The flood of 2013

Central Iowa has been blasted with rain for the past two weeks. This caused every stream, creek and river in the area to overflow and caused mass chaos. Roads were closed, basements flooded and farm fields looked more like farm ponds. My family and I escaped the worse parts, all but a few detours on trips back home.

Growing up in a river town in northeast Iowa, Independence, I cannot stop thinking about people who are still reeling from water in basements, and those disastrous farm fields. Floods were a common thing for me and my family when I was growing up in Independence. The Wapsipinicon River would flood almost every spring, sometimes twice. Some years it would flood enough to affect my dad’s business, a feed mill located on the banks of the river. Friends and relatives would show up at all hours of the day to help move feed and other farming supplies to higher ground or clean up after the flood water receded. It was just a common thing in that town. Marshalltown is a different story. Floods don’t affect too many people most years, but when it does it affects everyone in town, obviously some more than others.

I have been asked countless times the last two weeks the same two questions; “Did you survive the flood?” and “What does this do to fishing?” I was very happy to answer the first question with, everything is just fine at our house. The second question was a bit harder. The flood of 2013 has effected every body of water in this region of the state.

All of the Marshalltown area lakes were flooded over their banks. Pine Lakes, Rock Creek, Union Grove Lake, and Hickory Grove Lake all experienced flooding that I have never seen in the past 14 years of living in Marshalltown. What does this do to the fish? Well fish still need to eat to live, but feeding is very difficult when the fish can’t see. All fish use several different ways of tracking their prey; hearing, smell, vibrations through their lateral lines, and sight. The first three are very keen senses, but without the last one, the sense of sight, it is hard to track down their next meal. So, long story made short, fishing when the water is high and muddy, is always very hard to be successful.

When fishing in these conditions anglers need to think about how the fish are going to eat. They need to use all of their senses if they want to eat their next meal. With this in mind anglers must choose appropriate baits that tune into as many of the fishes’ senses as possible. First, anglers need to pick lures that omit a vibration. Fish use their lateral lines to feel vibrations in the water. Good baits for this are spinner baits with big blades and chatterbaits. Others are big crankbaits and topwater baits. Then the angler needs to think about sound. The more sound your bait makes the better. Again, crankbaits with rattles rank high on this list. The thumping of spinnerbait blades adds noise to the water too. Lastly, is color, the fish must be able to see your offering in order to bite it. Dark colors are a must in muddy water conditions. The darker the color the more it will show up in the muddy water.

With these facts in mind, and about 10 days of no fishing, I had had enough. A quick call to friend Don Henry, and we were off to Upper Pine Lake last Sunday to see what it looked like. Not to our surprise, it was muddy, well, that was an understatement. Visibility throughout the lake was about 2 inches. That translates to terrible fishing conditions. We gave it try for a few hours, throwing numerous baits at them. We did manage a few bass. Don caught his on a spinnerbait, and both of mine came on a black and blue chatterbait. The flash and vibration of the spinnerbait and chatterbait no doubt helped those fish find our baits and made the impossible happen, catching bass in those conditions.

Fishing will be a struggle for a while in this area due to the floods. Most lakes in central Iowa are just too muddy to have a very productive day fishing for any species. This doesn’t mean you can’t go out and catch a few fish, but keep your expectations down a bit. You can still have a good day of “catching” if you adjust your baits and key into the fish and how they are searching for their food with their cloudy environment.