Last weekend was FREE FISHING in Iowa for residents. I hope you took the opportunity to go fishing somewhere, anywhere for a few hours. It can be some of the best relaxation time ever invented. It is especially fun when adults take small children to a pond rich with bluegills that are too hungry to care or be fussy concerning the type of bait waiting on the hook. When a big bluegill takes the bait, they put up a nice battle for lightweight tackle.
The bluegill's name is derived from the iridescent blue markings on its gill covers and lower jaw. With a disc shaped body typically only 4 to 5 inches long, this common pan fish is a staple for creating a nice dinner meal. If one catches the limit in Iowa of 25 per day, that will be more than enough for a family meal. Iowa's record bluegill stands at 3 pounds 2 ounces from a farm pond. this fish was 12 7/8ths inches long. This one fish covered a dinner plate all by itself. Any bluegill over 10 inches qualifies toward Iowa's Master Angler Award.
Bluegills are native to lakes and slow moving streams throughout the state. They are common stocked into farm ponds. They prefer warmer waters with rooted aquatic vegetation. This fishes compressed shape and arrangement of fins make it highly maneuverable to explore the entire water column. Foods are primarily aquatic insects, other small fish or just about anything else that fits into their mouths. This fishes teeth are located far back in the throat on pharyngeal bones.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Today’s feature creature is of the finny variety, namely the common Bluegill. Summer fun must have had this fish on the checklist. Every farm pond and area lake has good populations bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) for you to pursue. When the tug on the line under a bobber creates those concentric circles at the surface, it is time to set the hook for this fabulous panfish. To obtain today’s photo, I waited patiently at the large aquarium at Altoona’s Bass Pro shop. When the ‘gill swam by, I snapped its image.
When water temperatures reach 65 to 67 degrees fahrenheit, spawning can begin which is usually in late May and continuing into August. It is the male bluegill that fans out a nest in shallow water. He guards the nest vigorously. Females swim through a nest bed site and she selects a male for her 12,000 eggs. A really large female bluegill may produce 30,000 to 40,000 eggs. Once the pairing process is done, the eggs are expelled and fertilized. In two to five days, they hatch. Still on guard duty, the male will defend the young hatchlings for about one day. After that, if he is hungry, he may eat them. Of course lots of other fish such as bass, northern and walleye will chase bluegill fry for their own nutritional needs. Lots of bluegill eggs is nature's way of compensating for high loss rates from other predator fishes.
Managing bluegill populations is a big challenge to prevent overpopulation. Too many bluegills means too little food for all. The result is stunted fish, small in size for their age. That is why a liberal bag limit of 25 is common in many states for the daily limit. Iowa's inland waters do not have a possession limit. Bluegill fishing is always a summer time fun activity.
Last week's slow summer soaker rains were just what the doctor ordered for area lawns, gardens or farmers beans and corn crops. If only all our future summer rains would be so gentle. But Iowa being Iowa means we will get some big thunderstorms and heavy rain events. In the meantime, lets enjoy the refreshing gift of life that rain brings. After last weeks recent rain, this scribe happened to spy a rooster pheasant at the edge of a field. He looked absolutely soaked. He was using short grass and bits of sunshine to dry off, warm up and get ready for a day of insect hunting to sustain his own life. It is a good thing his feathers function like shingles on a roof, to let the water run off.
The berry patch at my nanking cheery bush is being assaulted by Cedar Waxwing birds. By the time the little fruits are ripe, the waxwings have gathered most for a gulp into their gullets. In the meantime, I carefully posed my camera and telephoto lens to capture the birds in action. I'll share a photo of a waxwing next week for you to admire. My backyard prairie flowers, bushes, trees and feeding station make excellent drawing cards for birds. I get as close as I can by hiding inside a portable hunting blind. I can move the blind a few inches at a time to insure proper lighting, background and elimination of other distracting lights or shadows in the final image. A tripod insures a steady camera to gain tack sharp focused images. As the summer progresses, and more prairie flowers come into bloom, a parade of birds and insects like butterflies and bumblebees will increase. All are fair game hunting opportunities for my camera. Every forest, every prairie, and every wetland are also on my camera hunting list. Even roadsides from the vantage point of my vehicle's open window allow me to "hunt" with the camera. Come fall, I carry a camera with me to the deer stands to repeat the process to gather images. Only this time my bow and arrows will accompany me. Life is good. I can picture that.
Did you know there are 37,451 legos glued together to form a five foot long hummingbird? Did you know that 45,143 lego pieces were used for the mother bison and another 16,229 for her calf? These are part of some impressive art works at ISU's Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. Open daily, exhibits outdoors feature all kinds of botanical wonders of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Intermixed are fourteen lego creations to admire. They are very well done and fun for the entire family. Legos make up a swallowtail butterfly, a rose, water platter and Koi, germinating acorn, dragonfly, garden worker, goldfinches, a lawn mower, fox and rabbit, bumblebee and moth orchid in addition to the bison and hummingbird. Inside exhibits feature butterflies from all over the world. Take your camera. This all part of having fun in Iowa in the summertime.
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.