Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Editor: Mick Klemesrud, 515/281-8653
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
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
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
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