9/12/19 Prospect Report: Bilby Ranch Lake

Associated Area

Electrofishing surveys during 2019 on Bilby Ranch Lake again showed that the largemouth bass population in Bilby Ranch is above average. This 110-acre lake in Nodaway County is located amongst over 5,000 acres of upland bird habitat, gets fairly low fishing pressure, and contains a bass population that boasted over half of the bass measuring over 15 inches, with ten fish measuring over 18 inches. Anglers should concentrate their efforts along the dam riprap, old brush piles, weedlines, or in the flooded timber in the upper two arms of the lake. Spinnerbaits, topwater baits, shad-imitating crankbaits, and crawfish plastics all work well. Very few walleye are still present although catching a large fish from previous stockings is possible.

Bluegill and black crappie size structure is still suffering from a very high gizzard shad population, and most fish will be smaller than anglers desire to harvest. However, both black and white crappie are utilizing the abundant prey in the lake, and some very large individuals to 15 inches are present. Overall, there are still plenty of pan fish in the lake, and fishing with small plastics and jig and minnow combinations over cedar tree brush piles, off the covered fishing dock, or over rock piles will produce plenty of fish, and we encourage you to harvest a limit.  Channel catfish are plentiful in Bilby, and some very nice fish in the 10-pound range are present. Over 1,500 channel catfish are stocked annually. The best spots to try are the dam and the south shore of the lake with cut baits or chicken liver. The presence of a substantial flathead catfish population that likely came from illegal introductions started showing up in 2010, fish with live bluegill or goldfish along the dam for a shot at flatheads up to 40 pounds.

Because of its location, Bilby Ranch Lake usually provides the longest ice fishing opportunity in the area. Drill holes near standing timber for pan fish and channel catfish that are very willing biters in the winter. A disabled-user accessible covered fishing dock at the boat ramp has brush piles and deep water within casting distance, and produces good catches of all species. Anglers should also take advantage of the fish cleaning station located near the parking lot. Numerous one acre and larger ponds on the area hold good populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish for those anglers willing to walk in from public parking lots. The area ponds have the same regulations as the main lake.