Aug. 29 Iowa Outdoors

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Outdoor News


Aug. 29, 2017

Media Note: Alex Murphy, public information officer for the Iowa DNR, will not be available from Sept. 1–4.

A busy Labor Day weekend expected on Iowa waterways

As the unofficial end to summer approaches, boaters will experience high volumes of traffic on the waterways and at the boat ramps this weekend.

DNR officials are reminding anyone hitting the water this weekend to be aware of their surroundings at all times and practice all common safety measures.

“With what appears to be a very favorable forecast for the extended holiday weekend, we expect to see many people out on the water enjoying some of the last nice weather of the season,” said Susan Stocker, DNR boating law administrator and education coordinator.

DNR will have enforcement officers on the lake monitoring all vessels and boaters to ensure all safety precautions are being taken to prevent any crashes, injuries or fatalities.

Last year over the Labor Day weekend, there were a total of five boating incidents reported, two involving property damage in excess of $2,000 and three incidents with personal injuries.  One individual was also arrested for boating while intoxicated over the holiday weekend.

Officers remind boaters to boat sober or have a designated driver of the boat.

“Boaters need to remember that .08 limit in a vehicle is the same on the water. In fact, drinking while driving a vessel can be more dangerous at times because of the direct impact from the sun on your body temperature and the loud noise from the boat motor,” said Jeff Swearngin, chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Bureau.   

Be sure to have life jackets on board for all boaters and ensure they fit properly, have all proper equipment, including a working fire extinguisher, on board while on the water. 

“We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend on the water, and that is only possible with your help,” Stocker said.

Media Note: The following conservation officers may be contacted to arrange for interviews or ride-alongs ahead of the Labor Day weekend:

  • Central Iowa: Matt Bruner at (515) 290-0527
  • Scott County: Jeff Harrison at (563) 349-9418
  • Northeast Iowa: Andrew Keil at (563) 590-1945
  • Clear Lake: Ben Bergman at (641) 425-0828
  • Great Lakes area: Steve Reighard at (712) 260-1018
  • Lake Manawa: Adam Gacke at (712) 520-5570

Media Contact: Susan Stocker, Boating Law Administrator and Education Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-313-6439.

Campers ready for Labor Day weekend

The unofficial end of the summer holiday remains one of the more popular weekends during the peak camping season.  Most of the campsites with electricity in Iowa state parks have been snapped up for weeks ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

 “We expect our campgrounds to be near capacity for the Labor Day weekend,” said Todd Coffelt, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau.  “It’s been a good summer, with some outstanding camping weather which looks to continue making for a great weekend.”

The few available campsites on the reservation system will likely fill quickly so campers making last minute plans should move now. Campgrounds with the most electrical sites available are Pilot Knob with 10, Honey Creek with four, Lake Anita and Lake Keomah with two each.

Go to and click on the reservation button at the bottom of the page, or go directly to

After this Wednesday, all available sites for a Friday arrival will become first-come, first-served camping.  

State park concessions

Don’t miss the opportunity to rent that paddleboard or fishing boat, grab a quick snack or a full-service restaurant meal, or camp with firewood close at hand. Some state park concessionaires will close for the season after this weekend. Others may remain open into the fall. Check out the state park concessions webpage to find out which parks have concessions, what they offer and other details at

Cabins still available Labor Day weekend

Not really a camper but think you might enjoy a weekend stay in a state park cabin?  Five Iowa state parks currently have cabins available for the Labor Day weekend. Reservations must be made by contacting the park office directly.

  • Black Hawk State Park, Sac County, Deluxe Family Cabin, 4-bedroom, $100/day 712-657-8712
  • Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, Van Buren County, Studio Cabins, $50/day each  319-293-3502
  • Lake Wapello State Park, Davis County, Family Cabins, $60/day each  641-722-3371
  • Pine Lake State Park, Hardin County, Family Cabin, one-bedroom, $75/day 641-858-5832
  • Waubonsie State Park, Fremont County, Studio Cabin #2, $60/day 712-382-2786

For details about the cabins visit

During the peak reservation season (Memorial Day – Labor Day) most state park cabins rent for a minimum one-week stay (Friday to Friday). All state park cabins return to two-day minimum stays on Sept. 8, 2017.

