A $400,000 project to improve a southern Iowa lake has hit a snag.
An Iowa Department of Natural Resources crew discovered fish called "gizzard shad" in Lake Wapello last week. Mark Flammang, a fisheries biologist based at Lake Wapello, says they just drained the lake to get rid of the gizzard shad, but now that the lake’s three-quarters full again, the shad are back.
"We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of dollars basically making a very good lake…better," Flammang says. "And part of that $400,000 was aimed at draining the lake and getting rid of these fish."
Gizzard shad are fine for large lakes and reservoirs as they eat plankton and serve as food for bigger fish like walleye, but in small lakes these gizzard shad are bad news because they eat so much they crowd out other fish, like bluegill. Lake Wapello, which is near Bloomfield, is a 270-acre lake that the D.N.R. had hoped to re-stock with bass, bluegill and channel catfish.
"Lake Wapello is a very special resource in southern Iowa. It’s certainly one of the first lakes in this part of the state," he says. "It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps way back in the ’30s. It’s an extremely beautiful area, a state park there, lots of cabins, lots of camping and swimming — just a great recreational area."
But plans to reopen the lake for fishing and boating are now on hold as officials decide whether they have to drain the lake again to get rid of the gizzard shad, or find another way to deal with the problem.
"It’s really a resource that’s important to a whole lot of folks down here and not just down around here. There’s a whole lot of anglers who come from far away to fish this (lake), so you can imagine how this would be a large disappointment to us seeing that essentially we’re going to be delayed another year because we will have to eliminate the gizzard shad again," Flammang says. "On the upside, at least it was caught now and not somewhere farther down the line."
Flammang won’t speculate as to how the shad got back into the lake. It is illegal to "introduce" live fish to any public waters in the state and Flammang says it’s against the law for anyone to possess live gizzard shad.
The Lake Wapello restoration project also repaired a leak in the dam and expanded access to the lake by improving boat ramps.