Summer shrinkage still shows along Iowa’s ponds, creeks and rivers. Oh, rain through the last couple weeks—still below normal--has been a slight benefit for fields, lawns AND water levels.
However, the telltale band of dirt showing where a stream’s waterline used to be remains wide as we approach the end of the dog days of summer. That brings mixed response from fish and other organisms dependent on the water…including us.
“We have extremely low water levels. The fish have to contend with that; they have to find the deep holes,” concedes Mike Steuck; DNR fisheries supervisor for northeast Iowa. “They’ll feed on the riffles; above and below those pools (but) those are the only places they have.”
Steuck’s district includes the nine counties in Iowa’s ‘trout country.’ Those coldwater streams show the effect of low flows and high temperatures. Trout are temperature sensitive. The DNR stocking trucks roll out earlier in the morning during hot weather, to keep temperatures similar between hatchery raceways and streams. Crews stock about 300,000 catchable sized (half-pound or so) rainbow and brook trout each year. In addition, fingerling sized brown trout are raised and then stocked in a couple dozen ‘put and grow’ locations.
Stream flows are lower, but fairly reliable as groundwater trickles through the karst topography and out thru limestone fractures and seeps to form the 50 or so trout streams. There was still depth for them to streak from one pool to another as Barry Allison brought the family to Bailey’s Ford in Delaware County, just before school started.
“This is the first time we’ve had all three of our grandkids up here,” said Allison. “My wife (Cindy) and I do a little trout fishing and have (our son Mike and) the grandkids up camping for a week during the summer. We thought we’d treat them to a little trout fishing.”
Camping and fishing with three youngsters. Gluttons for punishment?
“They’re taking to it pretty well,” laughed Allison, up from Oskaloosa. “I always remember back to when my Dad took us fishing as kids. If we had a good day fishing, he never got a line wet.”
Grandson Kaiden, 4, had the hot hand as I watched. A little help from Grandma got the line out into the pool, but he pulled in two rainbow trout by himself. Cameron, 10, brought in a nice one, later in the morning.
In between watching her pole, Jase, 9, helped everybody else. “I was fishing for bluegill once and I caught a turtle. My brother caught a frog,” she reminisced. “Fishing is fun. It’s like a sport. You can just throw in a line and then, afterwards you can eat the fish.”
And her favorite fish? “Crablegs…but just at Panda Garden, because I live next to Panda Garden,” she volunteered. To be fair, I did not ask about her favorite fish to catch. Come to think of it, I prefer crablegs over just about anything else that comes out of the water, too.
Hot Weather ‘No Stock’ list.
About 10 northeast Iowa trout streams are not stocked through July and August. From loading at the hatchery to stocking at the stream, water temperatures can rise 15 to 20 degrees. That leads to high stress for trout, possibly fatal, as they suddenly hit the warmer water.
This summer, another five streams are on the list. Hatchery crews monitor stream flows and weather forecasts. As they improve, the streams return to the stocking schedule. Changes are announced on the trout stocking hotline (563-927-5736) or www.iowadnr.gov
And while the weather has evened out a little, the trout stations are developing a drought contingency plan. Even with a ‘normal’ late summer and fall, there have been trout held back from stocking. That means either holding them over for another season—and providing feed for those months--or providing a few thousand more this fall in streams, or maybe aiming at nearly 20 urban sites, stocked from about Thanksgiving through March.