The big ones did not get away

IOWA CONNECTIONS WALLEYE DERBY is now in the record books. The 2016 event organized by Dennis Baker was a smooth operation with many satisfied folks who enjoyed the great wilderness setting of boreal forests, clear blue water lakes and lots of hungry walleye fish. Baker arranges for a group of fishermen/ladies each year during early August to make the northward journey to Ontario. People that participate never have a bad day, even if it rains. The fish keep everyone on target. Fishing guides keep the action lively by making sure known fishing hot spots are visited. Guides also fix up fabulous shore lunches of walleye.

The 2016 group of 17 included a lot of McKibbens from the Marshalltown area. Today’s group photos, back row from left, Jeff Reints (Shell Rock), Gerald McDaniel (Nevada, Iowa), Marv Ozinga (Oskaloosa), Tom Reints (Shell Rock), Brant and Mark McKibben (Marshalltown). Middle row from left are Craig Torgeson (Radcliffe), Curt Mackie (Grundy Center), Gary Harrington (Ironwood, Mich.), Joe Robertson and Larry McKibben (Marshalltown). Front row fishers from left are: Denny Baker (Clemons), Laura and Marki McKibben (Marshalltown), Sandy Ozinga (Oskaloosa), Scott Harrington (Maraquette, Mich.) and Luke McKibben (Marshalltown). Every one of these 17 people had been to Halley’s Camps at some prior year so 2016 was another homecoming of sorts.

Baker knows how to make this derby click. He has been organizing this expedition for several decades. Once the people have committed for the year, all falls into place when the big travel day arrives. All meet in northern Minnesota and drive across the border the next day for the last leg that ends at Minaki. The group gets the excitement of a float plane ride over rough forested lands dotted with huge and small lakes everywhere. The pilot knows the routes by heart and gently guides the aircraft into a super soft landing and dock side side at the main lodge of Kettle Falls.

Once settled into their quarters, Baker welcomes the group and divides them into two teams. Team 1 and 2 will compete over the next two days to see who catches the most walleye that are 20 inches or more in length. At the end of day two, the numbers tell the story. First place individual was Luke McKibben with ten qualifying walleyes for an average of 24.5 inches each. Each fish ranged from 6 to 7 pounds. His largest walleye was 28.0 inches long.

Second place individual went to Brant McKibben whose ten walleye averaged 24.0 inches each. His longest walleye was 27.0 inches. Team 2 won the team title with the help of Luke McKibben. The biggest walleye for the entire derby was a 28.5 inch fish caught by Laura McKibben of Marshalltown. And she also caught the smallest walleye of only 6 inches.

A great time was had by all. The summer of 2016 to Ontario and Halley’s Camps will be remembered for a long long time. In case you are wondering, the 2017 Walleye Iowa Connections Derby dates will be Aug. 2-6. Contact Dennis Baker at for details.

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In just two short weekends from now, LABOR DAY weekend will be here, Sept. 3-5. For many outdoor family gatherings, it may be the last hurrah before school starts. Warm weather will still beg people to get out the a big river, an area lake or reservoir, or a remote cabin up north.

Labor Day seems to also mark the unofficial end of summer, without respect to the actual calendar date of Sept. 22, the Autumnal equinox, or the last day of summer or the first day of our Fall season in the northern hemisphere of earth. The passing of the seasons just proves how fast time goes when we are busy with work, play, vacations, and of course visits to the State Fair.

Since I’m talking about time, note this little fact of celestial earth life. Our day length peaked at 15 hours and 15 minutes long during the week of June 18-24. Today, Aug. 21 the day length is 13 hours and 38 minutes. Our summer days have already shortened by 1 hour 37 minutes less daylight because of later sunrises and earlier sunsets. That is the way time goes on earth during its 584 million mile journey around our sun.

