of artificial bait. If you need anything at all, that shop probably has it; bait, lures, food, ice, rods/reels, and fishing advice!

Bass and walleye are the top of the food chain at Rock Creek. This is why bass anglers come across walleyes often down there. Walleyes and bass eat the same food, small bluegills and crappies, and crawfish. There are hundreds of artificial baits out there to choose from, but some do work better than others at Rock Creek. I prefer a shallow running crankbait, one that dives five feet or less for casting along the rocky banks. If the fish are not hitting that, then it is time to focus on crawdad type baits. For this, I use a one-two punch combo. I Texas-rig a Hot Rod Baits tube or throw a bass jig and plastic trailer. Both of these baits are worked slowly over the rocks and any wood structure I can find in the lake. Normally, one of these three baits will have bass and the occasional walleye coming in the boat.

No matter what type of fish you are after, Rock Creek Lake is an awesome destination and it is only about twenty-five minutes south of Marshalltown. I hope you get a chance to visit the lake area soon as the fish are biting if you can find them!


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