Thursday, April 23, 2015

Six Fish You Didn’t Know Existed in Iowa

You might know a largemouth bass from a smallmouth bass, a crappie from a bluegill – but how about a pirate perch and a trout-perch? What is a slimy sculpin anyway? Learn about Iowa’s lesser-known and rarely seen fish with these fun facts.

Pirate perch
There’s no eye patch, peg fin or parrot perched on its tail, so you’ll have to identify the pirate perch by its dark olive to black color. Its sides are a bit lighter and speckled with black and its belly is yellow. That is, if you can find one, as they’re pretty rare to see in Iowa. A species of special concern in Iowa, the pirate perch lives mostly along the Mississippi River and several tributary rivers, usually in backwaters and quiet pools. It munches at night on aquatic insects, small crustaceans and sometimes on small fish. Unlike many other fish, its anus is far forward of the anal fin on adults and located on its throat. The fish rarely grow past a length of five inches.

Slimy sculpin

Found only on the stream bottoms of northeast Iowa’s coldwater streams, the
slimy sculpin is mostly olive brown with dark mottling and a lighter belly. It has two lobed, narrowly connected dorsal fins. A small fish, the slimy sculpin is rarely longer than four inches. Dining on larval aquatic insects and other invertebrates, the sculpin moves around rapidly, almost looking like it’s hopping. But when they do hold still, they can be difficult to spot, as their coloration blends in with the stream bottom.

American eel
Eels aren’t just an ocean species, as they swim in Iowa along the Mississippi River and its larger tributaries. However, it’s rare to see an
American eel in Iowa, as it’s not an abundant species here. The American eel’s color can vary from olive and brown on its back, which fades to a greenish yellow on the sides to a gray or white belly. Looking more like a snake than a fish, the American eel has a single fin comprising its dorsal, caudal and anal fins. They rarely get bigger than a couple of pounds, but a landlocked eel may reach 10 to 15 pounds and 5 to 6 feet in length. The American eel is carnivorous and feeds mainly at night on live prey.

American eels in Iowa are well-traveled, too. Females take anywhere from five to 20 years to mature in freshwater streams before trekking downstream to meet males in the sea to spawn in an area of the North Atlantic near the Bahamas and Bermuda. Once hatched, larval eels drift with the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean until they reach the coast of North America. The females move upstream in freshwater rivers to mature, while the males remain in the Atlantic Ocean near the coastline. The flesh of eel, while very rich, is said to be delicious. It is sometimes prepared by pan-frying but is more often smoked, pickled or jellied.

Often mistaken for gizzard shad,
mooneyes are steel blue on the back with silver sides and a white belly. You can find this fish mostly in southern and eastern Iowa on larger interior rivers like the Cedar, Des Moines and Upper Iowa, but you’ll find the most in the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Mooneye commonly reach 9 to 11 inches in length, maxing out at about 10 to 12 inches. Food consists mostly of plankton during the young stages of life, but the fish switch quickly to insects, mollusks, crayfish and small fish at later stages. If you’re looking to catch a mooneye, try quarter pieces of nightcrawlers fished on the river bottom. Be sure to report your catch, as there are currently no submissions right now for a state record mooneye.

Banded killifish
Not a common fish in Iowa, the
banded killifish lives mostly in natural lakes in the Iowa Great Lakes region and in the Missouri River. It cruises along just below the surface in a group, or school, feeding on insects, plant seeds and algae. A light olive color on the back and sides, the killifish also has a yellow-white belly and, as the “banded” part of its name alludes to, has 12 to 20 narrow vertical bars on its body.

Is it a trout, or is it a perch? Like trout, it has a small fleshy fin, called an adipose fin, just behind a single dorsal fin. Its head resembles a perch. However, it doesn’t belong to either family. Instead, the
trout-perch is just one of two species in the family Percopsidae. Populations of this odd fish are scattered throughout the state, from the Mississippi River in the east, the Grand and Chariton river watersheds in the south, and the Big Sioux and Rock rivers in the northwest. As they hide around structures or in deep water during the day, it’s unlikely you’ll see one, but game fish in our northern natural lakes have a good eye for tracking them down for lunch. Only three to five inches in length as adults, trout-perch have a pale olive or straw coloring with a white belly, along with two rows of dark spots along its side.

