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IOWA OUTDOORS

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

www.iowadnr.com 

Editor:  Mick Klemesrud, 515/281-8653

mick.klemesrud@dnr.state.ia.us

Spring Trout Fishing
By Joe Wilkinson

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

The swish of silver was too tempting.  The trout chomped it and Tom Birmingham had his first catch of the morning. Hoisting the fish over a tangle of tree trunk and branches, Birmingham took a look, before releasing it back into the stream.

The trout had not been in the stream long.  Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries technician Tom Rohde had just dropped a dozen or so rainbow and brook trout into the pool staked out by Birmingham, of Marion, and his friend Sean Phillips, of Cedar Rapids, at the east end of Fountain Spring county park, near Greeley.  “I’m just using a little tinsel jig. I think they sell these in stores, but I tie a few trout jigs myself,” said Birmingham, admitting that it didn’t seem to matter what he used on stocking day.  “Actually, I like going in the winter, when there are fewer people around.  Days like today are a little crazy.”

It definitely was not a quiet day at the ol’ fishing hole.  Rohde had 16 or 17 spots where he rationed out the 300 trout he had brought from the Manchester hatchery.  This is one of 50 ‘put and take’ streams, managed by the DNR.  And it was crowded.  Some of the regulars greeted him by name, as he came down the bank with a dozen trout and slipped them into the cold water.  If he paused to talk for a minute, the first trout was usually caught by the time he made his way back to the truck. 

The half-pound, hatchery-raised trout are more ‘angler friendly’ than their wild cousins, in Iowa’s trout country.  Streams in nine northeast counties run clear and cold enough to support trout.  Only a few high quality stretches support actual reproduction.  Otherwise, the trout are spawned, raised and then stocked out of Manchester and two rearing stations, near Elkader and Decorah. 

About 30 thousand trout anglers pay for the added expense through purchase of their $10 trout ‘stamps’, as they buy fishing licenses each year.  Then they adjust the degree of difficulty to catch them.  Bits of cheese, prepared pellet baits, even sweet corn kernels, usually work best, to fill a daily limit of five trout.  Small night crawlers are popular, too.  Others rely on a host of tiny jigs, trying to simulate natural food in the stream, to coax a bite from a suspicious trout. 

Whatever they use, the ‘put and take’ streams draw crowds during the stocking season, from April through November. Rohde counted about 60 anglers at Fountain Spring, the day we stocked there.  And it wasn’t just the anglers who were crowded.  “Water conditions right now are very low,” noted Rohde.  “That actually concentrates the fish in the pools, making them easier to catch.  We need a good rain to increase water levels.”

Many of the trout enthusiasts are retirees, enjoying a morning in the outdoors before taking a few fish home.  Others, like Birmingham, trade a day of work for the scenery and—sometimes—the solitude.  Terry Hoffman, of Solon, started trout fishing with her husband a year ago.  “I love it,” she laughs, right after pulling in her first trout of the day.  “I like the surroundings. It’s peaceful, relaxing…just fun.”

And if you don’t enjoy the crowd scene, there are alternatives.  Some anglers come the day after a stream is stocked, trying to fool one of the remaining ‘educated’ trout.  Others know they’ll be almost alone, coming the day before the next stocking.  Perhaps the best alternative, though, is changing locations.  “If you want to get away from the crowd, try one of the streams on our unannounced schedule,” suggests Rohde.  “We stock them with brown trout, usually twice a month.  They generally have very few anglers and a lot of fish.  Those streams are beautiful places to fish, too.”

Those unannounced or ‘walk in’ streams are shown in the DNR’s Iowa Trout Guide, available at most DNR offices and at fishing shops that cater to trout fishing.

Brown trout adapt quickly to the wild and are a little harder to catch.  Then again, you have all day to enjoy the bluffs, woods, coldwater streams and solitude.  What’s your hurry?

 

Trout Stocking Underway

Northeast Iowa’s 50 ‘put and take’ streams are stocked from one to three times a week, depending on angler pressure.  For information on which streams are stocked, go to www.iowadnr.com or call:

563-927-5736 (Manchester)
563-245-1699 (Elkader)
563-382-3315 (Decorah)

Crappies Coming On

Warming water mean crappie fishing is heating up. One of Iowa’s most popular game fish, crappies move into the shallows to spawn when water temperatures hold steady in the mid to upper 50 degree range. Activity generally moves from south to north through Iowa.

That means good fishing, as anglers locate them during the pre-spawn and as they move in to lay their eggs.  “They’re not quite ready to spawn here,” reports DNR fisheries biologist Paul Sleeper, at Lake Macbride in east central Iowa.  “A two to three degree temperature change will bring them into the shallows, following the baitfish.  We have lots of anglers along the causeway, and (Coralville Lake) dam and lots of boats out.  Those water temperatures might hit 60 or so in the shallows during the day, but cool temperatures and rain can push it back down into the 40s overnight.”

 

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