Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fall Urban Trout Stockings

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will begin its popular fall and winter trout stocking on Oct. 9, with releases planned for Sand Lake, in Marshalltown and North Prairie Lake, in Cedar Falls.

The DNR will release between 1,000 to 2,000 rainbow trout at each location as part of its cool weather trout program that brings trout to areas that cannot support them during the summer months. 

A family friendly event is often paired with the stocking to help anglers have success and fun while fishing.

“We do these events to create excitement about fishing,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau.  “The fish are here, easy to catch and good to eat. For someone who has not tried it before, grab your neighbors, friends and kids and get out there. It’s time well spent.”

Bringing trout to cities and towns offers a “close to home” way for Iowans who might not normally travel to northeast Iowa to discover trout fishing.

Anglers need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout.  The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10. 

Children age 15 or younger can fish for trout with a properly licensed adult, but they must limit their catch to one daily limit.  The child can purchase a trout fee which will allow them to catch their own limit.
2015-16 Fall Winter Trout Stocking Schedule
Oct. 9, Sand Lake, Marshalltown, 12 p.m.
Oct. 9, North Prairie Lake, Cedar Falls, 11 a.m.
Oct. 15, Banner Lake (South), Summerset State Park, Indianola, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 15, Big Lake, Council Bluffs, 1 p.m.
Oct. 16, Lake Petoka, Bondurant, Noon
Oct. 17, Lake of the Hills, Davenport, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 22, Ottumwa Park Pond, Ottumwa, 11:30 a.m.
Oct. 24, Heritage Pond, Dubuque, 10 a.m.
Oct. 24, Discovery Park, Muscatine, 10 a.m.
Oct. 24, Wilson Lake, Fort Madison, Noon
Oct. 30, Terry Trueblood Lake, Iowa City, 11 a.m.
Nov. 3, Bacon Creek, Sioux City, 2 p.m.
Nov. 4, Moorland Pond, Fort Dodge, Noon
Nov. 6, Prairie Park (Cedar Bend), Cedar Rapids, 10:30 a.m.
Nov. 7, Scharnberg Pond, Spencer, Noon
Nov. 19, Ada Hayden, Ames, Noon
Nov. 25, Blue Pit, Mason City, 11 a.m.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Celebrate Iowa Hunting and Fishing Day - September 26

Many Iowans love to share their passion for hunting and fishing with family and friends, while making memories of time spent outdoors.

Recognizing this rich tradition, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation declaring September 26 as Iowa Hunting and Fishing day. The proclamation encourages all Iowans to share their outdoor pursuits with beginning adults and youth.

Celebrate Iowa Hunting and Fishing Day this weekend with these simple suggestions. Be sure to invite someone to come along.

Fall fishing is one of Iowa’s best kept secrets. Fish are actively feeding in preparation for the spawn next spring. Go in the middle of the day when water temperatures are warmer. Use live bait, particularly minnows, small tackle and fish slowly. Find a new fishing hole to explore with the DNR’s new interactive Fishing Atlas, and check out the week’s hot spots in the Iowa Fishing Report.

Dove hunting is an accessible sport for hunters of all ages and experience levels. Doves can be found in all 99 counties. They like bare ground and prefer open landscapes and larger food plots such as sunflower fields. If a sunflower plot is not available, try a weed patch or harvested grain field. Brush up on Iowa regulations for hunting migratory birds before you go.

Bow fishing for carp is a great outdoor activity that’s easy to learn. All you need is a bow, a bowfishing reel, heavy test line, and bowfishing arrows. It takes a quick eye and a fast shot to have a chance to reel in a carp as they often surface the water only briefly. Be sure you can identify the fish before you shoot. Only rough fish (such as carp and suckers) can be taken by bow and arrow. A fishing license is required to bow fish in Iowa.

Rabbit and squirrel hunting are inexpensive hunting opportunities to introduce beginners to hunting. Experienced hunters can test out their equipment and sharpen their outdoor skills before pheasant and deer seasons begin. If you’re looking for land to hunt, try the DNR’s interactive Hunting Atlas, which shows public land as well as private land enrolled in the Iowa Habitat and Access Program. Through IHAP, Iowa landowners receive help establishing habitat and in turn, open their land to public hunting.

Trout fishing in the fall offers cooler weather and amazing fall colors – including the trout! Male brown and brook trout show off their most vibrant colors this time of year). Trout are beginning their spawning rituals and seem to always be hungry as they try to bulk up for winter. Anglers need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. Learn more about Iowa’s trout streams, including maps and stocking schedules.

Experience the fun of Iowa’s outdoors at the seventh annual Iowa Outdoor Expo, Sept. 26 and 27 at Waterworks Parks in Des Moines. Try fishing, bow fishing, canoeing and kayaking, outdoor cooking, trap shooting, archery, off road vehicles and more in a safe, controlled environment. The Expo is open September 26 from 9-6 and September 27 from 10-4. Attendees can read and sign Governor Branstad’s Iowa Hunting and Fishing Day proclamation. A full list of activities is available at


Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall Fishing Frenzy

Fall fishing is one of Iowa’s best kept secrets.

Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau, says fall is often overlooked as a prime fishing time because “many of us are in hunting mode or are busy with school activities, but there is excellent fishing to be had and most of our trophy fish are caught in the fall.”

Cooler temperatures and shorter daylight periods trigger fish to actively move in search of food to build energy reserves for winter to settle into their winter habitat. These predictable movements make them easier to locate.

“They’re trying to put on winter (fat) reserves and the fishing activity really picks up to a new level,” said Larscheid. “We get some great fishing opportunities in the fall. I encourage people to get out there and enjoy them.”

The fall bite in lakes and ponds shifts to the main part of the day. Fish are more active during the day and can be caught close to shore. Target areas of a lake where the water is warmer, particularly in shallow water bays along the north shore.

“Using live bait, particularly minnows, small tackle and fishing slowly are keys to fishing in cooler water,” Larscheid said.

Look for panfish schools in open water near structure like a brush pile, underwater hump, drop-offs, and rock reefs. Largemouth bass will likely be associated with some type of structure during the fall like underwater brush piles, old road beds, rock reeks, weed lines etc.

When river fishing, target the deeper holes on the outside bends in the river. Fish in streams will begin moving to their wintering areas in October.  Stream flow is often lower in the fall; allowing better angler access. Channel catfish will move downstream from smaller streams to the deepest holes they can find in larger streams. Walleyes will move to the next deepest holes and pike to the next deepest. 

Fall is a great time to be outdoors. The air is cool, the bugs are gone, and the fish are pulling out of their late summer slumber.

“I actually enjoy it more because the weather is more stable, the smells and sights of fall are spectacular,” Larscheid said. “It can be so much more peaceful and relaxing than other times of the year.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fish Identification Fun

Looking for a fun way to teach your students how to identify fish? Try one of these fun ideas.

You’ll need to create sets of Iowa fish photos cards along with accompanying name cards before you introduce your students to these fun activities that will test their fish identification skills. The DNR Iowa Fish Species website is a great resource for photos and facts.

Match This
Divide your students in small groups. Hand out sets of Iowa fish photo and name cards to each group.  Groups match the name card to the photo card.  Ask each group to discuss how they identified each species. 

Identification Relay
Divide your students in small groups. Place Iowa fish photo and name cards in the middle of the room. Designate a starting place (marked by a cone) for each group. When instructed to start, one member of each group runs to the pile of cards.  They select a fish picture card and its matching name card and bring it back to the group at their designated place. The group decides if it is a match.  If it matches, the next person goes to the middle to attempt to bring back another match. The race continues until a group has correctly matched all name and fish picture cards.

Fitness Fish
Assign an activity to each Iowa fish photo card (ex. Brown trout=10 pushups, rainbow trout=10 crunches, brook trout=10 lunges).  List these on the whiteboard.  Place photo cards face down in the middle of the room. Mark a start line with a cone. Divide your students in small groups. On the start command, one member of each group runs to the pile of photo cards, picks one, and returns to their group with the card.  The group must perform the activity associated with the species of fish on their photo card.  Repeat the race until each student has chosen a card.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Iowa Outdoor Expo for Kids and Families

September 26th & 27th, 2015

Saturday: 9am - 6pm & Sunday: 10am - 4pm
Des Moines Izaak Walton League and Water Works Park
4343 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines

Celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day by bringing the entire family out for a fun weekend discovering new and exciting ways to enjoy Iowa's outdoors. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation on April 1 designating September 26 as Iowa Hunting and Fishing Day. The proclamation references Iowa’s rich and storied tradition of hunting and fishing that predates statehood and that it is important for young Iowans to carry on the traditions of hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation.

With over 50 free hands-on activities and daily family presentations, visitor's are able to learn, observe and experience recreation opportunities in the great outdoors.

This is a family friendly event with plenty of activities designed for people of all skill levels. We have instructors on hand to teach the activities, offer guidance and tips for them to enjoy the activity when they are on their own,” said Megan Wisecup, hunter education administrator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “We have scheduled a few new events this year, including two live raptor releases and a real pioneer wedding at the buck skinners tent Saturday afternoon.”

Hands-on activities include, but are not limited to:
Fishing- Reel Fishing, Bow Fishing, Casting games, Fish ID tank, Fish Printing, Fish Cleaning & Cooking
Water Sports- Canoeing, Kayaking, Paddleboarding, Life Jacket Safety, Knot Tying
Kid's Corner- Fossil & Treasure Dig, Live Animals, Minnow Races, Build a Bird Feeder, Fish Cleaning
Camping- Tent Demonstrations, Dutch Oven and Game Cooking
Buckskinners Encampment- Traditional encampment, Blacksmith Shop, Tomahawk Range, Atl Atl
Archery- Beginners Foam Range, Traditional Range (9 and over), 3D Range, Aerial Range, Tree Stand Safety
Shooting Sports- Trap Shooting (height requirement), Sling Shot, BB Gun Range, Air Gun Range
Wildlife & Hunting- Furharvesting and Trapping in Iowa, Waterfowl Hunting, Turn In Poachers (TIP), Wild Game Care/Food Safety, Turkey Hunting
Conservation- Urban Garden Program, Polk County Soil & Water Conservation, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Sierra Club, Urban Pollinator Program, Iowa DNR "My Eco Story" Trailer, Outdoor Health
Raptor Release- SOAR (release times available at the Registration Tent)

