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The fish are calling

March 17, 2012

FISHING activities seem to predominate comments from many outdoor enthusiasts at this time of year. And why blame them with higher than normal warm temperatures for March conspiring to pull people outside. If this weather is your excuse to go fishing, it is the best excuse in the world.

Paul Quinnett states in his book Pavlov's Trout that "catch-and-release fishing is new and catch-and-release into captivity only a bit older, but catch-and-eat fishing goes all the way back to the original rule of the sea: If it fits in your mouth, it's yours. If it tastes good and doesn't kill you, put it on the menu."

Fish are good food. In general, societies around the world that eat lots of fish seem to suffer less cardiovascular disease. If this disease has a history within your family, one thing to do is eat more fish. Take your doctor with you so he/she can enjoy fishing fun too. If your doctor doesn't like fishing or fish, find a new doctor.

Article Photos

“Larry” the gnome catches a fish just about as big as he is. As soon as this fish was photographed, it was slipped back into the farm pond it called home. Early fishing is worth the try even though water temperatures have a long way to go to kick fish into high gear feeding mode. Fishermen like to say “the worst day fishing is better than the best day at work.” This year’s free fishing weekend is June 1, 2 and 3.


WALLEYE fishes within Iowa's Great Lake area of northwest Iowa are getting tagged, at least some of them, to allow biologist to keep track of the health of this very important and very popular species. For the past 21 years, every walleye caught during the April gill netting season has relieved a unique alpha numeric tag, gets one spine removed for lab analysis and measured before it is returned to the water. The data base of information now covers more than 24,000 walleyes.

At the Iowa Great Lakes Spirit Lake Hatchery produces more than 67 million fry that will eventually be stocked in lakes and streams across Iowa. "We can learn a lot about walleye population dynamics by tagging and recapturing identified fish" says Jonathan Meerbeek, research biologist with the Iowa DNR. "For example, we can look at annual growth rates and what influenced a good growth year, like a large class of young of the year yellow perch. Data from the research also helps with stocking options and influences regulations placed on fishermen. If we see numbers go down, we can adjust something to correct the trend. Keeping abundant numbers is the goal."

In 2011, researchers marked 2,792 brood sized walleyes of 15 inches or more. From previously tagged brood fishes and recaptures, the observed growth rate is highly correlated to the abundance of young yellow perch. Successful spawns and growth of yellow perch impacts walleye in a big way. Fisheries managers use the data to try and hold allowed fishing limits and populations of fishes in balance, to avoid wild swings of either prey or predator species. Thus the slot limit for walleye is in place to return all walleye between 17 and 22 inches back to the water in Great Lakes waters. Keeper walleye are those above or below this slot rule. Other walleye length limits vary across Iowa depending upon the specific body of water.

The history of some of the tagged walleye is interesting. MY4 was a 19-year-old male fish caught five different times before its final removal by an angler on May 1, 2004 at West Okoboji Lake. He was 21 1/2 inches long. Another walley is X66 from Spirit Lake that was gill net trapped seven different times and was 18 years old in 2004. The special tag on these fish can be found under the clear skin of the underside of its jaw.

Residents and non-residents fishing in Iowa who are age 16 or older are required to have a valid fishing license. The money is an investment to help protect fisheries resources. Approximately 400,000 folks will buy a 2012 fishing license. The money goes into the Fish & Wildlife Trust Fund where it can only be used for its intended purposes of fish research, management and regulation enforcement. Not a bad deal.


There will be a FUN NIGHT at the Tama County Conservation Board's Nature Center on March 24. It features great food, a program on Bison Ecology, and a live auction of a wide variety of crafts, art and gifts. It is always well attended. So if you are interested in tickets, call them at 641-484-2231. Cost is $12 per adult, kids ages 12 and under $6. Funds derived from the fun night will be used toward exhibits at the Nature Center. The Nature Center is located on the east side of Otter Creek Lake Park northeast of Toledo.


The Marshall County Conservation Board will be sponsoring a KAYAKING 101 class at the Marshalltown Community Y Lap Pool on March 22 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Learn basic kayak safety, power strokes and how to enter/exit a kayak safely. Equipment will be supplied. Pre-register by calling 641-752-5490. The cost is $25 per person. This is a great way to tune-up for any upcoming outdoor stream voyages. Check it out.


In 2009, a severe wind and hail storm hit the Eldora area including Pine Lake State Park. Hail killed more than 700 trees in a matter of minutes by relentless beating of ice chunks against the foliage, limbs and tree bark. It was too much for many trees. They died. People were injured, so was livestock and home roofs, siding and businesses were heavily damaged by ice chunks from the sky. Nature's fury was unleashed that day.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation is teaming up with the Iowa DNR and the Iowa Parks Foundation to raise funds for reforestation work at Pine Lake. The INHF has pledged $10,000 toward the $50,000 goal. At this time, only $7,000 remains to be raised to prepare the land and plant and nurture 285 large trees and 7,000 saplings. The deadline for raising the remaining $7,000 is Marsh 31. Donations can be made to Iowa Parks Foundation, c/o Joe Gunderson, 321 E Walnut Street, Suite 300, Des Moines, IA 50309. Stay tuned for the call for volunteer to help plant the trees and take care of them after they are in the ground. Give Bob Gunderson a call at 520-299-7612 if you want to help. Thanks.


For your funny bone: If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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