Hickory Grove Lake is one of the area's top ice fishing locations. The lake is located in a county park just south of Colo. You can reach this outdoor destination in about 30 minutes from Marshalltown. This fact alone makes it a popular place for Marshall County anglers to test their ice fishing ability. A quick drive and you can be fishing on a top panfish lake in central Iowa.
There are many species of fish in the lake for you to catch. The most abundant fish are the largemouth bass, crappie and bluegills. There are carp, green sunfish and catfish available too. All species can be caught while ice fishing, but the bluegill and crappie are the most popular when fishing during the winter.
Hickory Grove Lake is a small lake, and very spread out through the rolling hills of the park. When ice fishing, anglers have several places to access the ice. One area in particular is in the middle of the lake. There is an area where you can park at on the south side of the lake which gives you access to a great location, it is called crappie cove. A little more to the west and you can access the lake near a lodge called snow bunting lodge. There is a footpath that goes down to the lake and gives you access to the mid-portion of the lake. These areas are good for a couple different reasons.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
Area ice angler, Don Henry frequents Hickory Grove Lake during the winter. He likes to target bluegills in the brushpiles while using his Vexilar FL-8 model.
The first reason, and probably the most important is that it is near deep water. Not too far from the casting dock there is water more than 20 feet deep. This is important during ice fishing, as the deeper water is a little warmer and the fish will stay around these deep water areas throughout the winter. Another reason this area is good is because Story Conservation workers have placed pallets and brush about 30 feet directly in front of the casting dock. Panfish love brush and they use it all the time to hide from bigger fish and to find bugs, larvae and smaller fish to eat. It truly is a home for panfish. The brush is in depths of water up to 18 feet, but some of it comes up to about 5 feet of water. Like all ice fishing, start with small jigs and change your colors until you find one that the fish are liking. This area is great for bluegills, green sunfish, crappies, and most likely you will catch a largemouth bass too, remember all bass under fifteen inches have to be thrown back immediately, it's a state law on the lake.
If the panfish aren't hiding out in the brush and pallets, then directly to the west is a deep bank. A short walk will allow you to get close to 30 feet of water. Some days the panfish want to be close to the deepest water available, especially late in the ice fishing season.
This area on Hickory Grove has produced many nice catches for my friends and I. There are many other good locations around the lake to fish too. If the area turns out to be a bust for the day, try fishing one of the many jetties around the lake. These will allow you to get closer to deeper water and the many brush piles that are sunken throughout the lake. The most important thing for any angler to consider is water depth and bait presentation. Most days when ice fishing the fish want a very small and slow jig presentation. Moving your bait more than an inch can be too much. Always vary your cadence of jigging until you know what the fish are liking that particular day. This can easily be done by using a Vexilar. A Vexilar is a special designed sonar device made especially for ice fishing. If you have never seen one in action, you can check them out at Vexilar.com or search for them on YouTube. They are by far the most important ice fishing tool that I have to locate and catch fish through the ice.
Another great area to try, and is easy to walk to is point that looks directly at the southern boat ramp. There is plenty of parking there and you can walk directly north onto t the lake, a little west, and be at a large mass of brushpiles. It is located on the point across the lake from the southern boat ramp. If you cannot find any fish in that location, the bank that goes directly to the west from that point can be a good area to ice fish also. There is deep water, and brush in the area. Both are magnets in the winter for panfish.
Enjoy all your Outdoor Ambitions this week, and don't forget to keep safety in mind on the ice.