For more information on Iowa’s fish species, from the common game fish to these odd finds, visit the Iowa DNR Iowa Fish Species web page.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Outdoor Skills Professional Development

Teaching Outdoor Skills: An Introduction to Basic Outdoor Skills
June 23 & 24, 2015 (100% attendance required for credit)
8:30 am - 8:30 pm (6/23); 8:30 am - 4:00 pm (6/24)
Clay County Conservation Board (
420 10th Avenue SE Spencer)

Registration Deadline: June 9, 2015

Registration Fee: $120 (1 license renewal credit and course materials)
Electronic Registration

Hands-on sessions will acquaint participants with a variety of basic outdoor skills and teaching resources/methodologies. Participants will receive introductory instruction and lesson plans for planning outings, map reading, hiking, paddling, fishing, archery, campfire programs, and basic firearm safety/shooting. Meals, materials and credit are included in the registration cost. Participants will be required to outline a teaching unit to integrate outdoor skills in their current teaching situation.

Teaching Outdoor Skills: Fish Iowa!
June 16 &17, 2014 (100% attendance required for credit)
8:030 am - 6:30 pm (6/16); 8:00 am - 4:00 pm (6/17)
Willow Lake, Woodbine & DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge,
Missouri ValleyRegistration Deadline: June 11, 2015 Registration Fee: $175 (1 license renewal credit and course materials)
Electronic Registration

This course will acquaint participants with the Fish Iowa! basic spincasting module and a variety of other resources to teach fishing in a variety of settings. Participants will learn fishing basics including fish identification, fishing locations, casting techniques, and cleaning and cooking fish. Participants will experience lake fishing and bow fishing. They will also have an option to try kayak fishing. Instruction will include a variety of demonstration and hands-on, experiential approaches. Activities will also include peer teaching and small group work to develop appropriate teaching strategies for individual teaching situations. Participants will integrate discussions of human interactions with our aquatic resources, especially the Missouri River, as they learn about the history of DeSoto Bend. The course is presented by the Iowa DNR, Harrison County Conservation Board and DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge.
For more information, contact:; 515-494-3891.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

6 Tips for Catch & Release Fishing

Every angler should be prepared to release some of their catch. Whether you are practicing catch and release by choice or to comply with regulations, it is necessary to release the fish quickly. Follow these simple tips to give the fish you release the best chance for survival.

Use barbless hooks
Barbless hooks are much easier to remove – this helps reduce damage to the fish and
minimizes the time the fish is out of the water. Hooks can be purchased as barbless or you can pinch down the barb with needle-nose pliers.
Play the fish quickly
Land the fish quickly and handle it as little as possible. The less you handle, touch or hold the fish the better.

Keep the fish in the water
It’s best to leave the fish in water while you unhook it.

Wet your hands
The slime on the fish protects it from disease, so be careful not to wipe it off. Wet your hands before handling the fish – this reduces the chances you will remove the slime coating.

Remove hooks quickly
Use either needle-nose pliers to gently remove the hook from the fish’s mouth.

Cut the line
If the fish is hooked deeply, cut the line as close as possible the fish’s mouth and leave the hook. Research has documented that cutting the line can greatly increase the survival of deeply hooked fish.

Be sure to sign up for our Iowa DNR weekly fishing report.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Walleye Spawning at the Iowa DNR Rathbun Fish Hatchery

The Iowa DNR is in the midst of intensive walleye broodstock collection and spawning, a major effort that takes place each year to ensure high-quality walleye fishing across the state. Fisheries Bureau management, research and hatchery teams, along with some dedicated volunteers, join forces to collect hundreds of walleye, which produce millions of eggs. Walleye eggs are incubated at Rathbun and Spirit Lake hatcheries and stocked as fry or fingerlings throughout Iowa. 

Watch the video to see the process at Lake Rathbun and the Rathbun Fish Hatchery.

Monday, April 6, 2015

First Fish Award - Catch a Memory

Catch a memory when your favorite young angler hooks their first fish! Your child will receive a frameable certificate to commemorate this special event.

It’s easy and free to participate!
1. Take your child fishing.
2. Snap a photo of their first fish.
3. Fill out the First Fish entry form (or email the information along with a photo) and mail it in.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Fishing Tackle Box Necessities

Pack your tackle box with these basic necessities for a fun and successful spring fishing trip. Don’t forget to bring along your fishing license and a camera to capture all the memories.

Hooks of various sizes
Hooks should be large enough to hold the bait, but small enough to fit in the fish’s mouth. Always use the smallest hook possible for the type of fish you are trying to catch. The smaller the fish, the smaller the hook you should use. Make sure your hooks are sharp. 
Bobbers keep your bait where the fish are biting, keep bait off the bottom and signal when a fish nibbles at the bait by bobbing up and down. The size of the bobber should match the weight of the bait and other tackle on the line.

