Little fish bring big smiles

KIDS FISHING with almost total predictability of success can only happen in ponds where hungry fish are fully cooperative. Such was the case last Saturday at Lake Woodmere, the pond at Riverside Cemetery. Kids and adults brought total guests to about 85 people who enjoyed great weather and eager to bite fish. A big thank you to the staff from the cemetery for hosting and opening the area for this annual kids fish day.

Hundreds of bullheads were removed from the pond. Kids delighted in the tug at the end of their lines. Every cast was soon followed by the bobber plunging under water as the bait was grabbed by the fish. Next step was to set the hook and the subsequent reeling in of another fish. All the fish could be entered for weight and the possibility for prizes donated from local businesses. All went very well. Just ask the kids.

As noted under today’s photo, the largest bullhead was a tad over three-fourths of one pound, 12.8 ounces. Lots of fish tipped the electronic scales at 7 to 10 ounces. The flip side of big (for a bullhead) was small. In this category the smallest bullheads ended as a three-way tie of fish at just 0.25 ounces each. To break the tie, a pond side decision to have a “fish-off” mini contest was held to see who would catch the smallest. The tie was broken when Noah Brown pulled in a fish smaller than his competitors Max Sawyer and Blayke Ayers.

Izaak Walton League members and volunteers assisting with the young people fishing were Bob Backes, Ed Moore, Jerry Rakowicz, Larry Runneals, Bob Johnson, Nancy Hookie and this scribe. Cemetery staff assistants included Dave Messer, Larry Messer and Arlene Johnson. Marshalltown Bait and Tackle representatives Kenny Selvog and Dwight Butcher helped the cause. Kenny donated a big tub of earthworms for those kids that needed bait. Theisen’s donated two rod and reel sets that were later awarded as prizes.

Kids, parent and grandparents can look forward to June 2015, same place, same activity, for another chapter in a Kid’s Fishing Derby. It is proof that little fish bring big smiles.

This week’s rains have filled area ponds and also filled the IOWA RIVER with a flushing surge of high water. When many strong thunderstorms kept pouring rain over the same areas hour after hour, it did not take long for runoff to happen. Area waterways spilled into creeks and other tributaries. Finally these sources all would empty into the Iowa River at many points upstream within the watershed. Marshalltown’s 3 plus inches of rain added to the swelling of river water levels.

It did not take long for the river to respond. It’s meter gauge level had been poking along at about 10 feet and only 350 cubic feet per second. Overnight the waters began to rise steadily until the crest happened late in the afternoon of Wednesday at 16.13 feet. The cubic feet per second flow rate went to 5,640. The difference in depth, 6 feet, was easily observable with some flooding especially in the area north of Marshalltown next to Highway 14. Today, the projection is for a new crest of 18.1 feet or 0.9 foot below official flood stage.

How much more water does it take for Highway 14 to come close to having water over the concrete surface? About 3 more feet to a stage of 19.0. Nineteen is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Geological Survey agreed value for official flood stage. It takes a lot of rain within the watershed to produce that kind of flooding, something this past week did not produce. At stage 19.5, water does go over Highway 14 and Highway 330 south of Albion. Road closures are expected at those times. The all-time high water record for the Iowa River happened on May 30, 2013, just one year ago, with a gauge reading of 22.08 feet. Many of us remember that episode and the difficulties it caused in travel north out of Marshalltown. It was Mother Nature telling us to chill out as much as possible until she had time to make her point with us. She did. We had to watch and deal with high water.

This scribe has heard the sounds of crowing pheasants this spring. It is a good sound to hear especially since the population is down considerably. The popular and colorful rooster ring-neck pheasant is still here. Let’s hope it can sustain itself with additional habitat. That is also the hope of PHEASANTS FOREVER. They have just announced a new upland conservation program called SAFE. The acronym stands for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, a part of the federal Conservation Reserve Program to add 50,000 acres via enrollment by area farmers willing to take advantage of the opportunity. PF has eight biologists within Iowa willing to work with landowners on finding habitat areas or creating habitat enhancements to assist pheasants and other wildlife.

Already more than 4,100 acres have been signed up. Since this is a first-come, first-served program, the maximum of 50,000 could easily be reached this summer. Enrollment includes a sign up bonus payment of $100 per acre. Todd Bogenschutz, DNR Upland Wildlife Biologist works closely with PF’s eight biologists to get the correct practices applied to the land. Most Iowa counties are open for signup. Partners in this CRP program include Pheasant Forever chapters, Iowa DNR, Iowa Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Farm Service Agency, Iowa Division of Land Stewardship, Soil and Water Conservation Districts to name a few.

Pheasants typically show population increases following mild winters with spring weather warmer and dryer than normal. This is not what we have experienced so far. Based on weather models, the western third of Iowa has the best chance for an uptick in pheasant numbers. However, since this week’s rains in western and northwest Iowa were unknown at the time the computer models attempted their “forecasts”, all bets are off now. That is the fickle way nature can mess with human desires.

Today is the longest day of the year for northern hemisphere inhabitants. Our day length at Marshalltown is now 15 hours 15 minutes from 5:36 a.m. until 8:51 p.m. To emphasize the effects of curvature of the earth’s surface, compare these values for day length at places to our north. At the north end of Minnesota at Baudette and the Rainy River, their day length is 16 hours and 9 minutes. Travel a few hundred miles more to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada for an 18 hour 25 minute day. Churchill has sunrise at 4:05 a.m. and sunset at 10:31 p.m. North to the arctic circle will see 24 hours of day length. This little reminder is of note since tomorrow, and the day after until December 21, 2014, our days will be getting shorter. Such is the physics of earths place in its orbit around the sun. Enjoy your summer.

“I find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” -John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist

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.