Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mussel Blitz

 From the adjacent sandbar, the scene looks like a diving school gone awry. Two shallow divers are connected to oxygen lines. A couple others have masks. Another four wade through the shallower sections. Every couple minutes, someone hoists another mussel; adding to the inventory.

“You are looking for coarser gravel, but not big cobblestones,” explains Vance Polton, DNR fisheries technician. He is standing knee deep in the Iowa River, below Iowa City; returning a ‘Wabash pig toe’ to the sandy bottom.

“They have to push through the substrate where they are located,” says Polton. Onshore, small piles of live mussels are inventoried, measured for growth; and then returned to the water.

Iowa’s mussel dilemma is mirrored throughout North America. A dozen of 54 known Iowa species are gone. At least half of the remaining species are endangered or threatened. That wakeup call is what brings up to 50 biologists, students and volunteers for a week of wading and groping often muddy Iowa stream bottoms for elk toes, three-ridge, pocketbooks and fat muckets. If nothing else, freshwater clams have great names!

This summer, the target river was the Iowa; above and below Iowa City. Historically, it has been a good ‘mussel’ river.

“Fish and mussels have ‘co-evolved.’ They somewhat depend on each other,” underscores Scott Gritters, DNR fisheries biologist and annual ringmaster of Iowa’s ‘Mussel Blitz.’ “The more mussel species; the better the mussel density; the better our fish populations; the better our water quality.”

The results this year?

“It’s one of those ‘glass half full, glass half empty,’ scenarios,” assesses Gritters. His long term concern is that populations cannot handle the cycle of highs and lows of past years.

“We really scoured some areas. We found 1,500 mussels; 20 species. We found some decent populations, but I had hoped for 3,000 or so. Mussels don’t react well to that.”

On the upside, the 2014 Mussel Blitz turned up another six Higgins’ eye pearly mussels; thought nearly extinct 40 years ago. Any Higgins’ eyes in the Iowa River were stocked there. Raised in hatcheries; they were inoculated as glochidia--larvae--into the gills of fish, stocked several years ago. No larger than grains of salt then, they hung onto their host for several weeks…before dropping off; hopefully into a hospitable gravel bed.

To have the nearly microscopic mussels show up now, as adults? 

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

With floods, excess nutrients and sediment covering mussel habitat; even extreme cold affecting these inland mollusks, a few glimmers appear from year to year. 

“People will like our rivers a lot more, if they can support mussels,” says Gritters.

Media Contact: Joe Wilkinson, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 319-430-0325.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Get Your Students “Hooked on Fishing”

Studies show that kids who start fishing at an early age are less likely to get into trouble as teenagers.  All the more reason as educators and parents we need to get our kids "hooked" on fishing!

Get trained in Fish Iowa! and utilize these great resources to teach your students how to fish. Over 3,400 free-loan rods and reels are available at over 100 locations around Iowa.

The Benefits of Angling
Many psychologists feel that angling offers more positive aspects to youth than other activities because it:
  • Is inexpensive
  • Can be done alone or in a group
  • Decreases stress
  • Allows a time and place to think
  • Creates a special bond between family and friends
  • Allows a sense of accomplishment for all participants
  • Is a lifetime recreational pursuit

Fishing can be a useful component of a youth leadership program because it:
  • Provides a positive alternative to drug use and other “at risk” behaviors
  • Helps students build self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Takes parents and youth away from stressful distractions and provides a new forum for communication
  • Provides a setting for schools and communities to unite

"Anyone can fish, so you don't have to worry about sitting on the bench if you aren't the star athlete. Fish don't see disabilities, they could care less is you are in a wheelchair or are able to run a marathon." ~ Fish Iowa! mentor serving persons with disabilities

Thursday, August 21, 2014

National Catfish Month

Celebrate National Catfish by learning more about Iowa’s catfish and tips for better catfish fishing.

Fun Catfish Facts

  • Catfish are the most widely distributed and abundant sport fish in Iowa waters.
  • Ten species of catfish are found here.
  • Catfish don’t have scales.
  • The “whiskers” that make catfish look like cats are really barbels, the barbels are covered with tastebuds that allow the fish to find food in the murkiest of water.
  • Catfish have taste receptors all over their bodies.
  • Catfish weighing from one to four pounds produce about 4,000 eggs per pound of body weight.

Catfish Fishing Tips

  • Catfish, like all fish, are not randomly distributed, but are congregated in particular locations. Fishing success will depend on your ability to find these concentrations of fish.
  • Light tackle catches more fish, but heavy tackle is required in snags and structure when catching large fish.
  • Catfish can be caught year around.
  • Use dead minnows or cut-bait in the late winter and early spring when the water temperature is between 35-60 degrees F.
  • Use prepared cheese/stink baits in the summer when the water temperature is above 70 degrees F.
  • Cheese/stink baits are most effective on fish 10 to 16 inches in length.
  • Live bait is best for larger fish, those above 3 pounds.

