GREEN CASTLE has come a long way. And there is still a lot of work to do. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as progress is very apparent. Congratulations to the Marshall County Conservation Board, board members and staff for having the foresight to plan ahead for the long-term health, vigor and outdoor recreation asset improvements for this 16-acre lake. The best is yet to come. The wait will be worth it.
Green Castle is a small county owned recreation area. It was purchased in October 1976 and opened to the public on January 1, 1977. A long series of step-by-step, project-by-project improvements were initiated over the following decade to bring recreational amenities to the area. The total amount of land in the purchase was 116 acres of which 16 acres was the surface area of the main lake. To help build the public access roadway, two dams were built whereby the roadway system passed over the top of those structures. The small impoundments of water behind those dams served as one line of defense against silt deposits to the main lake. The roadways allowed the public access to use three shelter houses, park their vehicles is rocked lots so they could go fishing or hiking. A bison exhibit pen was created and three bison were the initial stocking of this unique wildlife species.
Time did take its toll, however, in many ways. Slowly but surely, some additional silt did enter the lake. Good game fish populations predominated for many years until accidental, incidental or unknowing dumping of illegal minnows from bait cans introduced the common carp into the main lake. Once those common carp got a grip in the new territory, it was only a matter of time until they would ruin the fishery for the public. State fisheries bureau personnel conducting routing fish surveys documented the slow and steady decline of game fish and the fast rate of increase of carp.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Today’s photo is of Green Castle, the county lake located one mile south of Ferguson. After an almost complete draining of the lake last fall and winter to help facilitate the removal of undesirable rough fish, water is slowly beginning to return to the impoundment. In the meantime, extensive work on silt removal and shoreline re-shaping has taken place. At least five new fishing jetties have been constructed. Shoreline habitat structures have been installed. Starting soon, shoreline reinforcement stones will be added to help hold the shore line against wind and wave action. Additional fish structures are planned and more silt will be removed from portions of the upper end of the lake. A fish habitat grant administered through the Iowa DNR has been approved to help pay for the cost associated with the lake renovation. Today’s image was made Wednesday.
The solution for the lake was inevitable. Lower the water as much as possible, allow the public to fish it during 2013 without restrictions, and then follow up with poisoning of what fish did remain during the winter of 2013-14. Rotenone poison did its job. Green Castle at present is a lake without fish. As shoreline improvements are completed, and as normal rain fall events add water, the lake will slowly rise over time until it once again will have 16 surface acres of water. There will be planned stockings of game fish from the DNR perhaps beginning later this year. A balance of predator and prey game fish species will be stocked. The public is reminded that stocking of a public body of water is to be left to the personnel that know and understand what they are doing.
Stay tuned for more stories this summer as more bits and pieces of improvement plans for Green Castle are put in place. In the meantime this summer, do go to Green Castle for a picnic, a hike or family gathering. Excellent shelter houses await the public for this purpose. Make a hike along around the mile long shoreline to view the work that has been done. Take note of how the entire area will benefit in the long run. Dry to visualize the lake level at full capacity. And remember the wait will be worth it. Thank you for your patience. A project of this magnitude cannot happen quickly.
KIDS FISH DAY is coming up on June 14 at Marshalltown's Riverview Cemetery pond. Mark the date on your calendars now. This fun event for kids has been well received in past years. The bullhead fish are always eager to bite. Kids love to feel the tug at the end of the line as the powerful little fish try to escape with that bit of night crawler morsel. Parents and grandparents delight in watching the kids pull fish to shore. The time for Kids Fish Day will be from 8 a.m. until noon. There are several sponsors for this fun day, one of which is the Izaak Walton League and the local Bass Club.
FISHING CLINICS are being held in several area lakes around the state. The nearest locations to Marshall County are at Hickory Grove Lake in Story County (near Colo) on June 7 from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Also on June 7 is a fun day planned at Mariposa Lake in northern Jasper County. Time for this clinic is 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. These fishing clinics will share tricks of the trade to catch fish, identification of fish, how to operate a reel, different methods to use in casting a lure into the water, how to handle fish, bait presentation methods and of course, how to clean a fish to prepare its meat for the grill or frying pan. One can learn more about fishing clinics at programs.iowadnr.gov/specialevents/Search.aspx.
At a recent FISHING TOURNAMENT at Clear Lake, 100 two-person teams spent time on the water May 17 and 18 to see what they could bring to the boat. It was a two-day walleye event tournament. The teams entered 804 walleye over 14 inches long. The total weight of those fish was 1,200 pounds. The winning team was Terry Mitchell of Woodward and Nate Guerdet of Ankeny. That team had a two day total of 28.33 pounds of walleye. A live release of the tournament fish was facilitated by fish biologist Scott Grummer. All 100 teams caught walleye. There was a five fish creel limit per team per day and 51 teams weighed in a 10 fish limit over two days. The largest walleye tipped the scale at 6.25 pounds. A fish that heavy is usually about 26 inches long.
This Memorial Day weekend will find lots of people at area lakes, ponds and river for relaxation and perhaps some fishing and boating. Boating season kicks off this time of year because warm weather and warming waters get the fish active again. There is a vital preventative action that boaters must pay attention to. Namely it is a cleaning of the boat and trailer to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species. Zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil are two examples of aquatic species that hitch rides on boats, boat trailers and bait buckets. Additional invasive species are Bighead carp and Silver carp. Keeping these critters out of area ponds, lakes and rivers is the goal. DNR employees at many public boat ramps will be conducting watercraft inspections and invasive species education programs this summer. Learn what to look for and what to do about it when you find unwanted hitchhikers on watercraft. The easy item to learn is Clean, Drain and Dry.
In addition, Gov. Terry Branstad has signed a proclamation calling June Invasive Species Awareness Month. The proclamation states, in part, that there is a high cost to government agencies for control efforts of invasive species, whether on trees, water bodies or other places. Native wildlife benefits if habitats are not having to compete with un-natural plants or animals. The public is a first line of defense it they join forces with communities, conservation groups, business and industry to become educated about preventative measures.
SPRING TOM TURKEY SEASON numbers are in. During 2014, the statewide total was 11,398. This compares to the 2013 season when 10,546 turkeys were reported. Marshall County tom turkey hunters took 43 this year versus 39 last year. It was a good year for Iowa turkey hunters. The top count went to Clayton County with 497 birds. Osceola County reported zero.
Thought for the day: "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." Aristotle, Greek philosopher.
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.