Special September teal season begins Sept. 2

The experimental September teal hunting season begins Sept. 2, and based on a recently released population survey, hunters can expect to find about the same amount of teal as they have over the last five years.

Teal are early migrants and a challenge to bag. Teal migrations are dependent upon weather patterns and most of the teal that come through Iowa originate in Saskatchewan, Minnesota and North Dakota.

“Watch the weather in the northern prairies. If its cold up there, the birds will begin heading down,” said Orrin Jones, waterfowl biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “This time of year is a great time to be on the marsh. Teal decoy very well, are fun to hunt and provide a lot of excitement. It’s one of my favorite ducks to eat.”

Teal prefer shallow water so hunting is primarily done from shore. No special equipment is necessary – just standard decoys, light loads and wide chokes. 

Scouting wetland conditions is important even during the best water years. In years when a good portion of the state is experiencing a drought, scouting is more important.

The Iowa DNR will provide a wetland conditions update in the evening on Aug. 31 at, and then will update the wetland conditions before the regular duck season opens. The Iowa DNR’s online hunting atlas at is a useful tool for identifying new places to hunt.

The season runs Sept. 2-10 in the north zone and south zone and Sept. 2-17 in the Missouri river zone. Shooting hours is sunrise to sunset, beginning one half our later than regular duck season. Daily limit is six teal. Only blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon teal are legal. No other duck species may be taken.

This is the final year of the experimental September teal only season. State wildlife experts will review hunter participation, success and feedback, identification and compliance observation surveys and management strategies before proposing the 2018 waterfowl hunting season dates.

Special September urban goose hunting season

The special September urban goose hunting season surrounding Des Moines, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City and Cedar Falls/Waterloo is Sept. 2-10, providing hunters an early opportunity to help cities reduce the resident urban goose population.

Goose hunting is only allowed within the special zones. Zones include a mix of public and private land and hunters are required to secure permission before hunting on private land. Hunters may harvest up to five Canada geese daily. Shooting hours are the same as during regular goose seasons.

Goose zone maps are available online at then click on Migratory Game Birds in the left column and then on the Special September Canada Goose Seasons drop down menu.      

Media Contact: Orrin Jones, Waterfowl Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 641-357-3517.

Refuge on Hawkeye Wildlife Area open for teal, special September Canada goose seasons

Swisher, Iowa - The wildlife refuge section of the Hawkeye Wildlife Area on the west side of the Coralville Reservoir will be open to hunting until Sept. 20, to allow hunters access to public hunting areas for the special September Canada goose season for the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids zone as well as for the experimental teal season.

“The purpose of the season is to reduce the population of resident Canada geese in the corridor and the wildlife refuge covers a sizable portion within the zone on the public area. By opening the refuge, we can provide hunter access that we believe will help reduce the number of local Canada geese,” said Tim Thompson, wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR.

The DNR has maps with the special September Canada goose zone boundaries highlighted online at

Beginning Sept. 20, no hunting for any species will be allowed in the refuge to allow waterfowl and other birds a place to rest during the fall migration.

Media Contact: Tim Thompson, Wildlife Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 319-330-7013.


Summer tips to land Iowa’s big fish

Iowa anglers have lots of opportunities to earn a Master Angler award this Labor Day weekend. Finding places that have big fish is key to catching big fish.

Quickly find the best spots to catch qualifying size fish with the electronic map on the Master Angler website ( Click on "Map" above the photos or search for local hotspots by species or location.

Try these tips from DNR fisheries biologists to catch large bluegill, bass and catfish during the summer heat (early morning and sunset are best).

