The big fish that did not get away

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS — A 21 pound Chinook (King) Salmon is held by our local state conservation officer (game warden) Tyson Brown while on summer vacation on Lake Michigan. Late summer vacation time becomes a reward for long hours spent at other times of the year when a 40 hour work week is a very rare thing. With Brown are his friends Brandon Bergquist and Will Brickel. Tyson was photographed with a ‘fish on’ from the stern of a 26 foot Baja Cruiser boat out of Icebreaker Charters of Ludington, Mich.

Summer fishing expeditions are one of those outdoor activities that will weld memories into your gray matter forever. Just ask our local state conservation officer Tyson Brown if the trip was worth it.

He will definitely agree it was worth it, for an entire family and friends. Planning for this salmon catching excursion was met with great excitement and anticipation. Once the crew arrived at a local bed and breakfast, it was off to the marina.

Prior planning had called for using the 26.5 foot Baja cruiser boat operated by Capt. Bobby Sullivan. He knows his trade and knows his stuff when it comes to rigging the lines for deep running chinook, coho, or steelhead.

The rigging included trolled spoon lures, plugs and flies off various down riggers and/or planer boards. The results spoke for themselves with Tyson’s 21 pound fish. Others on the boat did catch a few larger ones, the biggest being 22 pounds. Most of the fish were chinook with a few coho and steelheads.

A typical day started at 5 a.m. as the boat left the dock. By noon time, they were back dockside to photograph their catches for the day and to have the fish cleaned and bagged for the return trip home. Of course, slabs of salmon were kept aside and grilled for supper meals.

“Those fish we grilled were some of the best I have ever eaten,” Tyson said.

Tyson also noted that this Baja cruiser boat was the craft which, during a 2021 charter run, was successful in landing the Michigan state record chinook salmon that tipped the scales at 47.86 pounds! How about that for a fishing adventure turning out in spectacular fashion?

Tyson highly recommends this charter service to anyone. Memories were made during this fishing foray that will last a lifetime.


Wild turkey sightings continue to be reported. Thanks. It is great to see more than a few flocks of several hens and their combined young of the year poults, most of which are about half grown at this point. I have the photographs to document those sightings, and I have personal sightings of my own to offer to DNR biologists who want to know about these sightings. Keep the reports coming in.

My most recent turkey flock was observed on the west side of Marshalltown as the birds crossed the roadway right next to The Willows care center. That was last Sunday morning. Traffic on the roadway dutifully stopped to allow the hens and at least 18 young of the year birds to pass into the tall grasses on the west side of the road.

Out in the country, these same scenarios are taking place. A late afternoon country road drive-about may see turkeys along field edges or near forest lands of area creeks borders. It is always good to see them. I can also attest that just because I see wild birds, the circumstances for obtaining great photo images are not always present. So I keep trying.


Iowa’s August roadside survey for 2022 is now published. A big thank you goes out to Wildlife Bureau personnel and game wardens who got up early during August for sunrise counts on 218 routes, each 30 miles long. These routes are assigned in all parts of Iowa and have remained the same since counts began many decades ago.

Counts were made for ringneck pheasants, bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, and in a few cases white-tailed jackrabbits. Funding for this annual survey was partially funded by the Pittman-Robertson Act, Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.

Iowa weather is a big factor in wildlife survival. Last winter’s conditions can be described as mild. Spring temperatures were below normal.

A weather model program made a prediction that numbers for upland wildlife would stay stable or go up slightly. Now the data is in from the survey, and confirmation has been established for slight increases or unchanged from 2021.

Pheasant numbers increase with mild winters (less than 19 inches of snow) followed by warm, dry springs (less than six inches of rain). Pheasants historically decline if winters have 30 inches or more of snowfall, followed by cold, wet spring weather of 8 inches or more rain. An average winter could be described as 20 to 30 inches of snow and spring rains of six to eight inches.

Pheasant numbers show increases in east central and southeast regions of Iowa. Otherwise, pheasant numbers in other parts of Iowa are similar to last year. Last year, pheasants taken by hunters were 46 percent above the last 10-year average.

If one was to paint a picture of pheasant areas for this fall, lots of lands north of US Highway 30 will be included.

“Bird harvest relies heavily on the number of hunters in the field and the past two years saw the highest number of pheasant hunters since 2009, and that has translated into our increased harvests,” said Todd Bogenschultz, DNR upland wildlife research biologist.

For this fall, it is estimated that rooster pheasants statewide will be taken in numbers between 300,000 and 400,000. These numbers do not inhibit the remaining and surviving roosters and hens from a good reproductive year in 2023, assuming the winter of 2022-23 is normal. The total number of pheasant hunters in 2021 was pegged at about 63,000.

Partridge and rabbit numbers remain about the same. Quail showed large increases all across southern Iowa’s tier of counties. The quail index went from 0.4 birds per route in 2021 to 0.81 birds this year.

Southern Iowa also represents the northern fringe edge of the quail range in the United States. Last year quail hunters took an estimated 24,000 birds. The best quail count counties were Adair, Adams, Fremont, Page and Ringgold.


Deer hunting this fall with firearms is largely the same with regard to regulations. Read pages 37 and 38 of the DNR booklet. I’ll summarize what those pages say for you.

Deer hunters have traditionally used shotguns for white-tails in gauges 10, 12, 16 and 20 using slugs only. As for rifles, the rule on straight wall ammunition remains and must be calibers no less than .350 or larger than .500, and a published muzzle energy of 500 foot pounds or higher. Muzzleloader rifles, pistols or revolvers must be between .44 and .775.

Contrary to rumors about other rifle calibers, beware of rumors big time. Rumors can and will get some people into trouble, so be safe and legal. Do not abide by rumors.

Secondly, do get the facts on what is a legal firearm for deer hunting by reading page 38 or the regulations booklet. If still confused, call any one of the game wardens whose name and number are printed on page 53. Get clarifications well before the seasons start to save time and avoid a ticket.


A Bobcat image was sent to my phone recently. A trail camera captured a single bobcat.

It is not unusual to have bobcats in Marshall County. What is rarer is to see them and/or to get trail camera proof. Trail camera photos have documented these illusive and secretive felines before.

It is just good to know, again, that these animals are making a general statewide increase in range. For general purposes, bobcat habitat is best described as the border rivers and southern Iowa. Well, maybe a few range expanding cats have another idea.

The bobcat taxidermy mount in the forest diorama at the Conservation Center (Grimes Farm) was a roadkill victim in the early 2000s. It was picked up by game warden, Burt Walters, who knew the Marshall County Conservation Board needed this species for educational purposes. He obtained the needed permits, and that is how that animal mount was acquired for the display case.


A sporting clay bird shoot is scheduled for Oct. 2, a Sunday, at the Marshall County Izaak Walton League grounds. This is also a dedicated fundraiser for Iowa River Hospice. Registration will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The course will contain 10 stations for a total of 100 clay bird targets.

Registration cost will be $40 per adult shooter. Shooters 18 or younger are free with a paid adult. Food will be provided by Smokin’ G’s BBQ. If you need more information, call Shannon Jelken at 641-485-4788 or Jon Nunez at 641-751-8706. Help support Iowa River Hospice and their care team members’ work. Thanks.


“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

— Theodore Roosevelt


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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