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New watershed plan improves water quality at the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fishery Hatchery

  • 7/9/2024 12:03:00 PM
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Trout need clear and cold water to live and thrive. Sediment flowing into Siewers Spring, the water source for the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fishery Hatchery, creates muddy water conditions after larger rainfall events in the Trout Run watershed.

Over the past 16 years, there have been an average of 42 days per year when the trout could not be fed at the hatchery due to cloudy water.

“Cloudy water not only affects the way we feed the fish, it also stresses the fish to be in the muddy water and the fish get sick,” explains Brian Malaise, manager of the Chuck Gipp Decorah Trout Hatchery. “The muddy water makes it hard for the trout to breathe.”

In April, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the watershed plan for Trout Run and Siewers Spring. The main objective of the plan is to reduce the amount of sediment in the water at Siewers Spring by building soil health in the Trout Run watershed.

“The water at the hatchery does not clean up often until late fall once it gets dirty,” said Malaise. “It’s not just the rain in the summer that causes muddy water. Siewers Spring can become muddy when the snow melts or it rains on the snow.”

Improving water quality at the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery through the Trout Run Watershed Project is essential for the survival, health, and growth of the trout raised at the hatchery. Over 150,000 trout are raised at the hatchery each year then stocked into public trout streams and community trout ponds throughout Iowa, including five of the most popular trout streams.

Megan Giorgenti, Trout Run Watershed Coordinator, completed the Trout Run Watershed Protection Plan following several years of watershed assessments, targeted water monitoring, discussions with farmers and landowners in the watershed, and gaining local support from farmers, the community and local agencies.

The project will offer cost-share for practices that build soil health and reduce sediment delivery to Trout Run and Siewers Spring. Practices that build soil health include cover crops and no-till.  Other water quality practices such as filter strips, grassed waterways, conservation cover, sediment basins, and stream bank stabilization are offered through this project.

The project is being administered jointly by Iowa DNR, Winneshiek Soil and Water Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Trout Run farmers and landowners interested in learning more about cost-share or technical assistance for building soil health and improving water quality in the Trout Run Watershed may refer to the watershed plan or contact Watershed Project Coordinator Megan Giorgenti at or 563-929-6979.

Trout Run farmers may also contact the Winneshiek Soil and Water Conservation District at 563-382-4352, Extension 3.

Spend a fun day at the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fishery Hatchery

The Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery is a popular tourist destination in northeast Iowa. The picturesque limestone office and residence date back to the 1930s as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Built in 1935, the hatchery first raised smallmouth bass. Over the years, fish production slowly changed from mainly smallmouth bass and northern pike to trout.

The fish hatchery is open to the public 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset. Informational plaques along the entrance of the hatchery and in the trout raceway areas detail what you are seeing.

Visitors of all ages will have fun exploring the Chuck Gipp Decorah Hatchery:

  • Easy access to the raceways makes this a popular stop to see trout of various sizes. Don’t forget your quarters to buy a handful of feed to lure fish to the surface for a closer look.
  • Siewers Spring, Iowa’s second largest natural spring, is the perfect place for a picnic, relaxing in the shade or fishing for trout.
  • Decorah’s most famous residents, the eagles, are frequent visitors to the hatchery. A short walk on the Trout Run Trail leads you to a spot where you can see the world-famous eagle nest.
  • The hatchery is a great place to start your journey on the 11-mile Trout Run Trail that winds through historic and picturesque Decorah and the surrounding area. A shelter with picnic tables, drinking fountain and flush toilets is open year-round.
  • Trout Run is the most handicapped accessible trout stream in Iowa.
  • Trout Run and the hatchery are great places to watch the migration of songbirds in the spring and early summer.