Courier Staff Writer
There may be snow on the ground this week, but local anglers are getting their rods and bait ready for the biannual trout release.
The release is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 30 in the Ottumwa Park pond just off Wapello Street. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will release a total of 2,000 rainbow and brook trout.
Parks Director Gene Rathje said turnout on the initial stocking day declined slightly last year, from 300 in March 2011 to 225 to 250 in March 2012.
“That’s understandable,” Rathje said. “But the trout live in the pond year-round, so there are still a lot of trout fishermen out there.”
There are still trout left in the pond today, he said.
“When we had open water a couple weeks ago, people were catching trout out of there,” he said. “They say 90 percent of the trout are caught within a month after they’re stocked, but I don’t think the rate is that high. There are survivors that live year-round, which means we have good water quality.”
This particular pond in the city has always had good water quality, he said, because of the deep hole under the water fountain. Also, the ponds used to be sand pits and are connected to groundwater, which rises and falls with the level of the Des Moines River and oxbow “to a certain extent.”
Mark Flammang, fisheries management biologist for the IDNR at Rathbun Lake, said the IDNR will always bring “brood stock,” or those fish the IDNR historically has used to take eggs from in order to produce future generations of trout.
“Once they get to be so big, we recycle them and take them to some sort of trout stocking event so anglers can then catch them,” he said. “Some fish will be two, three, four or five pounds. Most of them will be about 10 inches long.”
Swimming among the 2,000 trout will be 200 tagged trout (100 rainbow and 100 brook). These can be turned in the day of the stocking for prizes, Rathje said, and a trophy will be awarded for the largest fish caught.
Rainbow trout is the most common species the IDNR stocks, Flammang said.
“Brook trout is a unique fish,” he said. “It’s very, very beautiful and is actually Iowa’s only native trout. However, they grow a little more slowly, so we don’t raise them in as large of numbers as we do rainbow. We’ll have both available, but the brook trout provides a little added variety.”
And in some cases, the brook trout tend to bite a little easier and faster the day of the stocking.
“The brook trout appear to be a little more aggressive and will be available to the anglers a little faster than the rainbow trout,” he said.
It’s almost impossible to measure how many trout are left in the pond unless the IDNR is present.
“They electroshock the pond to see how many are left,” Rathje said. “It’s a method to determine what species and how many are in the pond. I’ve done it myself with DNR guys before. They take a boat out onto the pond, and they’ve got the electroshock device, which temporarily stuns the fish. They float to the surface, and we can measure and record what species and how many there are. Then they’re released back into the water and a few seconds later return to normal.”
Most people are likely not thinking about fishing with everything covered in snow right now, but Rathje said generally the day of the stocking is always a beautiful day.
“We’re bringing the fish to the people, rather than them having to drive three hours to the northeast or four hours south,” he said. “It’s working, and it’s a great program. And it helps the DNR generate more revenue through licenses.”
The city of Ottumwa doesn’t see any direct revenue, he said, but it also doesn’t cost the city anything other than staff time during the stocking.
The trout come from the Manchester Fish Hatchery in northeast Iowa, where they have originated for every Ottumwa trout stocking. The IDNR has three trout hatcheries in the state — the other two at Decorah and Big Springs — with each producing trout for different locations.
“We have a number of urban stockings throughout the state,” Flammang said. “There are several in the Des Moines metropolitan area, in Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, the Quad Cities, Sioux City, Waterloo. It’s a very popular program.”
Flammang said the IDNR would like to see anglers come out with their families and enjoy the outdoors.
Current fishing and trout licenses are required to fish and can be picked up at the Wapello County Recorder’s Office on the second floor of the courthouse. Fishing licenses cost $19 with an additional trout stamp at $12.50. New this year are three-year fishing licenses for $53.
Anglers 16 and older have to have their own license, while those younger than 16 can still fish as long as they’re with an adult who has a fishing license.
Last year, the recorder’s office sold 66 fishing licenses, 17 trout stamps and 11 lifetime licenses (those 65 and older can purchase a lifetime fishing license for $52.50).
For more information on trout fishing, go to www.iowadnr.gov/fishing/troutfishing.aspx.