Bluegills (10 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – drift or cast small jigs (1/32nd oz.) tipped with a 1-inch piece of worm 6-to 8-feet down around weed edges and deep structure; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – jig live bait (small crayfish, Belgium worms, piece of night crawler or leech) with a split shot 8-10 inches above the hook in shallow areas around weed lines.
  • Yellow Smoke Park Lake, Crawford County – look for bluegills in 5- to 10-feet of water near the arm north of the swim beach, the flooded timber near the southwest shoreline, and the coves on the south shore; use a 1/32 ounce to 1/64 ounce black hair jig tipped with a waxworm.

Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

  • Brushy Creek Lake, Webster County – throw topwater lures, weedless baits, spinners and plastic worms along weed lines, near cover and wood structure.
  • Farm Ponds – use top water lures at the edge of aquatic plants early and late in the day when the air is still; switch to a spinner bait or plastic worm later in the morning or late afternoon next to the weed line or around brush piles; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – try spinnerbaits or crawdad imitating baits along the shorelines, among vegetation and around the jetties.

Channel Catfish (30 inches to qualify)

  • Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock), Polk and Marion counties – use stink baits and cut baits.
  • Farm Ponds – try cut bait or prepared baits around structure and vegetation edge; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – drift cut creek chubs or shad above the mile long bridge in 6-12 feet of water.

The Master Angler program celebrates angler success for catching quality sized fish. Master anglers can track the number of species they submit and see where they “rank” among fellow master anglers.

The list of eligible fish species, complete rules and registration form is available in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or online at

Steps to submit a state record fish entry

If you believe you have caught an all-time state record fish in Iowa, follow these steps.

  • Look up the size of the current state record in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or on the DNR webpage to see if your fish is larger than the current record. Your fish must weigh one ounce or more than the current state record fish.
  • Weigh your fish on a scale certified for trade (like at a grocery store, meat locker and some bait shops), preferably while it is still alive. The fish will start to lose weight the longer you keep it.  The DNR will not accept the weight of a frozen fish.  If you need to freeze the fish before you can get it weighed, you must thaw it out before you weigh it. The fish will be lighter after it is frozen and then thawed. A witness must attest to the weight of the fish to the nearest ounce.
  • Contact your local conservation officer or fisheries biologist. The fisheries biologist must examine and verify the fish.  If you cannot reach the biologist, the conservation officer will contact someone who can help. Contact information for the local conservation officers and fisheries biologist is listed on the DNR’s webpage.
  • Submit your record fish online through the Master Angler system.

Media Contact: Jeff Kopaska, Fisheries Bureau, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-432-2823 ext. 109.

Tieville Bend Wildlife Area is western Iowa’s secret hunting hot spot

wild licorice
Tieville Bend has a high level of plant diversity including prairie mint, rattlesnake master, partridge pea, purple coneflower, wild licorice (pictured) and wild grapes. Photo courtesy of the Iowa DNR.

The parking lot of the Super 8 at I-29 and Hwy. 175 fills each fall with trucks pulling boats covered with duck blinds. For hunters, the bread and butter at Tieville Bend is the fall duck migration and if you want to know how the hunting is, go to Onawa and stop in Dave’s World Truck Stop and Restaurant, Suds and Jugs, or Millers Kitchen.

What draws the hunters here is the same thing that draws the ducks – a silty, sticky gumbo. But not the eating kind.

“The sticky gumbo is unique here; it covers the farm fields and holds sheets of water. The number of ducks we get here can be insane,” said Doug Chafa, wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The 4,500-acre Tieville Bend connects with Ivy Island and Blackbird Wildlife Area to the north which provides about 3 1/2 miles of riverfront for public recreation. Its varying landscapes of prairie, riverine, upland and wetlands is large enough to offer a 2-1/2 mile hike-in solitary experience or a sunflower plot with hunters every 20 yards a stone’s throw from the parking lot.

This diversity is also reflected in a unique plant and animal community.

Tieville Bend is home to deer, turkey, pheasants and ducks, but also to short-eared owls, northern harriers, northern and southern leopard frogs, woodhouse toads, sand toads and tiger salamanders.

It’s home to the plains spadefoot toad which lives underground for years at a time only coming out during thunderstorms to mate. It’s rare and secretive and looks more like a frog than a toad.

