Green Castle lake renovations continue

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT can be complicated exercise to balance various fish species populations. A typical farm pond stocking of bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish seems to take care of the situation. Larger bodies of water, as in Green Castle’s 16 surface acres, may also benefit from other predator fish like northern and walleye. Periodic electro-shocking surveys are conducted to sample the total lake. A survey will typically find lots of bluegill of various age classes, and the same for bass. When the sample size is large enough, fisheries biologist Paul Sleeper can make fairly accurate inferences about the big picture of the health and vitality of the lake.

In 2012, the electro-shocking survey found many common carp in addition to a smaller mix of game fish. Paul Sleeper stated that the common carp captured in the survey represented just the tip of a very large iceberg. This set in motion the recommendation to severely lower the water at Green Castle, then use a selective poison called rotenone to kill the remaining fish. Prior to this final and drastic step, there will be a salvage operation to net game fish from Green Castle. In particular, large mouth bass, walleye and northern will be transported to Sand Lake.

While the lake water is low, fish habitat structures have been enhanced at various places along the shore line. There are several large jetties along the lake edges. Within casting distance of each jetty point are old tire piles, former Christmas trees, sunken box elder trees and stake beds. A number of large drain tiles and old 55-gallon barrels line the shore edge specifically for channel catfish to use as spawning sites. Each of these habitat features provides places for small fish to hide from big fish. Area fishermen and women who like to fish at Green Castle should take special note of the location of all the fish habitat structures. Then, when the lake is refilled in a few years time and after a new stocking of the right mix of game fish, you will know where the odds are improved to find the fish. If the fish chose to bite on your lure is another matter entirely.

While at Green Castle last week, my foray along the exposed shoreline found lots of interesting things. Freshwater clam shells were everywhere. As receding water exposed them, they were easy pickings for raccoons. From the number of clams laid open, there must be some very healthy and fat raccoons. Another observation were tracks left in the soil. My size 11 shoe was one of them. However, I was more interested in the footprints of white-tailed deer who had gone exploring the area during the dark of night. Raccoon prints were in the softer muds also. And Mr. coyote left his obvious canine telltale signs as well. Canada goose footprints marked the shore. And what was most likely the wanderings of a big turtle left skid marks of his lower shell as it powered its way to the water.

Heavy rains during the month of May have helped bring on one of the most bountiful crops of mulberries this year. And the shrubby raspberry crop is also extensive. One could take a bucket and a bit of time to pick a large quantity of these delicious offerings from Mother Nature’s pantry. One species that really makes use of raspberries is the wild turkey. At just the right height for this large game bird, the fruit of this plant is made to order. Soon enough this crop will be gone for the year. Turkeys have lots of different food sources including protein-rich insects.

It is summer, a time when many folks may go on a vacation to the mountains of the western reaches of our nation. According to the National Park Service, its search and rescue operations cost the agency $5.2 million in 2012. An evaluation of these incidents found that most situations reflected the individuals involved as out of shape and ill-prepared. Here is how the facts break down: The biggest factor contributing to a rescue were fatigue and poor physical conditioning in 892 missions. Next in line was insufficient information and errors in judgment in 735 cases. In 524 of the cases, people had insufficient equipment, improper clothing and a lack of experience. One-third of all search and rescue missions happened on weekends. The relatively safest day was Tuesday with 278 missions nationwide.

The NPS has done a lot to educate back country hikers and campers to know what they are getting into before they go- proper equipment, the right clothes, lots of water, and a plan on where to go and how to get there. That is the only safe way to conduct an outdoor adventure to the wild mountains. To do anything less is putting your life on the line. The NPS wants to prevent, or severely reduce, search and rescue needs. A well-informed public needs to think this through.

Of all the 2012 search and rescue missions, most subjects were found in less than 24 hours from the time help was summoned. In 14 cases, the individuals were never found. Once people admit to being lost, they need to stay in place and not try to hike out. In 1,000 incidents, the subjects hiked at least one mile. In 15 cases the people hiked more than 20 miles from where they were last seen. Water gets people in trouble the most if swimming or boating in wild rugged streams. Twenty-eight suicides were attempted and 16 succeeded in their efforts. Of the $5.2 million tab run up by the 2012 search and rescue missions, the bulk of the costs were associated with personnel costs and specialized equipment such as helicopters. The man hours associated with these efforts totaled 92,732.

The places were people are more likely to need search and rescue services are in the intermountain regions, places like Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Big Bend and Rocky Mountain. Why? Because there are more units of the National Park System than any other region. In only four cases of successful rescue did the people who were in trouble have a device called a personal locator beacon. When, and if, one does purchase such a device, the instructions make it very clear at the time of registration that you must have a valid credit card number on file with sufficient credit balance to offset the bill you will receive later for your rescue. Keep these thoughts in mind if you are planning a mountain hike into backcountry areas.

Have a plan, tell people what your plan is and stick to the plan. That way your experience will be rewarding. One small glitch along the way can turn a great vacation into a life-or-death situation. The Boy Scout motto of being prepared seems to fit in these scenarios.

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.