Author Archives: Pamela

Tubers and Strainers: Beware!

Tubers and strainers are becoming a concern on the rivers in Iowa. Tubing is becoming a popular recreational activity. Quite often the first -time tuber or new river user is not knowledgeable about the risks they take upon themselves when they innocently choose to enjoy a day on the river with friends, floating with a cooler and catching some rays.

Education is the key to those demographic users.   How do we educate those users on the dangers of rivers and teach them about river reading, eddy rests, life jacket safety, water hydraulics, CFS (cubic feet per second) or the dangers of strainers that lurk around many outside bends of a river?  If you add alcoholic beverages into the mix, tuber safety is compromised even before a potential strainer happens.

The nature of a river is for the current to be in charge of the direction that it wants to go and will take you along for the ride.  Just adding two safety features to a tuber’s recreational day will ensure some measure of safety. By wearing a snug fitting life jacket and using a short paddle or one end of a kayak paddle, both can assist the tuber in having more control of the direction they float and can offer some drowning protection.

This should enable them to avoid strainers and if they should be removed from their tube or spring a leak, they will have a bit more control and safety.   Education about staying on the inside of a bend can be helpful too.  Can we also educate about not littering those empty cans?

Species 101: Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a common sight in the waterways of Iowa. It is North America’s largest bird with a wingspan of 5.5 to 6.6 feet that exhibit slow and deep silent beats. They average 3 to 4.5 feet tall and live around 15 years in the wild.

They have beautiful blue-gray plumage. Their range includes most of North and Central America, the Caribbean and Galapagos Islands. They can be found along wetlands and marshes, and shorelines of fresh and slow moving rivers quietly foraging on fish, frogs, snakes, insects, turtles and salamanders.

The mating pair typically raise one brood per year in the north and two in the south in shrubs or trees near the water. The eggs are light blue in color and are incubated by both parents in 25-30 days. Then, they leave the nest at 65 to 90 days.

Photo Courtesy of Pam Wolter

Article info credits to:;;;


Iowa River Names and Their Origins

Chief White Cloud of the Ioways


Boone River: Daniel Boone’s son explored Iowa in 1835, the Boone River is named after him.

Des Moines River: Des Moines is a French phrase which literally means “River of the Monks.” Early French explorers named it “La Riviere des Moines.” The name may have referred to the Trappist monks that built their huts near the mouth of the river at the Mississippi.

Iowa River: Named after the Native American Ioway tribe. The State of Iowa is named after this river. The tribal name “Awuxwa” was spelled by the French as “Ayoua” and by the English as “Ioway. ”

Maquoketa River: It’s name derives from Maquaw-Autaw, which means “Bear River” in Meskwaki. It is said that the black bear, once common to this area, helped give the river its name. “Maquoketa” is a Native American word for bear. They no doubt enjoyed the many caves and caverns in this unique geological area.

Mississippi River: Native American word meaning “Great River”.

Missouri River: Named after a native American tribe, “Missouria (in their native language,  Niúachi) that lived in the area near the mouth of the Mississippi.

Nishnabotna River: A Native America word meaning “Canoe-making” river.

Wapsipinicon River: The naming of the Wapsipinicon River is sometimes relayed as Native American folklore. One story features a young maiden named Wapsi and the son of a tribal chief named Pinicon canoeing on the river on the eve of their wedding day. The jealous Fleet Foot sneaks along the shoreline and shoots Pinicon through the heart. As Wapsi jumps to the aid of Pinicon, the canoe overturns. The two lovers drown in the swift current.

Although the story is appealing, the literal translation of “Wapsipinicon” is White Potato River or Swan Apple River – referring to Jerusalem artichoke plants that grow along the riverbank. The river is affectionately referred to as the “Wapsi(e)”.

Winnebago River: Named after the Winnebago tribe, now referred to as “Ho-Chunk” Nation. They spoke a Siouan language with large tribes in the Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota areas.

Chief Waukon Decorah  (Waa-kaun-see-kaa) 
              A Winnebago Chief  

Missouria Warrior (left side) 


Winnebago wigwam


Article info and credits to: Iowa DNR, The Goldfish (April 1985), Wikipedia,,,!

All Photos Courtesy of: Wikipedia 

Monthly Feature: Species 101: Iowa’s Aquatic Turtles

Snapper Photo Courtesy of 

Iowa has 17 species of turtles with most being aquatic out of the 356 species found worldwide. Turtles are the oldest reptile and fossils found date during the Jurassic time period, older than snakes and crocs.

Tortoises and fresh water turtles are the most threatened with extinction than any other vertebrate. They have a lot of human pressure against them with the large Asian trade, over harvesting, water and land pollution and habitat destruction.

Another challenge turtles face is they do not reach sexual maturity until they are several years old and do not mate annually. Unfortunately, turtles are difficult to re-establish once gone from an area. They can be defined as in a “fragile” state with fingers crossed for their sustainability.

