Lots of "trail talk" this week from here and there about this and that. First off is an interesting note I received from Bob Woodruff of Ames about last week's column about warming and cooling. Woodruff, a meteorologist says the ironic thing about all this is that along the Arctic Circle from Russia to Alaska and as far east as Greenland and Iceland, the pack ice is melting at an alarming pace (affecting the polar bears). On the other hand, he advises that just to the north of the Arctic Circle just the opposite is taking place. Ice at both poles (north and south) is growing at a record pace. What's going on up there?
Spring turkey hunting
It may be midwinter, but it's never too early to start making plans for spring turkey hunting. Iowa's 2014 spring turkey-hunting season will be: Youth season: April 5 to April 13; Season 1: April 14 to April 18; Season 2: April 18 to April 22; Season 3: April 23 to April 29; Season 4: April 30 to May 19; Resident archery only: April 14 to May 18. Bag and possession limits will be one bearded or male wild turkey for each valid license and transportation tag issue to the hunter. Shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise until sunset.
Flock of robins
Arlin Dickinson cornered me the other morning in the Hy-Vee Deli - well, cornered probably isn't the right word. We were shouting back and forth from one breakfast table to another - to tell me he had been advised of a large flock of robins south of Webster City. Whether they were migrating north, wintering-over or driven north by the weather isn't known. But if there's robins, I'm hoping there's warm weather not too far behind them.
The experiment with 10,000 fingerling blue catfish in Big Creek Lake was largely a bust. Winters in central Iowa proved to be too severe for large-scale survival of blue catfish. There's good news coming out of West Lake Okoboji. Blue gills have surged in both size and numbers in West Okoboji in recent years. Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologist Mike Hawkins said 8- to 9-inch bluegills are the norm coming through holes in the ice at West Okoboji. Wax worms and tiny minnows dangled through holes in the ice are catching both bluegills and crappies. And the best news is trout fishing, especially in put-and-take lakes.
The DNR continues to expand its program of stocking trout during the winter; more than 17 small bodies of water are stocked with keeper-sized trout for this year's put-and-take trout season. Two of the most successful lakes are Ada Hayden Lake just north of Ames and Banner Lake south of Des Moines. Banner Lake is deeper that it would appear. Located about half-way between Des Moines and Indianola, Banner Lake (located in Summerset State Park) is what is left over from a once huge open pit strip mining operation. And it is great for fishing.
Yellow perch are in the news again at Iowa's Great Lakes. Yellow perch are at a cyclical low. Catch rates will be lower than during the cyclical high three years ago, but the remnants of that year-class are whoppers. And Mark Flammang, management biologist at Lake Rathbun says, "We have the highest densities of crappies in Lake Rathbun since I've been a biologist here." The 2008 and 2010 floods produced monstrous year-classes. It takes five years for most crappies to reach 10 inches at Rathbun. Do the math and you find out that 2014 should shape up to be a pretty darned good year for crappies at Rathbun.
When it comes to hunting and fishing advise, the locals always seem to have the best information. When it comes to the subject of catfish, I listen. "Above the mile-long bridge" is a mantra for catfish anglers at both Red Rock and Saylorville Lakes. Matt Davis of Whisker-Seeker tackle company in West Des Moines said drifting or slow-trolling cut shad just off the bottom of either lake after dawn is the closest thing to a "sure thing" for catfish he's ever seen.
Quick now - without grabbing a map or accessing an app on your smartphone - where is Beemer's Pond? How about one mile west of the Webster City airport. How about one mile south of Highview. Because that's where it is.
Wayne Johnson told me there was a very high number of Trumpeter Swans out there lots and lots of them. So I brewed up a Thermos of coffee, grabbed the binoculars and high tailed it out there. Yep sure enough, the over-wintering flock was there and had settled in on what little open water there was. What a sight. And geese - there are hundreds and hundreds of Canada geese out there now. About twice a day, they all take off and go out to nearby farm fields to forage for food, especially where there is corn or bean stubble. How can that many geese and mallard ducks fit into that tiny pond?
You have to wonder how they can take off and land without running into each other. At times, they are packed in there like sardines and a can.
And have you stepped outside your back door early in the morning lately? It's that time of the year. The Cardinals are singing (marking their territory) in the tree tops. Spring is on the way.
And now have a good weekend.