These small weights carry your bait down to the depths where fish are lurking. They also keep the line tight so you can tell when a fish bites. Use enough split shot on your line so the bobber rests upright and half of it sticks out of the water.

Swivels are attached to your line before the lure, so that the lure spins without twisting your fishing line. The size of your swivel should match the size of your lure.

Artificial lures
Artificial lures (jigs, plugs, spoons, spinners, plastic worms) are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Select a few types of lures in sizes that can be used for the fish you most often seek. Beatle spins and mighty mites are good for catching game fish.

It takes time to build up an assortment of lures. Start with an assortment of jigs (1/32 to ½ ounce) for deeper-water fishing, a standard floating crankbait for mid-depth fishing and a small buzz-bait for topwater fishing.

Extra fishing line
Fishing line often breaks or gets tangled up during a fishing trip. Keeping spare line in your tackle box lets you replace the line on your reel and continue your fishing experience.

Needle nose pliers
Helpful for removing hooks from the mouths of fish you catch. They're also handy to undo crimp sinkers from your line.

Finger nail clipper
A handy tool to cut free a hook swallowed by a fish or trim a knot.

Measuring tape
Measure your catch from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Special regulations on some lakes and streams restrict the size of fish you can keep. Always have a copy of the current fishing regulations with you.
Small first aid kit
A basic first aid kit will help you quickly treat minor injurie such as punctures from hooks, scratches or bug bites.

Personal safety gear
Keep a bottle of sunscreen, a pair of sunglasses, and a hat with a brim in your tackle box to help protect you from the sun. Check weather conditions before leaving for your fishing trip. Wearing long sleeves will protect your skin from the sun and biting insects and don't forget the bug spray. A small flashlight is helpful if you are fishing late in the evening.

Start planning your first fishing outing of the season with the Iowa DNR places to fish web pages. Sign up for free weekly fishing information from Iowa’s fisheries experts - learn the best hotspots and latest news about Iowa’s fishing opportunities from region to region

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tips for Educators Conducting a Fishing Field Trip

Organization is the key to a successful field trip. The following suggestions are meant to help make your experience more enjoyable.

1. Make sure students who are 16 years of age or older know where/how to obtain a fishing license. Vendors are listed at Students can purchase a 24-hour license.

2. Locate a pond or lake as close to the school grounds as possible. Make sure the fishing area is easily accessible and will accommodate your students. If you are unable to locate an area, contact your local DNR fisheries field office, county conservation board, or fishing club for assistance.

3. Contact your local tackle distribution center to reserve the rods and reels (if necessary).

4. Plan for other outdoor activities to enhance the field trip (e.g., identification of plants, animals, and habitats; biking, hiking, and walking; service projects – the possibilities are endless if you incorporate other areas of learning).

5. If you are planning a trip longer than one hour, are there restroom facilities available? Should students take refreshments?

6. If you are taking a large group of students, recruit volunteers such as parents, grandparents, or members of a local fishing club to assist.

7. Remind students to dress for the situation. Sturdy shoes and jeans are a must. Hats also are a good idea. Have a first aid kit on hand with sunscreen and insect repellent.

8. Prepare permission slips and obtain signatures from parents or guardians before the field trip. Include a list of “good conduct” rules students are expected to follow.

9. Discuss appropriate conduct in the field and “angler etiquette” before your trip.

10. If you are stopping to buy licenses on the way, allow enough time.

11. Allow enough time to reach the fishing site and fish for at least an hour before returning. (It will take some time to rig poles and get started.)

12. Have rods and reels, terminal tackle, and bait ready to go.

13. Discuss ahead of time what you will do with your catch. If you plan to keep fish, it's a good idea to take along a cooler with ice. If you plan to release fish, make sure students know how to properly handle fish to be released.

14. Take along trash bags and containers for your garbage. Take along gloves to pick up trash if your area needs a clean up.

At The Site
1. Go through the basic safety procedures and etiquette one last time.

2. Pair students so more experienced anglers can assist beginners. 

3. Hand out equipment and have students assemble their rigs before dispersing to different areas to fish.

4. Make sure students are safe distances from each other for casting purposes.

5. Keep the bait, first aid kit, and spare terminal tackle in a central location. Be sure to keep the bait cool. Provide smaller containers for individuals to carry some bait and tackle with them. 

6. If you plan to keep fish, make sure that students have stringers, buckets, etc. It ’s best to get them in a cooler of ice as soon as possible.

7. Pick up any garbage before you leave the site. Emphasize that the area should look as good (Or even better!) when you leave as when you came.

8. Make sure you have all equipment before leaving.