Most are considered in the common category, however there are some species that are threatened in the state and all around turtle abundance of common species of years gone by is no longer their current status and overall are declining. It is no longer typical to see logs and logs of turtles sunning as you recreate on rivers. You may paddle some rivers and sections and not see any turtles.

Iowa turtles have many challenges with loss of habitat and over harvest and only recent regulations placed.  Many are sold to Asian markets by commercial hunters resulting in lower populations of turtles across some of their past locales. Iowa’s regulations and limits began in 2017.

Current Iowa Turtle Season and Regulations: 
Spiny softshell, smooth softshell and painted turtles
  • Open December 15 until May 14.
  • Closed May 15 until July 15.
  • Open July 16 until January 10.
Common snapping turtle
Continuous open season.
Iowa Turtle Limits:
You can take and possess a maximum of 100 pounds of live turtles or 50 pounds of dressed turtles.
Spiny softshell, or smooth softshell, Daily catch limit – 1
Painted turtle, Daily catch limit – 1
Common snapping turtle, Daily catch limit – 4
Iowa Turtle Regulations:
  • You need a fishing license to take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles.
  • Nonresidents can only take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles from the Missouri, Mississippi and Big Sioux rivers.
  • You must have a special license to sell live or dressed turtles.
  • You cannot take turtle eggs from the wild.
  • You can take turtles only by hand, turtle hook, turtle trap or hook and line.
  • You cannot sort, cull, high-grade, or otherwise replace any turtle in possession.
  • Turtle traps must have no more than one throat or funneling device.
  • All turtle traps must have a functional escape hole provided with a minimum diameter in all directions of 7-1/2 inches to let fish and small turtles pass through.
  • The 7-1/2 inch escape hole on hoop type traps must be in the last hoop to the tail-line.
  • Set all turtle traps with the top of the trap visible above the waterline at all times.
  • You must attach an all-weather gear tag above the waterline to each piece of gear. The gear tag must plainly display the name, address, and license number of the licensee.
  • Check each trap and empty the catch at least every 72 hours (3 days). When checked, turtles shall be taken into possession or released immediately.
Blanding’s Turtle
Painted Turtle 
False Map Turtle 
Turtle Photos Courtesy of Kip Ladage
For more information on the Iowa’s aquatic turtles, click here:
Info credits to:  Iowa DNR, Wikipedia, “Turtles in Trouble” by the Turtle Conservation Coalition, Iowa Sierra Club.

News from Genoa National Fish Hatchery

The Higgins’ eye pearlymussel is native to the Mississippi River and some of its northern tributaries. It is usually found in areas of swift current and buries itself in mud-gravel bottoms in water up to 15 feet deep with only the edge of its shell and its feeding siphons exposed.
Higgins’ eye populations are in immediate danger of being eliminated in the Upper Mississippi River. One of the strategies to save the species is the propagation of the Higgins’ eye at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin.
Article Credit to Genoa National Fish Hatchery
Photo Credit: Gary L. Wege, USFWS

Celebrate a Child’s First Fish

 Preserve the memory of your kid or grandkid hooking their first fish this summer with a special certificate. Print the certificate yourself from an electronic file posted online or request a printed certificate.

Apply for a first fish certificate online at or complete the form in the Iowa Fishing Regulations and mail it in.

It’s easy and free to participate. There are no size, species or age requirements – only that it is the fish the angler has successfully landed.

Family and friends can join in on the celebration by viewing the first catch photos of their children and other budding anglers on the First Fish webpage once the entry is approved.

Fishing is a great way to enjoy being outdoors with families and friends. Follow the simple tips for taking kids fishing on the Iowa DNR website at http://fishing.iowadnr.govto help keep the experience fun and positive for the whole family.

Media Contact: Holly Luft, Fisheries Bureau, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-769-2587.

For the Iowa DNR article go to:’s-first-fish

Paddling Solo in a Tandem Canoe

You see it all the time. Someone paddling solo in a tandem canoe with the bow high in the air like the boat’s doing a big wheelie. There’s a better way.

Not only does a canoe wheelie look funny, it takes twice the effort to move the canoe along when a solo paddler occupies the stern seat. It only takes one step to remedy the situation.

Before getting into the canoe, simply flip the ends around so what once was the bow is now the stern, and the former stern is now the bow.

Notice the change in seat positions. Now the stern seat is farther forward, more
toward the center of the canoe. No more canoe wheelies! Place your gear in the front of the canoe (the new bow) and the canoe should have a nice level trim as you paddle merrily along.

If you’re new to paddling a canoe solo, I’ll wager you’re going to love it enough that
you may never want to paddle tandem again.

Some words to live by: “Love many. Trust a few. Always paddle your own canoe.”

