OKOBOJI, Iowa – One of Iowa’s larger shallow lakes will be the focus of a water quality improvement project that was born out of the historic drought of 2012. The 1,200-acre Trumbull Lake and its 1,000 acres of connected marshes, in Clay County, are nearly dry which is unusual for the shallow lakes system that receives water from a nearly 50,000-acre watershed.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be presenting its plan to improve the lake during a meeting on Oct. 23, at 6 p.m., in the lower level of the Dickinson County Nature Center, at 170th Street, in Okoboji.

“Trumbull has an enormous watershed so we need to take advantage of this opportunity that Mother Nature is granting us to recharge the marshes and improve the lake by getting plants to return and eliminate the carp,” said Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Hawkins said restoration plans shifted gears when it became apparent that the summer was going to be a drought for the record books. What began as a partial drawdown of 22 inches last spring, ended with, essentially, a dry lake.

“This is a blessing, in a good way,” said Bryan Hellyer, wildlife biologist for the DNR. “While things didn’t go as planned with the drawdown, we now have an opportunity to reset the lake-marsh system and go from a shallow lake with murky water and no vegetation to one that benefits waterfowl, shorebirds and all kinds of wetland wildlife with emergent and submergent vegetation. That’s exciting.”

Hawkins said they will dig an existing channel to keep the lake water free as much as possible next spring to allow plants to germinate and grow on the lake bed.

“We have a small window of opportunity in May and June to get these plants to germinate so we plan to begin digging the channel soon after this meeting,” Hawkins said.

The restoration plan includes stocking yellow perch and northern pike in the spring of 2014.

“Trumbull Lake has been in a dismal state for years. It has a history of some boom and bust cycle of fishing, but mostly poor fishing and poor water quality. What this project should do is improve the water quality and make the fishery more consistent,” Hawkins said.

“If this is your spot to hunt or fish, we understand how this can be disappointing, but if all goes as planned, Trumbull Lake will dramatically change for the better for wildlife and fishing for quite a few years,” Hellyer said.

And it will be carp-free for the first time since carp were introduced 100 years ago.