Iowa DNRThe Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ spring fish spawning season is over and Iowa’s two walleye hatcheries are filled to capacity as netting crews caught and spawned 1,020 quarts of walleye eggs at the Spirit Lake hatchery and more than 760 quarts at the Rathbun hatchery.

“We had a really good year,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The late ice out helps us increase our catch rates and catch more fish that are ready to spawn.  That shortens the netting season for the staff, even though we increased our egg take this year.”

Northern pike netting in the sloughs connected to Spirit Lake occurred April 6-7. Muskies were netted along with walleyes in Spirit Lake East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake beginning April 14. Both species exceeded their egg requests as well. Northern pike were netted on the Mississippi River beginning April 8, and the pike fry were stocked on April 18.

Walleyes were caught at Lake Rathbun, Storm Lake and Clear Lake during the nightly operation from April 6 to 20. The effort from all the lakes combined collected more than 200 million eggs.

“We took more walleye eggs this year so we can try some experimental fry stocking. Fry are cheaper than fingerlings and if the stocking works, it will produce a huge year class of walleyes,” Larscheid said.

The DNR plans to release more than 140 million walleye fry in May. Larscheid said fry stockings are successful every three or four years and the DNR uses larger and more expensive fingerlings to fill in the gaps between the good fry stocking years.

Most of the fry are returned to the traditional walleye lakes. The experimental fry stockings will go to lakes like Big Creek that has been releasing around 1.7 million fry each year since 2011.

“That 2011 fry stocking had excellent survival and is the biggest year class of walleyes since I arrived in 2006,” said Ben Dodd, fisheries biologist with the DNR. “We have had some success with the fry stocking and plan to continue it after the experiment concludes in 2015.”

Dodd said walleyes from the 2011 stocking will be approaching the 15-inch minimum length later this summer.

April 22, 2014 - 3:15 pm - Posted in Sports

Iowa DNRDES MOINES – The Iowa DNR will hold the 2014 spring auction on May 10, at Pioneer Livestock Pavilion on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, in Des Moines.  Doors will open at 7 a.m., and the auction will begin at 8 a.m.

The public may view the items for sale and pre-register for the auction from 4 to 6 p.m., on May 9.

There will not be any buyer’s premium fee added to the sale.

Items up for auction only include about 700 firearms, bows and tree stands, traps and related gear. No other equipment will be sold.  The items are sold “as is” with no guarantee or warranty.

Any person interested in purchasing a firearm at the auction must have either a valid Iowa permit to acquire pistols or revolvers, a federal firearms license, or a professional or non-professional permit to carry concealed weapons.  The Iowa permit to acquire can be obtained from a sheriff’s office.  Allow two to three weeks to receive the permit.

Payment must be made on auction day.  All sales are final.  All items must be removed from the site within one half hour after the sale completion.

The Iowa DNR reserves the right to reject any bids and withdraw any item from the sale at any time.

A sale bill is available online at and will be updated if inventory is added.  The DNR will not be mailing any sale bills.

Iowa DNRSIOUX FALLS – Volunteers will have an opportunity this summer to spend their vacations working as aquatic garbage collectors – cleaning up, learning about and exploring 90 miles of the Big Sioux River between Sioux Falls, S.D., and Westfield, Iowa, from July 12 to 19.

Project AWARE, which stands for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) annual volunteer river cleanup event. In addition to muscling trash out of the river, participants learn about watersheds, water quality, recycling and other natural resource topics.

This year’s expedition marks AWARE’s 12th year. This year’s event is unique in that the Iowa DNR and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will team up to focus efforts on the Big Sioux River, which borders both states.

“South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks is excited to partner with the Iowa DNR to provide resources and assist with cleanup along the Big Sioux River this coming July,” says District Park Supervisor Eric Vander Stouwe of South Dakota. “The objectives of this event complement our Department’s mission statement to protect and enhance South Dakota’s natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities.  We look forward to our two states working side by side to clean up the section of the Big Sioux River from Gitchie Manitou to Westfield, Iowa.”

Volunteers participate by paddling down the river in canoes and cleaning up river trash along the way. Opportunities for land-based volunteers are also available. While the expedition lasts a week, volunteers may stay and help for as little or as long as they like.

Project AWARE is family-friendly and provides the opportunity to experience a different river each year.  “This is a great opportunity for people around the state to see and experience the northwest corner of Iowa,” said Mark Bohner, a Le Mars resident and nine-year veteran of Project AWARE. “I got involved when Project AWARE was on the Little Sioux River in 2005. I’ve been hooked ever since and look forward to it each year.”

In addition to river cleanup, Project AWARE also offers a unique blend of educational programs and demonstrations, volunteer camaraderie, camping and other outdoor recreation opportunities that enrich the experience.

“The Sioux County Conservation Board is excited to have the opportunity to be part of Project AWARE.  This event has a reputation of being an outstanding program and provides stewardship, awareness, and newfound friendships,” said Sunday Ford, assistant director and naturalist for the Sioux County Conservation Board.

