There was a time when Simon Lake in Pope County served as a productive waterfowl lake for species such as canvasbacks and bluebills.
That changed with the presence of rough fish in the shallow lake contributing to turbid water conditions. In an attempt to get it back, the lake was designated for the purposes of wildlife management in 2014. Now the Department of Natural Resources in Glenwood has made more progress toward the goal of improving water quality and regenerating plant growth to make the lake more appealing to waterfowl again.
Staff from the DNR conducted a treatment using the chemical rotenone on Oct. 10-11 to kill off fish in the lake. Prior to the treatment, the DNR used siphons to lower water levels and reduce the volume of water it would have to treat.
Kevin Kotts, the wildlife supervisor for the Glenwood DNR, said the lake was almost a foot and a half below the runout elevation, preventing the chemical from getting downstream. The DNR said it is seeing the desired results with a lot of fish dying off. Most of those are rough fish like carp and bullhead, along with some yellow perch and limited northerns.
“There’s lots of fish that have died, which was the goal,” Kotts said. “The treatment was to lower the fish population and then with fewer fish in the water, then next year there should be more invertebrates in the water to filter the algae out. The goal is we end up with clearer water and more vegetation in a year.”
Simon Lake already has a fish barrier to help keep fish from coming into the lake from other waters. That, in addition to the rotenone treatment, the ability to control water levels and the lake’s location has Kotts confident that this is a project that can sustain better water quality, and in turn the kind of plant growth that could attract more waterfowl.
“It’s in southern Pope County, some of that hill area,” Kotts said. “We’ve got a lot of grass in the watershed. There’s public land. There’s a lot of private land with CRP. We get almost no ag runoff on that basin. Then there should be very few basins that even have the potential to hold fish upstream of Simon.”
The lake is a 569-acre basin with a max depth of about 6 or 7 feet and an average depth of about 5 feet. That makes it not quite deep enough to serve as a good recreational fishing lake and not quite shallow enough to have regular winter kill of rough fish.
“These are sort of the classic tweener lakes that in the past were pretty good for diver ducks,” Kotts said. “They’re deep enough to winter rough fish most years, but not deep enough for game fish to survive.”
Simon Lake is not in refuge status. Hunters can access the lake from public land along the north side. Much of the other shoreline around the lake is private property.
“Hunters who are on shore need to make sure they are not trespassing on private land,” Kotts said.
The Simon Lake Wildlife Management Area borders the north shore of the lake and that’s the main location where hunters can legally hunt, Kotts said.
Kotts is confident this is a project that will work in creating better water quality and regenerate plant growth. With that, he believes the ducks will follow.
“I think the chances of that are pretty darn good,” Kotts said. “It’s got a history of being a good waterfowl lake.”