Here is an item for your factoid notebook of trivia: Our earth orbits the sun at an average distance of 92,961,440 million miles. The orbit is actually a bit non-circular and the distance varies from closest (called perhelion) on or about Jan. 3 at 91,532,220 miles. On July 4, the earth orbit will be farthest from the sun (called aphelion) at 94,514,940 miles. Earth’s axial tilt of 23.44 degrees allows for increased summer insolation from the sun. We call it summer. Using the formula for circumference of C = Pi times diameter, the earths total distance traveled in one complete sun rotation is 584 plus million miles. Now, if you divide 584 million miles by 365 days in one year, you get 1.6 million mile per day! 1.6 divided by 24 hours per day gets the number of about 67,000 mph. That is how fast the earth and everything on it is traveling through space. Welcome to time traveling. We are all along for the ride.

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The OLYMPICS athletic competitions are coming to close in Rio today. Tremendously qualified competitors in every sport were there to see if a gold, silver or bronze medal will come home with them. The U.S. roster for shooting sports has already gathered in a combined 29 Olympics and 13 Olympic medals. The list of events includes air pistol, rapid fire pistol and 25 meter pistol. Rifle categories include Three-position, prone, Air rifle, and 50-meter prone. Shotguns on the trap and skeet ranges have U.S. representatives on deck.

One competitor is Kim Rhode in women’s skeet. She can become the first Olympian to win medals on five continents at the Rio Games in South America. She is an honorary lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and a member of Safari Club International. She is a native of El Monte, Calif. She began shooting at age 10 and won a World Championship at age 13. So if someone says it can’t be done, they are wrong. Proper practice with superb coaching and using state-of-the-art sporting firearms combined with a passion to excel can lead to a spot on the USA Olympic Team.

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WATERFOWL predictions from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report on the Trends in Duck Breeding Populations has been released. This is the result of May and June surveys by the FWS and Canadian Wildlife Service. Result: Statistically overall duck numbers are similar to last year and remain steady. Total populations were estimated at 48.4 million breeding ducks. Last year’s estimate was 49.5 million birds. The projected fall Mallard flight index is 13.5 million which is similar to the 2015 data of 13.8 million.

The key and primary determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and prairie upland habitat on Canadian prairies and boreal forests. Total pond estimates (water) for the USA and Canada combined were 5.0 million or 21 percent less than 2015’s 6.3 million ponds. The long term average pond count is 5.2 million.

Species counts show Mallards up 1 percent, American Widgeon up 12 percent, Green-winged Teal up 5 percent, Redhead up 8 percent and Scaup up 14 percent. Decreases in species indicate a 3 percent drop for Gadwall, 22 drop for Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers sown 10, Northern Pintail down 14 and Canvasback down 3 percent.

Iowa’s DUCK season begins with Teal on Sept. 3-11 for both North and South zones. The Missouri River Teal dates are Sept. 3-18. Ducks, Coots and Mergansers openers are in late September or early October depending upon zones. =A copy of the Iowa DNR Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations is now available. =Page 4 has the complete start and end dates for ducks or geese. The booklet is full of details of how, when and where to conduct the lawful regulated hunting of upland migratory or waterfowl birds. Check it out. If you still have questions, do ask State Conservation Officer Tyson Brown before you hunt. Get the straight scoop and facts from him. His cell number is 641-751-5246.

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One hundred and twenty-five years of Conservation Law Enforcement history is a feature article in the latest issue of Iowa Outdoors. It is an interesting read, starting on page 32 of the September-October issue. Marshall County’s long-time game warden Walt Harvey is noted – he served here for 41 years. The story relates how fish and game law enforcement began and how its professionalism grew over time. It is a tough job that gets done because law abiding fishermen/hunters and trappers understand their outdoor pursuits. When something goes wrong or when lawbreakers go poaching, you know who get the call. Game Wardens are spread thin. They need the public’s help to apprehend the bad guys as they protect the resources for everyone.

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Advice from a Lake: Be clear, Make positive ripples, Look beneath the surface, Stay calm, Shore up friendships, Take time to reflect and Be full of life.

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 P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.