LAKE STURGEON, Acipenser fulvescens, are big fish, long-lived fish and are lots of fun to catch if you can place yourself in the right spot. For Bill and Julie Brouwer of Marshalltown, the right spot is the Rainy River along Minnesota's northern border with Ontario, Canada. The Brouwer's were fishing the Rainy in early September this year. Walleye and northerns were a large part of the reason for fishing those waters. It just so happened that taking lake sturgeon was very good 'icing on the cake' to round out their outdoor adventure.
The duo caught a total of 17 sturgeon. Two of the fishes were 57.5 inches long and the "fat" one topped the scales at over 70 pounds. Once the fish was in the boat, it was picture taking time before the fish was allowed to slip back into the water. Minnesota fishing regulations allow keeping only one sturgeon per person and it must be between 45 and 50 inches. Anything shorter or longer must be released.
Lake sturgeon are primarily bottom feeders that grow slowly. A really big sturgeon could be 100 years old. Foods are filtered small items of insect larvae, snails, bits of aquatic plants, and other litter on the floor of a lake or stream. The fish's body is partially covered with five longitudinal rows of heavy, bony plates, or scales. The head is roundly conical in shape. The mouth is capable of being protracted for ease of sucking up foods from the bottom. Feeding is entirely by taste and the fish uses four fleshy barbels on the underside of the snout as sense organs and to gauge distance to items it encounters.
Julie Brouwer of Marshalltown proudly holds one of the big sturgeon fish she and her husband Bill caught during a recent week of vacation fishing on the Rainy River on the MN/Ontario border. This fish weighed in at over 70 pounds. Once the pictures were made, the fish was slipped back into the water to grow up.
A good time was had by Marshalltown team Brouwer as they enjoyed their outdoor adventure of fishing. Of course the North Country always boasts its own brand of beauty in the form of great sunrises/sunsets, numerous bald eagles, river otters, and occasional black bears. What a great way to enjoy the summer.
Last Wednesday, a group of enthusiastic bird watchers gathered at Grammer Grove to watch hawks. They were not disappointed. It was not a peak day for birds going south over the Iowa River valley, but there were just enough to get a sampling of more to come. Mark Proescholdt, of Liscomb, led the group with identification tips for buteos, accipiters or eagles classes of birds. Quite often his presentation was overtaken by a few seconds of viewing as a broadwinged hawk, Cooper's hawk or sharp-shinned hawk sailed past the opening of the bluff-top vantage point.
By the time Proescholdt tallies up this fall's viewing time between mid August and mid November, he will have spent several hundred hours at Grammer Grove looking up at eagles, ospreys, turkey vultures, all kinds of hawks and falcons. Last year's total count was well over 3,000 sightings.I'll share his final results with you later this fall. In the meantime, this author urges anyone to get hooked on the outdoors by watching birds and any other wildlife in the forests, prairies and wetlands close to home.
The wetland area created last year on the Iowa River Wildlife Area is paying off. The wetlands were built by the Department of Transportation as part of their mitigation requirements for highway improvements in central Iowa. By using subtle grade changes to the landscape, slight depressions and associated elevated landforms were built. Trees were planted in portions of the areas. Prairie grasses were seeded earlier this summer. In time, emergent aquatic vegetation will grow supplying food for many aquatic insects. In turn, these food sources will support a growing number of other wildlife species. Long dormant seeds of other marshy vegetation types may find the right conditions to grow again.
Just this last week, several great blue herons, white pelicans, gulls and ducks were using the waters. A new public parking lot along the south side of the Sand Road blacktop road offers a vantage point for people with binoculars and spotting scopes. Check it out for yourself.
The Iowa River Wildlife Area contains 485 acres of which two-thirds is forestlands, both bottom land trees and upland oak and hickory, and one-third grasslands, both on the bottom lands and uplands. An excellent brochure describing this Marshall County Conservation Area is available from the MCCB office located at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center. This site has habitats for lots of game and non-game wildlife. While deer and turkeys are the big species, one must not overlook little critters such as dickcissels, meadowlarks, bobolinks or pheasant.
Deer sometimes do the strangest things. For one small buck deer near Springfield, Ohio, a volley ball net proved to be his match. He got his antlers tangled in the net and the more he struggled to get away, the more wrapped up he became. The net was trashed of course, but in the end, it took several people to pin the deer down and begin a laborious cutting and snipping task to free the net from the deer's antlers. When the deer was finally free to go, it left the scene with a bit of a reminder, small pieces of net still attached to his headgear. He should be easy to recognize.
It started in the 1980s with two states, Colorado and Nevada. It has now grown to contain a list of 37 states, Pennsylvania being the latest addition this year. The agreement goes by the name Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, (IWVC), an agreement between natural resource agencies of those states to share information about poachers and other violators of fish and game laws. Iowa has been a member for several years.
When a person has their hunting, fishing or trapping privileges legally suspended in the Compact state where a violation(s) occurred, the suspension is recognized by all the other member states of the Compact. This is a long needed plan. It works. It prevents chronic violators from simply moving their activity to another state. The Compact also provides a form of deterrence that is often times more powerful than monetary fines and penalties.
Iowa game wardens run across cases every year that start small for a seemingly simple infraction. By the time the case is closed, a long list of bad guy activities is shown the light of day and many times the Compact with other states can be applied. It is too bad that a few rascals spoil the reputation for the bulk of legally abiding hunters. While game and fish departments across the country apply scientifically valid management to shooting sports activities of the field, poachers are really stealing from the public by not abiding by strict guidelines for proper taking of wildlife. Hurray for the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact agreements between the 37 states. There are only 13 states left to join and the sooner the better.
PHEASANTS FOREVER's local chapter will hold their annual fundraising banquet on Oct. 16 at the Marshall County Fairgrounds. Doors will open about 5 p.m. with a great catered meal to be served later. Many door prizes and typical art work items will be offered at silent and open auction. Be sure to attend this local PF activity.
Registration for the MCCB's Halloween Hike is now open. This event takes place every other year and is very popular. The theme for this year's hike is "The Return of the Retaw" and will feature skits along the trail that focus on one of our natural resources. The date is Oct. 23. This is not a scary hike and is suitable for the whole family. Apple cider is served at the end of the hike. The hike is free but donations are accepted. Registration is required by calling 752-5490.
The Amateur Astronomers of Central Iowa invite the public for a telescopic view of the night sky on Friday at the observatory at the Green Castle Recreation Area. This program features "Hercules Highlights. Contact Jim Bonser at 751-8744 for details.
For your funny bone: Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the raccoon that it can be done.
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.