Shaping up Shorelines

GREEN CASTLE is getting another dose of face lifts and improvements. You can see many of them in today’s photo. You can see more if you check it out in person from ground level. The entire process began years ago when the members of the Conservation Board were updated on fish populations, fish growth stagnation, and the really bad guys in the mix, common carp. Carp had been introduced into the lake water illegally. Their population growth sealed the fate of all the other fishes … over time. An overabundance of common carp ruined the entire fishery. It was time to start over. Reality was a bitter pill to swallow. Fisheries biologists who were consulted had seen it all before elsewhere in the state. Now it was Green Castle’s turn for a complete makeover.

Starting over began with a drastic lowering of the lake water last year. With most of the lake water gone, what water did remain concentrated the carp into a much smaller pool. During last winter, DNR fisheries biologist Paul Sleeper applied rotenone to kill any remaining fish. Prior to that time there was selective removal of game fish as a salvage operation. But now all the remaining fish are skeletal remains laying on the bottom of the lake.

Lowering the water allowed the shoreline to dry in addition to a significant portion of the exposed lake bed. Accumulated silt removal could take place and it did. Last fall and over the winter, many hundreds of tons of silt were mechanically removed. Some of that earth material was placed at new jetty sites. Most of the silt was pushed or trucked to adjacent fill sites nearby. And that brings us to the present time whereby most of the silt that can be removed has been. The new jetties are in place. Rock along the new shoreline is in place. Given time and a refilling of lake water, Green Castle will sport a new refreshing look.

Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board, told this scribe how all the above work was financed. First of all, two very key elements involved Fish Habitat Improvement grants administered through the Iowa DNR. Green Castle’s project got two grants, one for silt removal, and the other for shoreline armoring. In part, these funds are available via the fishing licenses purchased by Iowans. Fish license money primarily is used for fish habitat, research, personnel of the fisheries bureau and the raising of fish at various hatcheries. A small sliver of funds are set aside for projects similar to what is being done at the local lake. Applications for fish habitat improvement are applied for on a competitive basis. As usual there are always more projects than there is money to fund them. Once a project is approved and completed, it opens the door for next year’s application cycle.

Stegmann went on to say that for all practical purposes silt removal is about done due to available funding coming to an end. Additional fish structures will be added but most of this work is nearly complete. To whatever extent possible the MCCB’s general fund allocations were the third element for funding stream. Overall the MCCB has got a big project underway and at least this phase is nearing its end. More improvements are in the planning stages but that will take time and money. Time is the easy part, money is always harder to acquire.

When the drawdown tube gate is closed later this summer, and water slowly refills the basin, the newly stocked fish population should be able to prosper. Here is what is happening on fish.

About three weeks ago, DNR fisheries crews placed several hundred adult bluegills of 4 to 6 inches. Additional red-eared sunfish and more bluegills are slated to arrive soon. Later this summer large-mouthed bass and channel catfish will be stocked. Long run plans include black crappie in 2016. Fishermen are reminded to not bring live bait to this lake, ever. And fisheries biologists note that mother nature works her magic on her time scale, not ours. It may take three years for the population of all fishes at Green Castle to reach a new optimum. That is just the way it works.

This scribe salutes the conservation board members, staff and for being able to take the necessary steps for long term improvements at Green Castle. And since they all know, and you know, that money does not grow on trees, they have done a terrific job with the limited funds they were able to secure. Keep up the good work.

KIDS FISHING DAY is going on right now at the pond, Lake Woodmere, at Marshalltown’s Riverside Cemetery. From 8 a.m. until noon, kids can fish the pond for the over abundant and very hungry bullheads. Once a year the cemetery pond is opened just for this purpose. First, the kids love it and have lots of fun. Second, the fish are fully cooperative. Any small hook baited with a small dab of worm or night crawler and it is game on. Third, almost every cast results in a bite and a hooked fish. Fourth, parents or grand parents will delight in seeing their kids enjoy the outdoors and easily caught fish. Bent fishing poles and tugging lines will be the norm at this fish event.

