Monday, November 22, 2010

Fishing Trout-Stocking Days in Central Iowa

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has an "Urban Trout" program that entails stocking trout into warmwater ponds during the cold months, to provide a seasonal trout-fishing opportunity near some of the larger cities throughout Iowa.   This program does slightly better than "break-even", by increasing sales of the Iowa Trout License, an optional add-on to the normal state fishing license.
I've been fishing these "stocking days" locally for several years.  I've learned that the fastest fishing is usually within the first couple hours after the fish are stocked.  The fish are usually still concentrated close to the spot where they have been released from the stocking truck.  Being able to cast to where the fish ARE is a major factor in any successful fishing trip.  A second major factor is figuring out what the fish will be willing to hit.

Some folks like to use live bait or commercially prepared scented baits such as Berkley Powerbait.  While these methods will catch fish, when the fish are bunched up and excited like they are immediately after being stocked, artificial lures and flies will usually outfish the "bait" by a very wide margin.

After a day or two, its usually a MAJOR struggle just to locate the fish, and I have the highest regard for anyone who can catch them, regardless of tactics.

The IDNR stocks these fish as a "put-and-take" fishery.  They want anglers to fish for and keep what they want (within the legal limits) to eat.  The trout will survive until the lake water reaches 70 degrees F the next summer, and then they will die.  The DNR would prefer the fish were enjoyed by anglers before they died.

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010.  2pm-4:30pm.  DMACC Pond, Ankeny, Iowa.
There's a large pond within sight-distance the office building where I work. During the warm months, it is a difficult lake to fish due to the expansive shallows choked with algae mats. So, most people don't bother. Ice-fishing is another story altogether, and it is quite a popular local fishing destination during the hard-water season.  This is the 2nd year that the DNR has picked this pond as one of the Urban Trout lakes.

I got to the pond around 2pm, since I was working until a bit after noon, then ran home to eat lunch and change into warmer clothes.  There were still a LOT of anglers fishing, and it was pretty crowded near the location where the fish were stocked into the pond.  I wanted to do some fly-fishing, and wanted plenty of room around me, so I chose a spot a very good distance from the other anglers.  Folks were still catching a few fish, but it was obvious the fastest action had already passed by.

I fly-fished close to shore, and used spinning gear to toss small blade baits out to the middle of the pond.  I ended up catching 5 rainbow trout on fly gear, and 6 on the spinning gear.  The fly I used was a 1/80oz Springbrook Wunder:

I released all the trout, but took a couple pics.  This one was probably the smallest trout I landed, I really have no idea what possessed me to pick this one to take a picture of!
This one was a better fish:

Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. 12:15pm-3:00pm. Ada Hayden Lake, Ames, Iowa.
This was the first time trout have ever been stocked in to this lake.  I was hopeful since there was a stocking the previous day, closer to Des Moines metro area, that fewer people would make the drive up to Ames.  I think I was correct.  There were a lot of people, but it seemed a good 1/2 of them were observers only, not anglers.

I'd never fished this lake before.  Its an old quarry pit, and drops off to 30-40' near shore.  A good chunk of the shoreline is rip-rapped, and there is a paved boat ramp, a floating dock, and a fishing pier.  Of course most of today's fishing was focused around the boat ramp where the trout were stocked.

I got a good position on the dock next to the boat ramp that allowed me to flycast without worrying about hooking people or shoreline behind me.  Within a couple minutes of trout getting into the water, I had a fish hit, but it shook loose before I landed it.  A cast or two later, I landed the first trout of the day amongst all the anglers!
I was using the Springbrook Wunder microjig again, and it was working very well for me.  A fly-angler next to me from Missouri was struggling a bit, so I gave him a spare fly, and he started catching fish too.  After he lost it to a fish, I gave him another.  After awhile the fish were still there, but weren't hitting my pattern as well.  So, a fellow next to me gave me one of HIS flies to try.  It worked really well, and I was back in business!  This is my version of what he gave me, since the hackle on the one I was using eventually unravelled.
This gentleman then offered me another fly, so of course I took it!  It had a glass beadhead and sank a little faster than the previous pattern, but it caught fish just as well.   Here's my version of that one:
 Eventually the fish seemed to get wise to this pattern too.  I switched back to the Springbrook Wunder, and caught more fish.  I tallied 36 rainbow trout with my fly-fishing gear.

Finally, before I left, I dropped a 1/8 oz gold Reef Runner Cicada on spinning gear straight down into the water in front of me and vertically jigged it.  I got quite a few hits, but was having a tough time hooking them.  I did finally land one, and then decided to call it a day.  I had 5 trout on my stringer (these are the first fish I've kept for a meal in 2010!), and wanted to get home and prepare them for supper.  I must have prepared them properly this time...they were delicious!


  1. That trout in the last pic is a nice looking fish for a stocker. Way to slay the troutskis!

  2. Yeah, that one had some really interesting markings...I was sort of wondering WHY that one looked different from the others. I have caught stockers that look like that, but most do not have those sort of dark purple spots down in the belly area. I did catch a few really nice, fat trout that were definitely bigger than the average fish. I released them. I already had my limit on the stringer at the time.