When Steve Wilhelm headed out to the Big Sioux River recently, he was hoping to catch a big catfish. He got more than he bargained for.
A 48 1/2-pound blue catfish munched down on the 6-inch sucker Steve was using for bait and it wasn't until 45 minutes later that the 43-inch fish came to hand.
"I've been trying for big flathead catfish," he said. "And there are a lot of them in the Big Sioux, but I was really surprised by this fish."
Wilhelm was well-armed for big fish. He uses an Ugly Stick Shakespeare rod and heavy casting reel loaded with 20 pound test line. The fish bit about 9 p.m. a week ago Friday.
After weighing and photographing it, Steve released it back into the river. Here, hopefully, it will continue to grow to truly monster size.
Blue catfish are rare in Iowa waters. Prior to the dams on the Missouri River, big blues were frequently caught from the Missouri and the Sioux on both fishing rods and set lines. Now, they are few and far between. Most fishermen mistake channel catfish for blue catfish because the channel cats lose their spots when they reach about three pounds. The way to differentiate between them is the blue catfish has an anal fin the edge of which is straight, not curved.
Iowa's blue catfish record stands at 74 pounds, 8 ounces and was also caught from the Big Sioux in Plymouth County in 1999.
Free fishing days
Free fishing days in Iowa is June 6 through 8 and the DNR is encouraging all Iowans to get in touch with the outdoors. Iowa citizens are not required to have a fishing license during free fishing days but all other laws and regulations remain in effect.
"We are encouraging licensed anglers to take a friend or neighbor or relative fishing and expose them to how fun fishing can be. It is an activity that can last a lifetime," said Marion Conover, chief of the DNR's fisheries bureau. "We feel strongly that people who participate in natural resource outdoor activities are more closely identified with the issues and concerns of the environment."
If interested in fishing contact your local county conservation boards or recreation office and ask about their free fishing clinic. This three-day period of free fishing has been set aside by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in recognition of National Fishing Week, June 1-8. Iowa began having free fishing days in 1987.
One of the state's most important trophy fisheries received a shot in the arm this week as thousands of advanced fingerling muskellunge were released into Iowa public waters. On average, this year's crop of muskie "super fingerlings" are measuring a full 12.5 inches in length, making them excellent candidates for survival to adulthood, according to DNR Fisheries Research Biologist, Joe Larschied.
The Spirit Lake State Fish Hatchery is the birthplace for the tiny dart-shaped, baby muskellunge that will one day become the trophies of which angling dreams are made.
In early to mid-May, the young muskies are recaptured for stocking across the state. At seven or eight years of age, the survivors will have reached the legal, 40-inch length. Around 3,000 to 4,000 advanced muskie fingerlings are stocked in Iowa each year. The fingerlings are divided between Spirit Lake, West Okoboji, Clear Lake, Pleasant Creek, Hawthorn Lake, Big Creek, Three Mile Lake, and Brushy Creek. Each lake receives fingerling stockings on an "every other year" basis.
"A classic example of just how much excitement a trophy muskie can create occurred on Clear Lake just last week when 6-year-old William Elston hooked and landed a 50-incher on the lake's eastern shore," said DNR Fisheries Biologist, Jim Wahl.
"A fish like that always turns heads and is a trophy anywhere in North America. But when a 6-year-old hooks into a monster like that, it becomes a real story. The town has been buzzing ever since."
Iowa's current state record muskellunge is a 52.5-inch, 50.4-pound lunker landed in August of 2000 at Spirit Lake by Kevin Cardwell.
It looks like it will be a good year for mosquitos. The following is a repellent recipe provided by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. It was publicized by Information Officer Greg Wagner of the Commission's Omaha office who says it is effective on both humans and pets:
Gregs Goo: 2 cups water,1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup Avon Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil, 1 tablespoon Eucalyptus Oil. Shake in a spray bottle and let settle before spraying.
If you love to hunt the wild turkey, "Practical Turkey Hunting Strategies" is a book you will not want to miss. Written by the foremost turkey hunter in the country, Ray Eye, the book is an answer to a turkey hunter's prayer and prayer is something most of us who chase turkeys turn to at some point in our career, if not most seasons.
It may be human nature that desperation leads us to prayer, but I will admit to being on my knees most of this spring in three different states and desperation was, indeed, the inspiration. So when Eye's book crossed my desk last week I anxiously read it as a monk might pour over the verses in Psalms. I wasn't disappointed. Eye's vast turkey hunting experience, 40-plus years in many states, shines through and while his expertise is prominent throughout the pages he still reminds us that a "turkey will be a turkey." In short, you can rarely count on a gobbler to do anything you think he should.
How you deal with uncooperative gobblers is what defines success and there's plenty of examples and tips on how to proceed within the chapters. This is a complete book about turkey hunting with chapters on the turkey and their sounds, calling, scouting, basic and advanced tactics, roosting birds, setting up and more.
It's also a pleasant read laced with many personal anecdotes and hunting stories which make this something you will want to return to again and again. I once hunted with Ray on his guiding operation in northeast Missouri. It was a great experience and I learned first-hand that his turkey knowledge is profound.
The book is $24.95, paperback in 6 by 9 format and contains 257 pages. It is available from The Lyons Press, 246 Goose Lane, P.O. Box 480, Guilford, Conn. 064367. Telephone (800) 962-0973.
Larry Myhre is editor of the Journal