Dan Kaercher looks for an angler's paradise among some of northeast Iowa's hundreds of miles of trout streams.
Iowa has a long history of trout conservation. I went looking for an angler's paradise among Northeast Iowa's hundreds of miles of trout streams.
I am just outside the town of St. Ansgar where sportsmen tell me that trout fishing has really improved over the years due to hard work by several area landowners and some conservation groups.
Kalishek: Our fishing is better now than it has been in quite a few decades. That is a great example of cooperation between a lot of different entities. Between the county governments, the state government, the federal government, and most importantly the private landowners who own land along their trout streams that are willing to do the work, the conservation practices, to improve the quality of the water and also are willing to allow people to fish on their property.
Kaercher: Leonard Amundson is one of those landowners. After the putting the land into the Conservation Reserve Program or CRP, the condition of the stream improved. Now Leonard joins in the fun fishing on his property with other folks. How do you feel about other people coming on your land in order to fish this stretch of Turtle Creek?
Amundson: Well, I welcome it. You know, I like it when they bring their kids here and teach them how to fish.
Kaercher: Several different varieties of fish enjoy the cool waters of Mitchell County but it is mostly the trout, walleye and bass that motivate these anglers.
Wojohn: We came here from Charles City, Iowa. Oh, I got a bite. Oh.
Unknown: Did you get it?
Wojohn: Oh, I was excited.
Kaercher: Dorie's close call proves how tricky fishing can be. So we take a drive over to the Cedar River, another popular fishing destination in Mitchell County, to check out first hand these impressive fish. Now Bill, we know we're not going to catch every species of fish in the Cedar River today. So, we asked you to bring some along that we are going to return to their habitat. Tell us what we are looking at.
Kalishek: Well, we got a couple different species for you. The first one is a smallmouth bass and this is a species that is fairly abundant throughout the Cedar River. Fishermen really, really like catching the smallmouth bass. One of the most fun fish to catch. This is a very, very nice one. About an 18 inch smallmouth. So, quite a nice fish. I am going to let him go here so he can take off and somebody has the chance to catch him. A new lease of life. This fish is a walleye. Another fish that is really highly prized by fishermen. This is a very, very nice walleye. The walleye are in the Cedar River because we, the DNR, stock about 60,000 two inch walleye, fingerlings, every year. So this fish was raised up from a two inch fingerling, probably about a three or four year old fish, very nice fish. Any fisherman would be really happy to catch and keep this fish. Oh, there he goes!
Kaercher: Oh, he can't wait to get back in there.
Kalishek: There he goes.
Kaercher: Bye. Bye. From April to October the DNR stocks brook and rainbow trout in Turtle Creek and other area streams as catchable sized fish. But there is at least one type of fish they can leave to Mother Nature.
Kalishek: The great success story in Iowa's trout streams is that we have had an absolute explosion of natural reproducing trout. And this is primarily brown trout but also to some extent brook trout too. 25 years ago we had five streams that had natural reproduction of trout and now we have 36 streams that have natural reproduction of trout. In those streams we don't have to stock the brown trout in the stream anymore.
Kaercher: Back at Turtle Creek, I am ready to try this relaxing sport. I notice that there are a couple of different styles of fishing here. Fly fishing looks intriguing. I wonder what the secret is.
Schroeder: Each guy does, does it just a little bit differently but this is my ten to two. You're fly casting like this and then when you want to cast it you just let it at the ten o'clock mark, you just let your fly line go and it curls out, puts the fly out there. Pick it up, same thing. You want to make as least amount of casting as possible. Some guys just like to get out there and whip the line and stuff like that but as the fly is not in or on the water it is not going to catch fish.
Kaercher: Yes, that is a good point. It is not as easy as it looks but it sure is fun. Are you trying to plant it in a good spot where you think they are hanging out?
Schroeder: Well, yes. Behind the rocks, in the shade a little maybe faster water this time of day. Break up the surface so that they can't see you.
Kaercher: Ah ha! A very good tip indeed. These fish are smarter than you think. They can see you.
Amundson: They like it clear and cold but the fishermen like it a little not so clear.
Amundson: Well, the - if you can see them, they can see you.
Kaercher: The people fishing here all look like they really know what they are doing and they are having a grand time doing it too. The rushing waters below this dam on the Cedar River form another favorite fishing spot in Mitchell County.
Taets: The dam puts a lot of oxygen in and also there is - with oxygen a lot of structure here for the fish to feed off of other fish and crawdads and things like that.
Kaercher: The 1925 historic dam structure built as a hydroelectric plant still functions and stands guard over the five and a half mile lake created by the dam. The lake is deep enough and wide enough to provide plenty of room for activities even beyond fishing.
Owen: The county conservation project we have almost three thousand acres of public lands. Within those three thousand acres we have six county parks. We also have about 11 miles of biking trails. We have equestrian trails, about four and a half miles there. We have about two thousand some acres of public hunting lands. We have a wide diversity of recreational opportunities that we have to offer for everybody coming to Mitchell County.
Kaercher: Experiencing this special area of our state and seeing folks engrossed in such a soothing past time is worth the trip. It is also nice to know that trout fishing is beneficial to Iowa economically as well.
Kalishek: We have estimated that between 20 million and 120 million dollars are spent by trout fishermen in Northeast Iowa each year. So that is quite a bit of money being brought into the local economy. Iowa is starting to get a reputation as being a pretty darn good place to go and fish for wild trout. Plus we stock more rainbow trout than other states do and that attracts people here too. So, we really kind of have the best of both worlds. We have got the wild fish plus the stock fish and that both attract different clientele. So we are definitely attracting people here to Northeast Iowa to trout fish.
Kaercher: Our camera man doesn't mind getting a little wet. It is worth it to see the smiles fishing in Iowa can bring.
Unknown: What do you think of that one?
Wojohn: It is a good paner. Good paner. I like them that size.