Want a boat slip? Be prepared to wait

Some on city list for more than a decade

by Marianne Gasaway

It’s summertime and Clear Lake has probably never been busier.  The overall good health of the lake has contributed to schools of fishermen and warm weather has the number of recreational boaters skyrocketing.

But just how accessible is Clear Lake to boaters?  

Despite an increase in recent years in the number of boat slips available to those who are looking to rent a spot, the reality is that the need greatly outweighs the space available.

“It’s like farm ground — they’re not making any more of it,” said Craig Hejlik, who owns the Muskie Lounge at Ventura along with his wife, LuAnn. The Hejliks put in more than 2,000 feet of dock, including catwalks  to accommodate 100 hoists.  They have consistently filled all of their slips and have had a waitlist, despite the fact that they have increased dock space each year.  Craig says that while they could technically add a few more slips, they consider their dock spaces to be “maxed out” because they maintain part of the dock as a courtesy for guests at their restaurant.  

Three other commercial docks are located at Ventura.

Joe Schmit operates JBS Rentals.  He established his business in 2006 and all 64 spaces are filled, with a current waitlist of about 20-25 people.  Schmit said his waitlist used to top 50, but the addition of Lake Dream Docks nearby helped to clear some names.  He owns and supplies lifts for 31 of the 64 spaces and his fee includes putting in and taking out hoists, top removal/installation/repairs and storage.

Steve Dawson started working on the lake in 1974 and operated Lakeside Dock and Hoist for 16 years, so he is very familiar with the demand for dock space.  For the past 20 years he has managed 20 slips associated with Deer Valley Lodge, located in Ventura Heights.

“I’m always full with a waitlist,” he said.  “I would like to put more dock in but the DNR won’t let me,” he said. Those with a permanent campsite at Deer Valley Lodge get priority placement on the dock.

The newest commercial dock, Lake Dream Docks, was granted room for 75 spaces by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Owners Emily and Matthew Steding opened in 2021 about 10 slips short of that number due to the water level, however all available spaces were filled.  “With all the rain this year, we were able to install all of the runs and fill every slip.  We have about 25 people on our waiting list currently,” explained Emily.

But while Dream Docks added 75 spaces to the lake’s total, more than 35 were lost when the Sunset Bay Marina near Clear Lake State Park changed hands. That property opened in 1964 and was operated by the Kopriva family and later Moose Hanson.  

“Before we purchased the property, the previous owner, Dale Entner, had over 70 slips on the dock when the dock was 500-feet long,” explained 

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