Fishery Renovation

Creating quality fish habitat was high-priority in this project. Prior to lake construction, the fishery in McFarland Lake lacked in quality due to numerous contributing factors, that together, caused poor lake health. Read up on this topic in the Restoration Overview.

Reintroduction of healthy fishing populations and species to the lake is one positive of restarting the lake completely. Numerous features were constructed inside the lake to provide high quality fish habitat. This consisted of numerous spawning benches, catfish hotels, rock piles, vertical and horizontal plastic structures, as well as recycled cedar trees removed from the lake shores during construction. See more info about those below.

Aerial view of fish structure inside empty McFarland Lake during renovation


Once the lake is full, SCC will partner with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to create a fish stocking plan to include:

  • Largemouth bass
  • Bluegill
  • Catfish
  • Addition of crappie may be considered by IDNR once the above fish populations are established and balanced

We'll make sure to publish the stocking plan once it's available!

The renovated lake is absolutely packed with structure and will ensure dynamic age classes and species of fish long into the future.


Plastic Structure

Plastic pipes extend from buckets to create fish habitat inside empty McFarland Lake

Manufactured vertical and horizontal fish structures mimic natural fish habitat like downed trees. For scale, these are roughly seven feet tall.

Downed Trees

Pile of downed cedar trees creates fish structure inside empty McFarland Lake during renovation

Cedar trees removed from the shore during lake construction were simply placed in small piles inside the lake. Their dense branches make excellent habitat, especially for smaller fish. 

Spawning Benches

Fish spawning bench inside empty McFarland Lake renovation - resemble gravel island

Numerous spawning benches, topped with pea gravel, were constructed in the lake bed. While the lake remains empty, these appear almost as "mini islands" dispersed throughout the lake.

During spawning, male fish arrive and construct nests by wiggling back and forth across the easily-maneuverable gravel. A female then lays eggs to be fertilized by the male, who remains at the nest to guard eggs until hatched. -- This provides great angling opportunities! Don't worry - if a male is caught while guarding a nest, it is common for another male to come along and claim it as his own.

Construction Debris

Concrete chunks and broken skids form pile inside drained McFarland Lake creating fish structure

Even busted up piles of concrete will provide good habitat for fish! 

Fish Structure to Scale

Large timbers stick out from lake side to provide future fish habitat. Over six feet high

Staff member Jacob Smith stands next to repurposed wooden beams that were built into one side of the lake to serve as even more fish structure to give an idea of their size.

This picture was taken in October as the lake was just beginning to refill. By December, they were underwater even with little to no precipitation received.