In the past 11 years, more than 2,800 AWARE volunteers from across the state have cleaned up more than 877 river miles, removing 277 tons of trash – 72 percent of which has been recycled – from rivers all across Iowa.

For more information on this event and to download the registration materials, visit

April 17, 2014 - 3:31 pm - Posted in Sports

Iowa DNRThe Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues a weekly fishing report on Thursdays in an effort to provide the latest information heading into the weekend. The weekly fishing report is compiled from information gathered from local bait shops, angler creel surveys, and county and state parks staff.  For more information contact the Spirit Lake fish Hatchery at 712-336-1840.


Big Spirit Lake

Smallmouth Bass – No Report: Fish shallow water rock piles early on clear sunny days as these areas warm first, attracting and concentrating fish early. Fish slowly, a jig tipped with a minnow will produce the best action.

East Okoboji Lake

Channel Catfish – No Report: Fish after dark with bait on the bottom will produce excellent angling as channel catfish will typically go on the feedbag after ice out.  Bluegill – No Report: Fish the north end for bluegill and crappie action early.  Fish the wooden docks on the west side of the lake early, as the water warms fish docks located on the east side.  Cast a mini jig to locate panfish, persistence and patience will be rewarded with a mix bag of crappie, bluegill and yellow perch.

West Okoboji Lake

Crappie – No Report: Fish the canal areas for largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill, best action will occur during sunny warm days.

Silver Lake (Dickinson)

Walleye – No Report: Wader fisherman angling after dark traditionally produces good catches of walleye. Fish slow early, a jig tipped with a minnow slowly retrieved will produce nice catches. As the water warms cast twister tails and minnow intimating baits for consistent action.

All lakes in the Spirit Lake District is ice free.  Gill netting activities started April 14th on Big Spirit Lake.

April 8, 2014 - 3:05 pm - Posted in Sports

Iowa DNRThe annual spring fish netting is underway at Lake Rathbun, Spirit Lake and Guttenberg and will begin Tuesday night at Storm Lake, as the spawning season picks up steam.

Staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources collects walleye, northern pike and muskies soon after ice out to provide quality sport fishing in Iowa lakes and streams that otherwise could not support it.

“If we didn’t stock walleyes and northern pike, the only place you could catch them would be on the Mississippi River,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa DNR. “And our muskie population is totally reliant on stocking.”

The DNR’s goal is to catch enough walleyes to fill hatcheries with about 750 quarts at Rathbun and 1,000 quarts at Spirit Lake. With a good hatch, that should equate to about 200 million walleye fry.

The muskie goal is to produce 1.5 million eggs and to produce 2 million northern pike each at Guttenberg and Spirit Lake.

Northern pike collection is in full swing collecting adult fish from the shallow water sloughs at Spirit Lake and backwaters of the Mississippi River near Guttenberg. Walleye and muskie collection is expected to begin next week at the Iowa Great Lakes after the ice off the main lakes.

Hatcheries are running 24/7 during this time as fish are spawned and released. The fish are handled as little as possible and once spawned, are returned to the waters where they were caught, usually that same day. These large adult fish are highly valued because they can produce a large amount of eggs.

Walleyes, muskies and northern pike do not successfully reproduce in the wild even in the highest quality lakes.

April 3, 2014 - 2:47 pm - Posted in Sports

Iowa DNRThe Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues a weekly fishing report on Thursdays in an effort to provide the latest information heading into the weekend. The weekly fishing report is compiled from information gathered from local bait shops, angler creel surveys, and county and state parks staff. For more information contact the Spirit Lake Hatchery at (712) 336-1840.


Big Spirit Lake

The ice is honeycombed and ice fishing is limited to foot travel only.  Bluegill – Fair:   Crappie – Fair:   Walleye – No Report: Walleye season is closed.

East Okoboji Lake

The ice is pulling away from shore in some areas foot travel is not advised.  Walleye – No Report: Walleye season is closed

West Okoboji Lake

The ice is honeycombed and ice fishing is limited to foot travel only.  Bluegill – Fair: There is some activity in Millers and Emerson Bays.  Crappie – Fair: There is some activity in Millers and Emerson bays.  Yellow Perch – Fair: A few fish are still being caught in the deeper water.  Walleye – No Report: Walleye season is closed.

Storm Lake (including Little Storm Lake)

Storm Lake is open.  A few walleye have been caught.

Iowa DNRThe State Forest Nursery has a great selection of quality trees and shrubs for sale to improve your property.  These conservation seedlings are fantastic for aiding in erosion control, improving wildlife habitat, establishing food plots for you or wildlife, and for creating personal timber/forest area.

Nursery manager Aron Flickinger said the nursery has been accepting orders since August 1, 2013.