Classic fried catfish recipe

¾ cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. salt
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil
1 catfish fillet
¼ tsp. garlic powder

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Coat fillets with mixture, shaking off excess. Fill deep pot or 12 inch skillet half full with oil. Heat to 350 degrees. Add catfish in single layer and fry until golden brown (about 5-6 minutes depending on size). Remove and drain on paper towels.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fishing Friday at the Iowa State Fair!

Thanks to our wonderful volunteers for helping make our Fishing Friday a great success. 
  • SE Warren Schools
  • Des Moines Public Schools
  • Forest Avenue Outreach
  • West Harrison Schools

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Proposed Fishing Regulations Topic of Four Public Meetings

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has scheduled four public meetings to discuss proposed changes to the state fishing regulations for 2015.
Hearings are scheduled for August 28, 7 p.m., at the DNR Wildlife Stations on Balsam Avenue, Ventura; Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m., at the Lewis and Clark State Park Visitor Center, 21914 Park Loop, Onawa; Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m., at the Dickinson County Nature Center, 2279 170th Street, Okoboji; and Sept. 4, 3 p.m., in the fourth floor conference room, Wallace State Office Bldg., 502 East Ninth Street, Des Moines.
The DNR is proposing a series of rule changes to make the regulations easier to understand, to protect lake improvements, remove duplicate language in the Iowa code and to enhance fishing opportunities.
Proposals include aligning the muskie season on Iowa’s border lakes with Minnesota  with the Iowa Great Lakes’ season; modifying the fishing regulations on the Iowa-Minnesota border lakes to be more consistent with that of the Iowa Great Lakes; allowing the DNR to manage walleye populations in the same manner as it does bass by posting length limit signs at lakes, and removing Black Hawk Lake from the list of lakes that have additional restrictions for walleye fishing and replace the three walleye daily bag limit with a daily bag limit of five.
Other proposals include prohibiting snagging, bow and arrow, and spear fishing at certain Clear Lake and Lost Island Lake locations to protect the significant investment in lake improvements and for public safety at the Lower Gar Lake Outlet; removing hand fishing as a legal means of take for all rough fish; establishing a paddlefish season on the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers; and removing duplicate trotline or throw line language in the Iowa Administrative code.
At the hearing, persons will be asked to give their names and address for the record and to confine their remarks to the content of the proposed amendments. Any persons who intend to attend the hearing and have special requirements, such as those related to hearing or mobility impairments, should contact the DNR and request specific accommodations.
Any person may submit written suggestions or comments on the proposed amendment through Sept. 4, 2014. Written materials should be addressed to Martin Konrad, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 502 East Ninth Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0034, by fax at 515-281-8895 or by email to martin.konrad@dnr.iowa.gov.

Persons who have questions may contact Martin Konrad at 515-281-6976.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fishing Friday at the Iowa State Fair!
When: August 8, 2014
Time: 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Where: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Building Courtyard
at the Iowa State Fair Grounds

Join us for Fishing Friday at the Iowa State Fair! Friday August 8th join the IDNR Aquatic Education Program, IDNR Fisheries biologists and staff, and several Fish Iowa! school groups for a fun-filled fishing Friday!

Activities will include:

  • Fish cleaning and cooking demonstration – try a sample of Iowa fish!
  • Pop can casting – try your hand at pop can casting for accuracy.
  •  Velcro fishing – catch a bluegill, bass, or catfish in our kids “pond”.
  •  Rubber stamp art – create an ecosystem picture using fish and animal stamps featuring animals found in Iowa.
  •  Fish coloring pages – create a masterpiece when you color your favorite fish.
  • Fish printing – Create fish prints on paper.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DNR Building a Popular Stop at the Iowa State Fair
Located at the west end of the State Fair Grand Concourse, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources historic aquarium, pavilion and courtyard is a must-see for thousands of fair-goers each year.
Built in 1921, the wrap-around aquarium is the focal point of the pavilion, filled with Iowa fish of all shapes, sizes and species. Throughout the building, park rangers, conservation officers, environmental specialists, biologists and other staffers are on hand to field visitors’ questions and maybe ask a few too.
Visitors of all ages can test their knowledge of state parks’ trivia or challenge other visitors to a game of environmental Jeopardy. Fair-goers can also test their skills at the new air rifle range, or maybe spot a cougar, bobcat or wolf mount, or full-size replica of an eagle’s nest. Licenses and Iowa Outdoors magazine subscriptions are on sale, too.
On the west side of the pavilion are gates designed and created by sculptor David Williamson and past fair visitors, using metal trash collected from Iowa’s annual river clean-up, Project AWARE.  The gates lead to the DNR’s courtyard, a relaxing oasis complete with a pond of waterfowl and turtles, a prairie, a stream, the world’s largest birdhouse, a water bottle filling station, picnic tables, benches and plenty of shade. 
The mobile education exhibits along the north courtyard fence helps visitors learn how to make simple, everyday changes to help protect and improve the environment.
Three to five presentations are made daily on the courtyard stage including cooking demonstrations and live animal talk. And each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Fair will be dedicated to special theme days in the courtyard. For a list of courtyard theme days and daily stage presentations visit www.iowadnr.gov/fair 
The DNR’s pavilion and aquarium are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, throughout the fair.