Here we go again. Robins. More robins. Despite our "yo-yo" up and down temperatures of minus 10 one day and plus 14 the next day and a weather pattern of rain, sleet and snow, cloudy and snowy, the robin sightings continue to roll in.
Last Sunday morning, I was out and about, driving around the outskirts of Webster City and I came across a flock of 25 to 30 robins. They were in the trees north of the Boone River bridge on White Fox Road (north of Art's Auto Repair). I was looking for bald eagles but found robins. Me thinks it's a tad bit early in the season to be seeing robins, but then farmers southwest of Des Moines around Winterset, Patterson and Bevington have been seeing bluebirds.
Well, here we are, January is over, February is here and March will soon be here. The boys down at the Department of Natural Resources have been twisting my arm, telling me how great they think fishing will be this year. Angling opportunities are locked in for a spectacular year of fishing across Iowa in 2014. Five years of higher-than-normal rainfall during our springs kept rivers and lakes high during the spawning seasons. That provided optimal spawning habitat for both game and forage fish. Overall, populations of bass, walleyes, bluegills, crappies, catfish and other game fish species are strong because production was high and those game fish had oodles of forage fish to eat as they grew to lunker size. No matter what kind of freshwater fish you catch, there's a good chance it's available in both quantity and size somewhere in Iowa this year.
There are some exceptions and I think the Boone River is one of the them. Its not looking too great right now. I'd be real surprised if it hasn't frozen clear to the bottom in some places. There are places on the Boone River between Webster City and Goldfield where the needle on the oxygen meter doesn't even move.
I'm told that one of the bright spots is Saylorville Lake, especially for channel catfish. In March, ice-out varies from north to south across the state, but whenever the ice goes, channel catfish go on a feeding binge. Winter-killed shad drift with the wind to shallow south-facing bays, and swarms of channel cats feed in as little as two feet of water for several weeks after ice disappears. The other bright spot in our area that they told me about was the Des Moines River, which this year is predicted to be one of the better flathead catfish streams. Flathead catfish are traditionally loners. Their spawn during late June and early July is one of the few times anglers can find dozens of flatheads in concise locations. Look for them near rip-rapped areas in rivers with large boulders or chunks of rock, or in the biggest, gnarliest logjams.
The last hunt
The last hunt of the hunting season is coming up for most of us. Bob white quail, ruffed grouse and gray partridge ended Jan. 31. Squirrel (fox and grey) ended Jan. 31. Rabbit (cottontail) has a ways to go it ends Feb. 28. Crow season (second season) is open again having started Jan. 14 and closing March 31. Raccoon and opossum, fox (red and grey), And bobcat all ended Jan. 31. There's still time for a couple more tracking snows and some more rabbit hunts. As they say in Minnesota, "You bet."
And Shelene Codner sent me this ice fishing tip about how to spice up your ice fishing bait:
"When fish get a case of lockjaw, try adding a little spice to your presentation. Add a few dashes of garlic powder (not garlic salt) to your wax worm tub. The added flavor will often entice fish to take the bait."
Me, I don't like garlic, so I'll take her word for it. However, in the summertime and in places where it is legal, I like to add a few drops of anise oil on my Mister Twister, Spinner Bait or Rattle Traps. It stinks and it doesn't wash off. It catches fish, particularly in dirty water and those that are stream-fed. And it goes without saying that it is almost a must to use some variety of stink bait on catfish.
Oh and by the way, in case you're getting a little cabin fever or spring fever, here's something that might make that long wait for spring a little shorter. Clean your guns. Clean all of your firearms. Remember that handgun you were using to shoot paper targets and tin cans all last fall the one you put back in the holster and forgot about? Remember the shotgun you used for pheasant hunting that you stuck back in the corner of the closet? Remember that slug-gun that you took deer hunting (maybe you didn't shoot a deer, but just fired a few shots to make sure it was sighted in)? Remember that .22 rimfire you took squirrel hunting? Now is the time to haul them out of the gun case and give them a good cleaning. Don't forget what you learned in hunter education as a hunter or shooter your most serious and sacred duty is to keep that firearm cleaned, oiled and dusted off. OK? Semper Fi.
And now have a good weekend.