FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES
For more information contact: Department of Natural Resources, Wallace State Office Building, Des Moines 50319; 515/281-3474; http://www.state.ia.us/wildlife
Iowa's waters, like our lands, are rich and diverse. Fishing waters of our state include more than 19,000 miles of warm-water streams, 262 miles of cold-water trout streams, 35 natural lakes, 200 artificial recreational lakes, 30 oxbow lakes, four flood control reservoirs, 550 miles of Great Border Rivers, and myriad small farm ponds.
Catfish is the "King of Fish" in our warm-water rivers, especially in placid streams of the central, southeast, and southwest parts of the state. Faster-flowing streams in northeastern Iowa offer smallmouth bass and walleye fishing. Where underground springs feed cold water to the smaller tributary streams, trout are stocked from the three state fish hatcheries located at Decorah, Manchester, and Big Spring.
Natural lakes formed by glacial action nearly 2 million years ago provide excellent year around fishing for walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, crappie, and smallmouth bass. Shallow, marshlike lakes in this region provide unsurpassed bullhead fishing.
Man-made recreational lakes are likely places to catch largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and channel catfish, while the Great Border Rivers - the Mississippi, Missouri, and Big Sioux - offer these fish species along with paddlefish and white bass. Mark Twain believed the Indian legends about giant fish in these waters, and wrote in Life on the Mississippi of fabulous-sized sturgeon, paddlefish, and channel catfish. Even today, myths of undiscovered, gigantic fish creatures survive among some river people.
Commercial fishing in Iowa began with the first settlement along the Mississippi, when fish were caught with nets to provide food for inhabitants of river towns. From this beginning,commercial fishing flourished as the Midwest's population grew. Today, more than 2,000 fishermen in Iowa are licensed to harvest fish for human consumption. The catch totals more than 3 million pounds each year, with a wholesale value of more than $1 million.
Wildlife and Hunting
Iowa's wildlife resources are scientifically managed by the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that all wildlife species have a place to live and wildlife populations are sufficient to meet hunting and non-consumptive recreational demands. Hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits allow surplus animals to be harvested and population levels to be maintained.
Nongame programs are concerned with preserving and enhancing wetland, forest, shrub, and grassland habitats and with increasing public awareness of nongame wildlife. In addition, projects to increase the populations of some threatened and endangered species, including barn owls and river otters, are underway.
Iowa is best known for its small game hunting, and the ring-necked pheasant is the number one game bird. While recent intensified agriculture in the northwest and north central regions has shifted pheasant populations to less intensively farmed east central southern Iowa, huntable pheasant populations are still found within easy driving distance of almost every town in the state. With an annual average harvest of more than 1 million birds, Iowa is among the top pheasant harvest states in the nation.
Alternatives to the pheasant include the Hungarian or gray partridge, which has been introduced in northern Iowa and can stand severe winters better than pheasants. Although the gray partridge is spreading into southern and eastern Iowa, most productive hunting is north of Interstate 80. Bobwhite quail, found mainly in the southern two tiers of counties and along river systems, and ruffed grouse, found in moderate numbers in forested parts of northeast Iowa, provide more variety.
Cottontail rabbits and gray and fox squirrels are also hunted, as well as deer and wild turkey. Archers, shotgun and muzzle-loader deer hunters have individual seasons in which to hunt. Wild turkeys support two hunting seasons: a spring gobbler hunt and a fall either-sex hunt. Turkey hunting is a rapidly expanding sport with good huntable populations across the state.
Most waterfowl hunting occurs in boundary rivers, natural marshes in north central and northwest Iowa, the state's four flood control reservoirs, and several man-made wetlands managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Mallards, teal, woodducks and other duck species; migrant Canada and snow geese; and Giant Canada geese, produced within the state, provide waterfowlers with a variety of game.
Depending on current market prices, Iowa fur harvesters may return up to $8 million annually to the Iowa economy. Raccoon, muskrat, red and gray fox, and mink are the most important species, with hunting and trapping seasons set to maximize and distribute equally recreational opportunity between hunters and trappers.
All of Iowa's wildlife populations depend upon the preservation and wise management of habitat. Most wildlife species benefit from diverse agricultural programs, but additional woodland clearing, wetland draining, or stream straightening will cause declines in wildlife populations. To maintain a reasonable quantity of wildlife in Iowa, steps will continue to be taken to reduce further degradation of our wildlife resources and habitat.