Courtesy of Guest Author, Flip Putthoff

8 Common Fishing Mistakes Anglers Make

Most anglers dream of the perfect catch, but simple mistakes can prevent you from reeling in the fish. Here are some pitfalls to avoid when fishing:

Not changing the hook

Don’t cast out with an old hook. An old, dull hook can cause frustration when fish easily unhook and swim away. Also, choose a hook appropriate for the size of fish you’re trying to catch. If the fish has a small mouth, use a small hook. For panfish, use a size 6 or 8 hook.

Forgetting to replace the line

Fishing line tends to get worn out after use. By replacing the line on a regular basis, you’ll have fewer kinks in your cast. Changing the line regularly also ensures the reel has enough line to get your lure far enough into the water.

Skipping the bobber or using the wrong one

Bobbers are useful, especially for beginning anglers as they allow for direct observation, making it easier to tell when a fish is on the line. If you’re prone to snags, a bobber can help keep the hook up so it doesn’t get caught. You also need to use the correct size — use a one-inch or smaller bobber for panfish.

Not fishing at the right depth

As summer weather heats up, fish tend to stay in the top 12 feet of water. From mid-June through the rest of the summer, keep this in mind to have the best chance of catching a fish. To see how deep to fish for certain species, check out this infographic.

Fishing in the middle of the afternoon

Fish tend to take cover during the heat of the day. In the morning before the heat, or in the evening after it’s cooled off, provide the best fishing windows.

Reeling too quickly

The summer heat can cause fish to become lazy and sluggish. They may not have the energy to grab on to a fast moving lure, so reeling a bit slower can create an easier target.

Fishing in the wrong location

While it can be tempting to fish in a wide open area, that could cost you a catch. Fish tend to stay close to structures, such as brush piles and stumps. To figure out hot spots, check out the DNR’s Where to Fish website.

Not trying something new

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine. However, if you’re not having any luck, trying something new might do the trick. Move to a different spot, change your lure or even reel at a different speed to find what works.

For the Iowa DNR article go to:

Heavy Rainfall Causes Multiple Wastewater and Manure Releases

Following heavy rainfall and flash flooding throughout much of Iowa, the DNR encourages Iowans to stay out of Iowa streams until after the waters recede.

While fast stream currents are the biggest risk for people, high waters can also carry dangerous debris and bacteria. “For their own safety, we encourage people to stay out of the water until several days after streams return to normal,” said Scott Wilson in the DNR’s Spencer field office.

“About 70 wastewater discharges have been reported over the Memorial Day weekend, and the calls are still coming in,” Wilson said. With more rain predicted, additional discharges are expected.

“Some cities have reported multiple wastewater discharges, and two have reported storm water backups into basements,” he added. Both the Iowa DNR and the Department of Public Health have helpful links for people dealing with disasters and flood cleanup.

Some livestock facilities, particularly in northwest Iowa, have had two to four or more inches of rain. “Most of these facilities are OK, but we are working with a few to stop runoff,” Wilson said.

Facilities that are discharging or expecting to discharge should contact their local DNR field office. “We’ll work with them to identify solutions and minimize impacts to nearby streams,” Wilson said.

After hours, facilities can call the DNR emergency spill line at 515-725-8694. The DNR website has more information about spill reporting requirements.

For the Iowa DNR article go to:

Tips for Helping a Turtle Cross the Road

Eastern Box Turtle

Article credits to: By Danielle Brigida, USFWS

Photo credits to:  by Danielle Brigida, USFWS

This time of year many wildlife, like turtles, are on the move. As the weather warms, turtles go in search for new territory, breeding opportunities and quests for food. Also, many females will travel to find ideal places to lay their eggs and will often cross the roads. Please keep a lookout for them while you’re driving this season.

Helping Turtles Cross the Street

  1. Always keep your own safety in mind — watch out for oncoming vehicles, signal properly when pulling over and recognize your surroundings first before working to help save an animal.
  2. Be very careful when moving the animal (it could be injured or it could bite you depending on what species). If possible, sometimes it is best to just stand guard as the animal crosses the road on its own.
  3.  If the animal needs to be moved, move it to the other side of the road in the same direction it was going. Using a car mat can be a good way to help the turtles across without actually picking them up. By using a car mat or putting something under the turtle, you can slide the turtle in the direction it was going.
  4. Do not pick the turtle up by the tail. Some turtles may be frightened and will try to bite (like snapping turtles). Do not pick them up by the tail! Here’s a great video showing ways to safely help a snapping turtle in the road such as the car mat trick, or by holding them at the
  5.  Do NOT take it with you — please only focus on helping it get safely to the other side.
  6. Get involved with roadside restoration and transportation projects: We’re working to make our roads and roadsides work for transportation and the environment. Learn more about road ecology and wildlife for ways to get involved at a local level.
    base of the shell and not the side.
  7. Learn more about wildlife laws in your state. Contact your State and Territorial Fish and Wildlife Office to verify what is legal for your state and ways you can get involved. You also are always welcome to contact your closest National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about what species to look out for.

    8. If possible, snap a photo and report sightings Herp Mapper to help track the movements of these reptiles.