One fish, two fish, catfish
Public recreational bodies of water in Marshall County come at a premium. Three such areas exist — Green Castle Recreation Area, Sand Lake and the Iowa River. Four public access points to the Iowa River are available — Forest Reserve, Timmons Grove, Furrow Access and Three Bridges.
Recently as part of a much larger stocking effort, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries division released 50,000 walleye fingerlings into the Iowa River at Furrow Access in Marshall County. Hatched this spring these 2-inch long fish will grow throughout the summer and approach 6-8 inches in length by fall. Although it may take a couple years to grow to keeper size fish this headstart at hatching from egg and allowed to grow to fingerling stage gives the tiny fish a better chance at survival to adulthood. The fish will move up and downstream from their release point to populate the river throughout the county. Some of these tiny fish will be consumed as part of the food chain by bigger fish or birds, many will survive. The survival rate can go as low as 5 to 10 percent but even at that there will still be 2,500-5,000 fish that reach adulthood. That can go a long way in support of fishing in the river.
Additional fish stockings are planned for later in the summer at Sand Lake with channel catfish and wipers. Every other year the Iowa DNR releases 1,500-2,500 channel catfish into Sand Lake and Green Castle Lake. Through the years some that have yet to be caught now range from 12 to 15 pounds. Five years ago the first release of wipers into Sand Lake occurred and those fish are now approaching the 24-26-inch range. Later this fall Sand Lake will again be the recipient of 2,000 rainbow trout as part of the state’s urban trout stocking program, a biannual occurrence for Marshall County. These stockings help boost populations that natural reproduction may not be able to keep up with that occurs in the waters. More and more people are pursuing fishing as an activity. With the pandemic came a surge in fishing license sales by 30 percent last year alone.
When visiting either county body of water, remember boating restrictions in the Marshall County parks. Sand Lake motor restrictions allow electric motors only. Green Castle allows only canoes and kayaks. Swimming is not allowed at either area.
As we find ourselves in the midst of summer, remember summer safety tips while enjoying the outdoors. Just as important as cold weather survival, the heat of summer can be just as dangerous. The first two things that come to mind when asked about safety include water and plants. Whatever activity you are enjoying, remember to stay hydrated, especially with the warm streak we have been experiencing during this month. Know the signs of heatstroke and what actions to take if you think you or someone else might be experiencing symptoms. Information about heat stroke can be researched on the internet. One thing regarding summer safety that is many times overlooked is what plants to avoid. The obvious is poison ivy but there are many such plants. Nettles, wild parsnip and poison hemlock are a few other species. Again resources to help identify these plants are at your fingertips on the internet. Many times people come across snakes while outdoors in Marshall County. Common species encountered include fox snakes and northern water snakes. While they vibrate their tails mimicking what rattlesnakes do, both are nonvenomous and pose no threat to humans. One safety tip to remember while visiting public areas in the county are that all pets must be leashed at all times for the safety of the animals and other park visitors.
Changing themes from fishing to hunting, it is not too early to start thinking about this fall’s hunting seasons. New hunters are reminded of the requirement of completion of a hunter safety course in Iowa. Registrations can be completed online on the Iowa DNR website. It’s also never too early to establish or reestablish hunter landowner relationships. If a landowner was kind enough to let you hunt on their property last year you might consider calling now instead of the day before opening day to make sure you can still hunt their property this fall.
Along with regular seasonal maintenance activities in county parks the MCCB is working on improvements where possible. At Sand Lake, a new open air shelter house will be constructed soon. The structure will be placed in a grassy area overlooking the lake just west of the boat ramp. The all steel structure will lie on a cement pad with rubber coated picnic tables for the public to enjoy. The remainder of the eroding shoreline was recently armored with riprap to stop the erosion. This project was paid for through a Fish Habitat grant through the Iowa DNR and Iowa County Conservation System. Additional improvements are slated for Grammer Grove with installation of a new playground. Both this and the Sand Lake shelter were delayed as a result of last summer’s Derecho storm that wreaked havoc throughout the county areas.
The Grimes Farm and Conservation Center will begin a soft reopening in June for preregistered summer camps with additional safety and social distancing measures implemented. Beginning July 1, the Conservation Center will have new hours open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will not reopen on Saturday mornings due to safety of volunteers staffing the reception desk. The center will be closed during private environmental programming and private rentals of the center, to prevent interactions between guests and the public. Certain portions of the center will still be closed, due to the inability to safely sanitize the displays. This includes the educational display area and the library. The classroom will only be available for rentals.
The MCCB will again start taking reservations for private rentals of the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center classroom, amphitheater and the Grimes Farm Shelter. The Marshall County Conservation Board has made changes to the use policy and rental schedule to make the facility ready for reopening. For inquiries about the amphitheater or classroom rental please call 641-752-5490 on or after July 1. Gander Lookout Shelter House at Green Castle and the Shelter House located at the Grimes Farm will also be available for rentals on July 1. All other shelters are open air and are available on a first come first serve basis.
Mike Stegmann is the Marshall County Conservation Director.