A group of anglers in Zearing will be raising funds toward buying fish to stock in Dakins Lake this spring. The fundraiser will be held at the Dakins Community Center in Zearing Saturday, April 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. and features a fish fry, as well as a silent and live auction coordinated by volunteers, with Don Wilson of Colo serving as auctioneer. Free-will donations will be collected for the event.

Some of the items up for bid during the live or silent auctions include four new tires for a truck, four new tires for a skid steer loader, fresh baked pies, half of a processed hog, service inspection for a John Deere tractor, a Ruger 10/22 rifle, golfing certificates, bed-and-breakfast stays, motel stays and of course, all sorts of fishing equipment. Attendees will also be able to purchase raffle tickets for a 14.5 canoe or a 12-foot kayak at $5 each (6 for $25). Winners will be announced on Aug. 11 during the first Zearing City Council meeting after Zearing Days (held July 25-27).

While the community has been working closely with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Story County Conservation Board (SCCB), some Zearing citizens took it upon themselves to raise funds for stocking larger fish with the aim of providing ‘catchable’ fish in the lake sooner than the usual state-funded process allows. Provided the group reaches their goal of $10,000, people will begin to enjoy the lake’s fishing opportunities once the new lakes fill with water.

"We had a meeting about a year ago between the DNR, [Story County Conservation Special Projects Ranger] Carol Williams, North Star Fish Hatchery and our group in Zearing," said Baker. "After much discussion, [Fisheries Technician] Andy Otting from DNR came up with a plan that would stock 10,000 two-inch bluegills this spring. We wanted to have a plan where people could catch fish almost immediately."

After bluegills, the next scheduled step is for North Star to stock the lake with 2,000 five-inch largemouth bass and 2,000 four to six inch channel catfish. Next year, the group plans to stock 2,000 black crappie, also measuring four to six inches.

Located just north of Zearing, Dakins Lake has been expanded from five to 20 acres since the Story County Conservation Board and the Story County Board of Supervisors approved the project in 2012. Dakins Lake Park is expanding from 41 to 103 acres and will host a new 30-site campground, shower house, boat dock, fish cleaning station, two fishing jetties, picnic shelter, natural playscape and two miles of hiking trails. Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation purchased the land from the Dakins family in 2009 until Story County Conservation could purchase the ground last year. Williams and county conservation staff are currently exploring several grants and funding options to help fund the park’s expansion.

"Improving Dakins Lake is good for everyone in central Iowa as a recreation area and Bernadine Dakins and her family thought it was important for the community," said Williams. "We’re providing a good quality fishery for people with good sustainability. In addition we’re hoping one of the benefits will be economic development in Zearing. When you have a lake that close to a town, it makes a big impact on that community, and we know the people there are excited."

"There’s been a tremendous amount of excitement," said Baker. "The community recognizes the value of this type of investment. We’ll have a great camping facility, walking trails, the shelter house will be very unique and the shower house will be really nice and modern. [The expansion] will really enhance the Zearing community and we’re all thankful it was approved."

Story County Conservation hopes to hold a grand opening for Dakins Lake in May 2015. Check the progress of the expansion and Williams’ updates online at bit.ly/dakinslake. Donations can be sent to Security State Bank – 103 East Main St. in Zearing.