Plant community includes prairie mint, rattlesnake master, partridge pea, purple coneflower, wild licorice, wild grapes and a lot of poison ivy.

Taming old man river

The Missouri River ran wide and shallow while Iowa was being settled. As modern modes of transportation crossed the state, an effort led by the federal government was initiated in the late 1930s to narrow the river channel to promote barge traffic.  

The project constructed a series of wing dikes extending from shore to harness the river’s energy to deposit silt behind the wing dikes. Once the area would silt in, a new series of wing dikes would be built, slowly narrowing the river channel.

One area resident has dedicated his spare time to looking for sunken steamboats where the Missouri River’s channel was decades ago, which is now on land.

In 1943, the project was halted while the nation went to war and there was a compact between Iowa and Nebraska that the river’s location in 1943 would be the border for the two states. When the project resumed after the war, the river channel had moved west creating an oxbow and an island of Nebraska land on the east side of the river.

“Hunters need to be aware where they are when hunting in this area to know which set of hunting laws that they need to comply,” Chafa said. There is one area in particular has been good for turkey hunters from both states that is right on the state line near a break in the dogwoods on Ivy Island Wildlife Area.

The Missouri River continues to exert its influence with occasional floods and sand deposits that manipulate the tree and plant makeup, and wildlife that call it home.

Flood 2011

The flood of 2011 damaged the Decatur Bridge toll bridge on Hwy. 175 over the Missouri River, killed cottonwood and oak trees on Tieville Bend and deposed enough sand to cover 80 acres. Gold flakes have been found attached to sand found on the area that has spawned recreational gold prospecting.

During the high watermark, the DNR was launching boats off an agriculture access lane more than a mile from the river.

However, not all news was bad. The flood gave the cottonwoods a significant regeneration event for the first time since the flood of 1952. The sand dunes slowly began to vegetate with switch grass and prickly pear, giving a savannah-like appearance.

Woodpeckers benefited from flood-killed trees, orioles are building basket nests and the spring and fall bird migration fills the area. The DNR had re-seeded 500-600 acres that was flooded out which is now experiencing a honeymoon phase where “pheasants are going bonkers,” he said.

The flood allowed fisheries staff to document the grass pickerel and confirmed paddlefish reproduction at the area.

Some oak trees have returned and a lot of milkweeds along with it. Last year it was full of monarchs late in the day during the annual migration.


The Iowa DNR works with a lot of partners for the benefit of the area, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Monona County Pheasants Forever, the Iowa DOT and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. It is in the early stages of working with the Omaha band and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to partner on projects like prescribed fire.

Media Contact: Doug Chafa, Wildlife Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-420-2437.

Wildcat Den Friends Group to be honored for volunteer work

The Friends of the Pine Creek Grist Mill at Wildcat Den State Park will be honored at the Governor’s Volunteer Awards, Aug. 30, in Cedar Rapids.

The group will be recognized for their long-term commitment and service to Wildcat Den, preserving, maintaining and interpreting the historic Pine Creek Grist Mill within the park.

Organized in 1996, the group has collectively donated more than 60,000 volunteer hours to restore the mill to operational condition, making it one of the oldest working mills of its kind between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains.

 “The group continues to raise thousands of dollars each year to maintain the mill and staff it with interpreters five days of week during the recreational season,” says Gwen Prentice, DNR park ranger for Wildcat Den. “These volunteers are Wildcat Den's frontline who share their knowledge of and enthusiasm for the mill and the state park each day.”

According to Prentice, the mill is one of Muscatine County's top tourist destinations.

In addition to annual maintenance and seasonal staffing, each spring the Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill hosts as average of 15 school groups for field trips to teach educational programs to young Iowans.  

Gizzard Shad found in Iowa Great Lakes

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) discovered 26, 3- to 5-inch gizzard shad, in East Okoboji Lake on August 11 as part of routine sampling.

“We don’t know how gizzard shad got into the lake,” said Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist for the Iowa DNR at Spirit Lake. “It is possible that someone intentionally put them in the lake.”

