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Spring is here

April 3, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

LARGEMOUTH BASS are thought of as one of the premier fish in area lakes and ponds. The Latin name for this finny critter is Micropterus salmoides. These scrappy fighters are fun to catch, fun to photograph and fun to release. While most are released to swim and grow, on occasions a deeply hooked bass that is destined to die will become fillets for the frying pan.

This bass is commonly stocked in farm ponds along with bluegill. It got its name of largemouth because its upper jaw extends beyond the rear of the posterior margin of the eye when the jaw is closed. Its eye color is gold. Scale count along the lateral line ranges from 58 to 68.

Bass eat lots of things including other small fishes, crayfish, insects and frogs. When first hatched, bass fry feed on tiny invertebrates called Cylops and Daphnia. As the bass grows, insects become the majority of the diet. Adult bass eat other fishes about 60 percent of the time; also included in their diet are snails, water beetles, swimming mice, small snakes, birds, ducklings and each other on occasion. It is not a fussy eater. Opportunity is the option this fish always relies on.

Article Photos

A largemouth bass was this weeks ‘trophy’ from an area farm pond. It was not a big fish at all. However, for this author and family, a late March fishing foray when the ice has only been gone for one week, is testament to the fact that Spring is truly arriving. Bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, are members of the sunfish family Centrarchidae. There are 11 species of the spiny-rayed sunfish native to Iowa.


Dead fish, specifically carp of various sizes, were killed by a lack of oxygen this past winter in the large pond located directly north of Timmons Grove. A very cold winter made for thick ice. On top of the ice were thick layers of snow. Thus, there was a severe lack of sunlight to allow water born plants to maintain even a low level of metabolic output oxygen.

As the winter progressed, dissolved oxygen levels became critically low, on the order of less than three parts per million per milliliter. Fish in this environment suffocated. Fishes in this backwater pond gain access during flood times from the Iowa River. Whatever fishes the river has in it is likely to find its way into the pond. Escape is prevented when the river level drops.

About two weeks ago, when the weather was warming and the snow was melting, the edges of this water body started to thaw. Dead carp were being exposed and many were just under the surface of the ice but still imbedded in the ice crust. Along came migrating Bald Eagles that easily picked up the sight of the dead fish. For the brief time of about two weeks, when the eagles were here during ice-out conditions, these majestic birds of prey had many a free meal served up for them.

This author and many other passing motorists on highway 330 south of Albion were pausing to observe the white headed eagles on and adjacent to the ice of this river bottom pond. At the peak, eagle numbers were estimated to be about 30 birds; this was a great opportunity to watch eagles.

It was also the time of the peak for geese and some waterfowl on their migration. Lots of Canada geese, some white-fronts and several big flocks of snow geese made temporary layovers to feed and rest. Eagles circulated about looking for anything that might be susceptible to catching to eat.


EAGLE WATCHING has a Web site ... By accessing this via one's computer, you can watch live coverage of eagles on a nest near the State DNR fish hatchery at Decorah. The nest is located in a tall tree on private property but near enough to the trout hatchery where the eagles can catch fishes. In addition to fish, the eagles have been documented bringing foods to the nest including squirrels, rabbits, pigeons, and other tidbits of recycled animal matter.

The Web site is viewable 24 hours per day. Color video is the daytime mode. At night, infrared light makes the nest and the eagles visible. People have visited the Web site from at least 103 different countries with more than 3 million connections by viewers. People visiting in person are enjoying the trip and asking lots of questions. The trout hatchery worker who can normally feed the fish in the raceways in 15 minutes, now finds the task taking two hours due to eagle related questions.

From only a few eagle nests in the 1970s, there are more than 200 known nest sites in Iowa in just about every county. Eagle nests are huge piles of sticks that can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.


TURKEY HUNTERS know that another special spring time event is about to take place. Any early morning trek to the forest now is going to be greeted by gobblers sounding off. Iowa's first season opens April 12. The last day of the fourth season is May 16. Turkey hunting is one of those activities that draws more people every year. It is time well spent ... especially if one takes a young person along for one-on-one mentoring.


Today from 9 a.m. to noon, the Artifact Roadshow is taking place at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center, 2359 233rd St. Toby Morrow, author of Iowa Projectile Points and archaeologist with Wapsi Valley Archaeology, Inc. is available to identify and provide basic information on Indian artifacts such as arrow heads, axes, pottery or stone tools.

On April 7 10 to 11 a.m., Nature's Story Hour for preschoolers will feature stories and activities on the theme of Raindrops and Rainbows. Bring your little ones out for stories and a short walk outside.

On April 10 starting at 9:00 a.m., you can help clean up the flower beds at the nature center at the Grimes Farm. Bring your gloves and pruners (if you have them, or use the MCCBs) and stay for half an hour up to two hours, whatever works for you! Please pre-register by April 7 by calling 752-5490.

"The Eyes Have It" is the theme for the Uncle Ike Nature program on April 10 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Izaak Walton League grounds (two miles south of Iowa Ave. on So. 12th/Smith Ave.) There is no charge for this program for first through fifth graders and their family members. Look at the world through other creatures eyes. Discover an exciting world of color, energy, texture, and more.


Life is like an onion. You peel if off one layer at a time, and sometimes you cry. Carl Sandburg.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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