“We sell two different sizes for each of our 50 types of trees, and much of our smaller, lower priced seedlings are still available for most species,” Flickinger said.

A diversity of plant species in combination with a variety of vegetation types (trees, grass, wetlands) increases the amount of wildlife a property can support.

“If your goal is to improve wildlife habitat on your property, keep in mind which shrubs and trees can provide not only shelter, but also foodstuffs to get them through the winter,” Flickinger said.

For help planning the latest cost-sharing opportunities and/or to plan a successful personalized tree/shrub planting, contact your local forester or wildlife biologist.

For more information on ordering trees or seedlings available, contact the State Forest Nursery at 1-800-865-2477 or go to

April 1, 2014 - 12:17 pm - Posted in Sports

Iowa DNRThe electrifying gobble of wild turkeys will grip hunters, beginning with youth season hunters, who head to the woods as early as Saturday in pursuit of Iowa’s big game bird.

“It should be a great year. We had an excellent turkey reproduction during the 2012 drought year. There should be quite a few two year old gobblers out there, this spring,” forecasts Todd Gosselink, wild turkey research biologist with the Iowa DNR.

Iowa’s youth season runs April 5-13; allowing an under 16 hunter and a licensed, adult mentor, first crack at a spring tom.  The first of four regular seasons dawns April 14-17 across the state. Ensuing seasons are April 18-22, April 23-29, and April 30-May 18. Paid combination gun/bow tags are valid statewide in the season selected. Archery-only tags are valid statewide, throughout the four regular seasons.

A late bonus for youth hunters was approved by the Iowa Legislature several weeks ago, allowing that hunter to hold on to an unfilled youth season tag, to utilize it in one of the later seasons. The hunt on that youth tag is still to be treated as a mentored hunt; just as through the earlier youth season.

“Last year we went with the longer ‘two weekend’ youth hunt and set a record for the number of hunters,” notes Gosselink. “This year, we should see another good jump in young hunters who want to pursue turkeys.”

As Iowa slips slowly away from the long winter, hunters should look for active birds. Toms will gobble year round, but that intensity turns up as the calendar gets closer to breeding season.

“You will see a lot more strutting turkeys; more gobbling. They will be ready for spring,” emphasizes Gosselink.

For many of the 40,000 or so spring hunters, that will mean being in the woods well before dawn, to gauge turkey roosting spots and flydown locations to get their decoys out and to start the day.

“I suggest a variety of calls; the box call is easy; but slate calls and mouth calls provide a variety out there,” suggests Gosselink. “Use a mouth call and one of the others and you can create the sound of a couple hens calling over each other.”

Heading into the later seasons, strategy can change; maybe hunting through midday or into the evening, especially as hens become less responsive and move off to nest.

Still, there’s no guarantee that any of that will lure in love struck gobblers. Most turkey experts urge hunters to try a variety of calls, and at various times of the day.

Keep in mind safety through the turkey hunt, where hunters are in full camouflage.

Setting up with your back against a wide tree provides good concealment, but also a safe seat in the woods. Avoid any red, blue or white clothing showing; the shades found on a tom’s head and neck in the spring. And never shoot at a movement in the brush. Identify your target as a bearded turkey, and know what lies beyond the path of your planned shot.

And after taking your turkey, have a blaze orange vest or other item to display, on your way out of the woods.

March 27, 2014 - 2:22 pm - Posted in Sports

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues a weekly fishing report on Thursdays in an effort to provide the latest information heading into the weekend. The weekly fishing report is compiled from information gathered from local bait shops, angler creel surveys, and county and state parks staff. For more information contact the Spirit Lake Hatchery at (712) 336-1840.




Big Spirit Lake

Ice conditions are detraining, foot travel is recommended and walleye season is closed.    Bluegill – Fair:   Crappie – Fair:


East Okoboji Lake

Ice conditions are detraining, foot travel is recommended and walleye season is closed.


West Okoboji Lake

Ice conditions are detraining foot travel is recommended and walleye season is closed.  Northern Pike – Fair: Try putting a tip-up out while bluegill fishing for a bonus pike.  Bluegill – Fair: Most activity has taken place in Millers and Emerson bays.  Yellow Perch – Fair: Continue to look in 30 plus feet of water.


Five Island Lake

Ice conditions are detraining foot travel is recommended.  Try fishing the edges of the dredge cuts for crappie, perch, walleye, and catfish.


Iowa DNRHunters with a youth turkey season license who are not successful at harvesting a turkey in the April 5-13 youth turkey season can now get a do-over. They may use that unfilled youth license in any of the spring turkey hunting seasons. Youth hunters may also obtain an additional license for the fourth season, if they choose.

Last year, 4,100 hunters participated in the youth turkey season and reported harvesting 1,050 turkeys.

This new regulation became effective when Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed the bill into law March 14.

The youth season information in the hunting regulations was updated online at to reflect the change in the law. This change occurred after the printed regulations booklets were issued last August.