This is the first time gizzard shad have been found in the Iowa Great Lakes. Gizzard shad were not sampled in West Okoboji Lake or Spirit Lake.

“The Iowa Great Lakes are at the northern edge of this species’ range,” Hawkins said.  They do not tolerate long winters and are usually found in southern Iowa lakes and streams. “Mild winters the past few years may have allowed them to survive further to the north.”

Gizzard shad are known to disrupt fisheries and compete with native fish like bluegill and yellow perch.  “We can’t predict their impact in the Iowa Great Lakes at this point.  Because we are at the northern edge of their range our winters should hold their numbers in check.  Gizzard shad can reproduce in large numbers and our continued mild seasons could favor this species,” said Hawkins.

It is very important to never transport and release any fish species into any public water body. Introducing species like yellow bass, common carp and gizzard shad can reduce native fish populations, decrease water quality, and limit fishing.

Iowa DNR fisheries teams will monitor the population in the coming years to determine changes and impacts. “There is no way to eliminate gizzard shad from a lake without completely renovating and restocking the lake,” Hawkins said.

Iowa law makes it illegal to possess live gizzard shad.  It is also illegal to stock fish in any public water of the state, including game fish.  The public is asked to report any of this illegal activity to their local conservation officer or by calling the Turn-in-Poachers (TIP) hotline 1-800-532-2020.  Callers can remain anonymous.

Media Contact: Mike Hawkins, Fisheries Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-336-1840.


Cedar Lake near Nashua experiencing natural fish kill

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) received a report of dead fish floating in Cedar Lake, an impoundment on the Cedar River near Nashua on Aug. 19th. 

A DNR investigation found several dead channel catfish.  A natural algae bloom was occurring in the lake at the time.  Mid-day dissolved oxygen readings were extremely high (over 18 mg/l), typical of algal blooms; however, no elevated ammonia levels were documented.

Algae blooms can produce very high oxygen levels during the day, but rapidly deplete dissolved oxygen levels at night as the algae die, suffocating bottom-dwelling fish such as catfish. 

“Recent cloudy, cool weather combined with low river levels have extended the natural algae die-off,” said Mike Siepker, DNR fisheries management biologist. “Lake users may continue to occasionally see dead or stressed fish.”

Fish caught from the lake are still safe to eat.

If you see dead fish when you are at a lake or river, call the DNR’s 24-hour spill line at 515-725-8694 as soon as possible. Quick reporting can help DNR staff identify the cause of a fish kill and potentially stop a fish kill in progress.

For more information, contact the Decorah Fisheries Management Office at 563-382-8324 or the Environmental Protection Field Office in Mason City at 641-424-4073.

Public Meeting to discuss Hickory Grove Lake improvement plan

NEVADA –The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Story County Conservation Board (SCCB) will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 12th, at the Oriole Shelter in Hickory Grove Park, to discuss plans for improving water quality and recreational opportunities at Hickory Grove Lake in Story County.

Restoration activities planned for the park will be presented at the meeting, along with an opportunity for the public to express their comments and ask questions about the long term management and improvement plan.

Construction planned for the lake includes in-park watershed improvements to stabilize areas that are actively eroding within the park and rehabilitate existing sediment catch basins to prevent nutrient and sediment pollution from entering the lake.

Planned in-lake restoration work includes removing excess sediment from arms of the lake, shoreline stabilization fish habitat improvements, and updating the lake’s outlet infrastructure.  Work is slated to begin this fall and will likely be completed in the next 2-4 years.

Hickory Grove Lake is currently listed on the State’s list of Impaired Waters due to high levels of indicator bacteria (E.coli) and algae. The overall goal of this restoration project is to improve water quality and recreational opportunities at the lake and remove the lake from the Impaired Waters List.

Any person attending the public meeting and has special requirements such as those related to mobility or hearing impairments should contact the DNR or ADA Coordinator at 515-725-8200, Relay Iowa TTY Service 800-735-7942, or, and advise of specific needs.

Media Contact – George Antoniou, Lake Restoration Program Coordinator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-725-8449.