Adults who bring their kids the fish day need to bring their own equipment of pole, hooks, stringer or bucket, and maybe even a needle nose pliers to help dislodge deep hooks from the mouths of the bullheads. Prizes will be available for smallest and largest fish. It is all slated to help young people enjoy a day where the fish are easy to catch. A host of volunteers will be assisting including some bass club members, the Evening Lions Club and the Izaak Walton League. Go fishing with your kids. Introduce them to the wide world of sport fishing with this simple and easy access to the water. Riverside Cemetery is located near the north edge of Marshalltown about two blocks west of Highway 14.

An invasion is coming to parts of Iowa. It is the PERIODICAL CICADAS who have spent the last 17 years waiting their turn to emerge from the soil under the trees where they have called home for so long. Cicadas, this particular batch called Brood III, also known as 17 year locusts, will crawl out of the underground sites and appear as adults in significant portions of Iowa. Most of south central and southeast Iowa are in the zone for this brood of insects. Marshall County is within the area where we will see, and hear, this buzzing mating call of cicadas. Finding them is usually in large long standing upland native woodlands.

Cicadas of the class of 2014 are not the only brood of this insect. Other broods exist in other areas of Iowa such as the 2007 cycle in northeast Iowa, and another batch in 2011. Various broods overlap so that it seems there is always a cicada “invasion” somewhere.

Cicadas have no chewing mouth parts. They do not sting. They do not bite. The males just “sing” from late morning through early afternoon for five or six weeks after hatching. The sound they make is incredibly loud due to the high population of emerged critters at one time. Several things make cicadas unique in the insect world. To help confuse the issue, there is brood with a 13 year cycle, and others at 17 years. Those at 17 years are one of the longest living insect species in the entire world. For all but a few weeks, the nymphs have been living 18 to 24 inches deep in the soil of wooded and forested areas feeding on the sap from tree roots. Secondly, they time the emergence to happen together, all at once, in a highly sophisticated fashion. Growth as a nymph is slow and unequal. But at the 17 year point, all are synchronized as they dig their way out toward the surface. Next thing to do is climb a tree, post or pole. The outer shell splits along the middle of its back, and out crawls the adult with wings. Each adult lives for about five to six weeks. Mates are found. Females deposit eggs into small twigs of trees or shrubs. Hatching of the eggs takes place in six to seven weeks whereby the new generation falls to the ground, burrows into the soil for its 17 year life attached to a root feeding on sap.

Noise is what gets the attention of people to the presence of cicadas. Loud and persistent is very fitting. The buzz is produced by two shell-like drums located along the sides of the abdomen. Muscles vibrate the membranes several times per second. The result is a high pitched rapid click series. Cicada numbers can be staggering with up to 1.5 million per acre! That translates into 40,000 cicadas per tree. People will find cicadas interesting or on the flip side of the coin, annoying. Either way, it is one of nature’s wonders we can wonder about and enjoy. So enjoy the sounds of summer this summer with singing cicadas.

Even in Alaska, people do dumb things with wildlife. A recent true life scenario unfolded when a home owner “rescued” a baby moose. The calf was brought into the house to be cared for. All went well until the moose calf peed on the nice living room carpet. Things went from bad to worse after that. Alaska Fish and Game authorities cite numerous calls of supposedly “orphaned” critters. A moose calf held in captivity is lost from contact with its mother. If people would just leave the baby moose alone, mom moose will take care of her offspring. Now substitute any wildlife baby of any species in Iowa into the above example. It is a case of doing something that in the long run is not good for the animal. Hands off people! Let them be. Observe from a distance. Got it?

Do you want to learn about bees? Well, here is a program for you. It is a brown bag lunch program sponsored by the MCCB. It will be Monday, June 16 from 9 to 10 a.m. at Fieldstone Farms, 145 165th Street, Clemons. Beekeepers Dale Fields and Eli Kalke will show and tell what is involved with maintaining a bee hive. The program is free and open to anyone. Just buzz right over to Fieldstone Farms to learn more about this important insect of pollination.

Here is the thought for the day: Instead of a fountain of youth, how about a fountain of “smart” ?

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.