To close out the series we will discuss the largest manmade lake in Iowa. Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest manmade lake and is located in the Southeast part of the state. In fact it is the largest lake in Iowa and will be a premier Iowa Family Fishing Destination long into the future.
With over 15,000 acres of water and 35,000 acres of land for your enjoyment Lake Red Rock is Iowa’s largest lake. Located on the Des Moines River just 45 miles southeast and downriver from Des Moines, the reservoir collects runoff and drainage from over 12,320 square miles of Iowa and southern Minnesota land. This protects communities and agriculture lands downstream from the Red Rock Dam. The maximum flood control pool is 780 feet above sea level, over 33 miles long, and covers 65,500 acres. Other lake area benefits include numerous recreational opportunities and natural resources on the water and surrounding public lands.
The main purpose of the Red Rock dam being built is flood control that was needed after heavy crop and property loss over many years. More recently in 2014 the Army Corps of Engineers who manage the lake and surrounding land set out to retrofit the dam to provide hydro-electric power. The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project is being managed by MRES Missouri River Energy Services. They will be scheduling a number of tours of the powerhouse, open to the public, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers upon completion. They estimate the turbines could provide electricity to 18,000 homes.
Red Rock Recreation Area is well known for its excellent camping, recreation, woods, wildlife and fishing. Along with those you and your family can enjoy boating, disc golf, and mountain bike on trails that meander through hardwood forest and open prairie. You might even try Geocaching. It is one of the featured events put on by the DNR at the campgrounds with their program called Geocaching 101. With almost every back country sport, vehicle and boat having GPS today, learning how to accurately use a GPS unit is fun and beneficial. In the fall is the Tour de Rock 50 mile bike ride on scenic trails in the lake area. You can rent a cabin, bring your tent, trailer or motorhome for lodging at the lake. The nearby towns have plenty of rooms.
There are quality campgrounds such as Howell Station located below the dam, Wallashuck on the Northeast, Elk Rock State Park and Whitebreast Camp on the South are just a few of the fine campgrounds and recreation areas you will find around the lower portion of the lake. Elk Rock also has a well-designed Equestrian Campground that is very popular with families who want to bring their horses and ride the many multi-use trails.
Red Rock Lake Association puts on the annual Balloon Fest in July with many events over several days. This in itself is a good reason to plan a trip to the area. For many years the colorful balloons were weekly visitors over our house and great fun to watch and listen to the burners as they lift the balloons skyward.
Knoxville and Pella are just a short drive from the lake. Both have very interesting things to do, from the Dutch Heritage in Pella to the modern day Sprint Car races at Knoxville.
The National Sprint Car Races are held at the Knoxville Raceway in August starting out with a parade and many family oriented things to do. There’s the Sideways Go-Kart Track and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum. If you are on the South side of the lake in Elk Rock State Park you’re very close to Knoxville and the Pine Knolls Country Club where you and your family can enjoy a round of golf.
Pella likes to promote their Dutch Heritage with Tulip Time in the spring. There are windmills throughout the year in this beautiful town that is located at the East end of the lake. They also have a very nice Country Club for round ball enthusiasts that like to mix their fishing and family vacations with golf.
Fishing on Red Rock can be excellent: They have good boat ramps and fish cleaning stations for use once you’ve made your catch.
Ben Dodd, IDNR Fisheries Management Biologist tells me the overall status of the fishery is good, White bass/hybrid striped bass fishing has been fair/good and the catfishing is good to excellent at Red Rock. Also they observed a strong crappie population during their annual gill netting survey with it not being uncommon to see trophy size crappie in the 13” to 17” range come out of the lake.
Catfish, Walleye, Wiper and Crappie are the most sought after species in Red Rock. Catfish can readily be caught on a float rig with a pencil style no snag sinker and a float to keep the bait off the bottom. Thread a few pieces of shad, chubs/shiner or half a legally caught panfish on a circle hook and you’re in business. Johnny Coleman of (Flats N Cats Guide Service) showed me while I was videoing him on East Okoboji that in a lake it’s best to drift with freshly cut bait. Employ drift sock or two, for covering water at just the right speed. When you pick up a catfish, drift back over the same area as they will school up. For those of you starting out Catfishing, don’t set the hook hard with a circle hook. Let the fish make a short run of a few seconds and just draw back on the rod. The shape of the hook will roll the barb into the fish’s mouth making a secure hook set and a safe release. If you are using a straight shank hook you’ll need to set the hook solidly with one hard set and then keep steady pressure as you reel in your lunker. Straight hooks have more chance of the fish being gut hooked and not able to release as many fishermen today choose to do with the larger fish. Catfishing below the dam can be excellent also.
Crappie are abundant in Red Rock and one of the finest eating fish in Iowa. During the summer and particularly after cold fronts work open-deep water areas looking for that telltale tower of fish on your locator. Crappie is the only fish I’m aware of that stack up in this manner. Waypoint that location to stay on them as this whole school of fish will move as one. Many times you will find the largest fish at the deepest part of the tower.
Walleye have been heavily stocked in Red Rock. Ben Dodd, IDNR Fisheries Management Biologist tells me there were:
• 10 Million Walleye Fry stocked in 2015
• 11 Million Walleye Fry stocked in 2014
• 3.5 Million Walleye Fry stocked in 2012
• 9 Million Walleye Fry stocked in 2011
This should make for quality year class (Eyes) for years to come.
Over 1.25 Million Wiper (Hybrid Striped Bass) were stocked from Fry up to 3” in 2015. In 2014 over 430 Thousand and another 80 thousand in 2013.
Northern Pike in the 3” range were stocked at a rate of 60,000 per year in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Talk about a quality fishery! Red Rock has it all and is there waiting for you to enjoy!
Reservations can be made at the National Recreation Reservation Service toll free number: (877) 444-6777 or on-line at www.Recreation.gov. It’s good to know that besides camping fees there are USACE (Army Corps) “Annual” or “Day Use” fees so it’s easiest to plan ahead and have these in hand before you go. Each campground has a well detailed web page with all the information you’ll need.