By Todd Burras
By noon Sunday, only a half-dozen festive red or blue ice fishing houses hugged the shoreline of the north basin of Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake. Less than 24 yours earlier, there had been scores of the portable units packed next to each other.
An estimated 400 anglers may have whetted lines at the most recent Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Trout Program stocking, but there are still plenty of fish to be caught. And prizes to be won.
The DNR tagged five of the roughly 2,200 rainbow trout released at the event, and JAX Outdoors Gear, Hy-Vee and the city of Ames offered prizes for anglers who caught the special fish. Only one tagged trout was caught Saturday, and, as of Thursday, no one else had contacted Andy Long at JAX to report catching one.
“There are some tagged fish still out there waiting to be caught,” said Andy Long, assistant store manager for JAX Outdoor Gear.
As has become customary at these sorts of events, hundreds of anglers were eagerly waiting for the fish truck from the DNR’s hatchery in Manchester to arrive long before it pulled into a packed parking lot around noon. Once the truck was in place with its long tube placed over the open water where a section of ice had been cut, the fish were released and within moments happy children and adults started reeling in their catches.
“People started catching fish within a few minutes, and some even had their limits before I even started fishing,” said Jeff Kopaska, a biometrician for the fisheries bureau of the DNR.
Kopaska said the fish acted a bit differently this year than in previous stockings.
“Usually they spread out more and stay kind of shallow just below the ice,” he said. “This year, they hugged the shoreline pretty tight, so the shacks out away from the shore had little success; we never even saw a trout in my shack. The fish also seemed to go to the bottom and then would swim up to take some bait off a lure.”
The contest for returning tagged fish to JAX will go until 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11.
“It was great to see all the kids out there, that is what makes the event a success in my mind,” Long said. “I am sure there will be a lot of people out there fishing as long as the weather permits.”
Anglers who wish to fish for and possess trout must have a 2018 Iowa fishing license and trout stamp.
Ice fishing derby this weekend
The Zearing Fire Department and Story County Conservation Board are sponsoring the third-annual Dakins Lake Ice Derby from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday Feb. 10, at the lake on the north edge of Zearing. There will be prizes and contests. The cost is $10 per person, which includes lunch.
The inaugural event in 2016 drew 155 participants and raised more than $2,000 for ice rescue gear for the Zearing Fire Department and the Zearing Emergency Medical Service. Last year’s event drew 260 anglers and raised $5,000 for a new youth baseball field scoreboard in Zearing.
“It was a huge success,” said Dave Skinner, a member of the Zearing Fire Department and one of dozens of volunteers and sponsors who are involved with this year’s derby. “We look forward to a similar turnout or possibly larger this year.”
Skinner said more than 40 sponsors have provided merchandise, cash, gift cards or services to support the ice derby, and more than $2,500 in prizes will be awarded. A couple ways to win at the derby include catching one of dozens of bass, bluegills and crappies that have been tagged and released in the lake or catching the longest overall fish or the longest individual fish in each division of bluegills, bass and crappies.
Visit www.zearingiowa.net for rules and registration forms. On-site registration will start at 6:30 a.m. the day of the event at the lake, which is located at 70613 130th St., just north of Zearing. For more information, contact Dave Skinner at email@example.com.
ISU ice tourney is next weekend
There’s still time to sign up for the Iowa State University Fishing Club’s ice angling tournament Sunday, Feb. 18, at Clear Lake.
The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants will meet at the McIntosh Woods north boat ramp. Registration is open to everyone, and the cost is $65 per two-man team. Each team can weigh 10 panfish. Registration will start at 7 a.m. on the ice.
For more information, contact Blake Graves at (636) 357–4180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Burras can be reached at email@example.com.