New this year- Live Game Field Dressing- Milo Locker

The Iowa Outdoor Expo is sponsored by the Izaak Walton League, Polk County Conservation, the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance Foundation, SOAR Saving Our Avian Resources, Weatherby Foundation International, Friends of NRA, MidIowa Bassmasters, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Theisens Home-Farm-Auto, Shallow Water Investigators Bowfishing, Northern Lights Pizza and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 Iowa Mussel Blitz

This annual research project continued this season to inventory and map the distribution of Iowa’s mussels on the Wapsipinicon River and for the first time since the first survey in 2005, the Mississippi River.

Ten species of freshwater mussels were collected in the Wapsipinicon and 23 species in the Mississippi by nearly 70 biologists, students and volunteers during the three day event. “We had excellent participation from volunteers and county naturalists in this year’s survey,” said Scott Gritters, Iowa DNR Fisheries Biologist.

Live mussels were inventoried, measured for growth; and then returned to the water. Most of the mussels were found using a technique known as pollywogging, which consists of crawling along a stream bed, probing the bottom with gloved hands.

“There’s a lot of purposes for these studies,” said Gritters. “One of the biggest things is we don’t want to harm them, and we also want to learn about the areas they live and thrive.”

“On the Mississippi River we are looking at habitat restoration projects that not only benefit fish but also provide the flows and substrates needed for mussels,“ added Gritters.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began researching the disappearance of native fresh-water mussels ten years ago in Iowa, including the federally endangered Higgins eye pearly mussel. Once ranging across most of the upper Midwest, this species has been eliminated from most of the river systems it once thrived in.

"Historically, there were maybe 54 species in Iowa. Now, it's about 42. Of those, nine are endangered. Another six are threatened," explains Gritters. Several more species are very hard to find any more in Iowa

Over the past several years, stretches of the Cedar, Wapsipinicon and Iowa rivers have been stocked with walleyes and bass whose gills had been inoculated with the mussels’ larvae.

“It’s a way to reintroduce mussels into our rivers by stocking fish, which is something we commonly do anyway,” applauds Gritters. “We stock a lot of fish for our anglers and this way we can ‘double dip’, so to speak.“

This year’s Mussel Blitz proved that the Higgins eye mussels stocked previously are still successfully reproducing in the Wapsipinicon.  

“Finding young Higgins eyes in the river proves they are reproducing — a milestone in our efforts to establish sustainable colonies in the state’s interior rivers,” Gritters said.

Mussels are a good indicator of the health of a river. The better the water quality, the more mussels there are in that water. Mussels compact the algae they filter then kick out the crushed pellet to waiting fish; much like the feeding done in fish hatcheries. Many of the major walleye spawning areas are in mussel beds on the Mississippi River.
“Fish and mussels have ‘co-evolved.’ They somewhat depend on each other,” said Gritters. “The more mussel species; the better the mussel density; the better our fish populations; the better our water quality.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kayak Fishing Tips

Fishing from a kayak is great way to stay active and get up close with nature. There’s a unique angling challenge around each bend. Try these tips to get you started.

Travel light
Leave your packed tackle box at home. Bring only the basic tackle you need for the specific fish species you are trying to catch.
Be Confident
Make sure you are confident paddling before you load your kayak with fishing gear. Learn the basic paddling strokes and how to rescue yourself if needed. Hands-on instruction and online paddling safety courses are available.

Stay Safe
Check water levels before you go. Fish with a buddy and let someone know where you’re going. Wear a properly-fitted life jacket and bring along a basic first aid kit. Carry your cell phone in a water tight dry-bag for emergencies.

Go with the flow
If you’re on a lake with a light breeze or a current, start fishing the shoreline on its windward side and let it push you down the shoreline.

Stay hydrated
Bring along plenty of water to drink. Wear light, loose fitting clothing that dries quickly. Make sure you have a hat, good sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.

Be cautious of your surroundings
Stay well downstream of any low head dams. Use caution fishing around wood debris (strainers) on the outside bends of smaller fishing streams. Be careful paddling around obstructions - new snags, log jams, submersed logs and other debris.

Get an appropriately sized anchor (~10 lbs or less)
Major sporting goods retailers sell specialty kayak anchors that have a folding “claw” system for a better hold in current or winds. Most kayaks move at the slightest breeze or even from your casting motion. An anchor is helpful when you want to lock in your position so you can continually cast into a school of fish or a piece of cover/structure.

Secure your gear
Tie down your paddle, tackle box and other fishing necessities to avoid losing them.
Use your strengths
Kayaks are smaller, quieter, and more maneuverable than almost any other boat on the water.  Head deep into the flooded timber on a relatively new reservoir (e.g., Brushy Creek or 12-Mile Creek Lake).  Get close to shore in areas where other boats have to rely on less accurate, long distance casting.