Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fish Habitat Improvement Projects, 2012


Central Iowa Anglers (CIA) has worked with various public angencies over the years to improve fish habitat in central Iowa lakes.  CIA provides most of the (non-cedar tree) materials and labor.  Other participating groups provide the trees and the boats used for delivering the trees to the drop-off locations on the lake.

In May 2012, we (CIA) worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)'s blessing and with the assistance and approval of the City of West Des Moines Parks & Recreation to follow up a project started in 2011.  In 2011, cedar trees, wood pallet "teepees" and catfish tubes were placed at pre-designated areas in Blue Heron Lake.   Blue Heron Lake is an old quarry pit that often floods from the adjacent Raccoon River during wet years.

Here are a couple pictures from the 2011 project:

We've gotten pretty good at building the catfish tubes and pallet teepees.  These are built on-location and weighted with plenty of concrete cinderblocks.  The cedar trees are also weighted with cinderblocks to sink them.  We've learned to use plenty of cinderblocks!

Anyway, the 2011 project at this lake was a huge success, and the City of West Des Moines received a lot of positive feedback from anglers fishing the lake, from both open-water anglers and ice-fishing anglers.  So, when we approached the City about continuing to add more habitat to the lake this year (2012), they were excited about it and willing to provide any assistance they could.

We had a great turnout of CIA Members wanting to help out with the project.  Earlier in the week, the City had cut invasive cedar trees from around the lake, and placed them along a parking lot near the boat ramp.  We wired cinder blocks to these trees, and built wood pallet teepees out of discarded/donated pallets we had collected.  We affixed some cedar tree branches to the pallet teepees to increase their fish-holding attractiveness.  The City purchased the cinder blocks and provided one boat, and the Des Moines Izaak Walton League provided a second boat.

Following are some pictures from this project...of course I tried to pick mostly ones that I am in!  I'm the "fashion plate" in the orange shirt and yellow cap:
First we started preparing the cedar trees.

Pallet of cinderblocks?  CHECK!  I think we actually used two pallets of cinderblocks on this day.

Gotta love the CIA logo-wear!

Cedar tree(s) heading for their drop location.

Next, we started building the pallet teepees.

We ended up with an odd number of pallets, so we built this one.  It is NOT our typical design, but should hold fish, especially with a few cedar branches attached.

George Clooney?  Close...is el Dorko....I mean, FishnDave!

Attaching some cedar branches to the pallet teepees.

Full load.

The delivery.
You just KNOW the fish had to be even more excited than we were!
We completed the project before noon, and celebrated with a cookout!  Great day!

This past weekend we assisted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in preparing and placing fish habitat in Saylorville Lake, a federal impoundment on the Des Moines River north of Des Moines, Iowa.  This is also an on-going project between USACE and CIA.  Over the years we've added a variety of habitat structures, and we monitor them for their fish-attracting and fish-holding abilities.  Cedar trees seem to be as or more effective than anything else we've tried, so it is a popular item for these projects.  Plus, the USACE appreciates a reason to cut and use some of these invasive plants from their lands surrounding the lake.

This project was much easier than most.  The USACE provided an end-loader and a large boat, while the Izaak Walton League provided a second boat.  USACE had the trees cut and ready in the parking lots near two different boat ramps, for use on this project.  They also purchased the cinderblocks.  CIA wired the cinderblocks to the trees, helped chain the trees to the loader for transport to the boats, and manned the boats for delivery to the predesignated drop-locations.  5 of the 6 chosen drop-locations were in areas that were intended to be accessible to shore anglers.  Accessibility of course is entirely dependent on the casting ability of the angler, and the water level in the lake.  The selected spots were in water deep enough to not hinder boating traffic during normal pool.  Here's some pictures from this event:
That's me with the outstretched arms.

I'm sitting on the ground, wiring some cinderblocks to the tree trunk.

"El Back-Saver"!!  Really made our work easier!

Excellent tree structure here!

Another great project completed for the year!  We don't know if these trees will hold fish this winter, or if it might take another year or two to attract fish.  It'll be fun checking this during ice-fishing season, which is just a few months away!

***EDIT:  Added the following pictures from this latest habitat project at Saylorville.  These pictures were taken from a CIA Member who had his boat on the water during the project.
The loader picking up a tree from the parking lot.

The Izaak Walton League's boat.

The USACE's boat.  BEAST!

Look at the size of this tree, compared to the boat!!!

The USACE boat handled the biggest trees with NO PROBLEMS!   WOW!


  1. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I'm enjoying your blog! I found it yesterday while trying to ID a pair of fish we caught at the DMACC pond (crappies, it turns out), and I've been reading your archives ever since. I've made it back to Feb 2012 so far.

  2. Crappies seem to be hitting well right now. Thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! :)

  3. Looks like a great organization doing great things to help the iowa fisheries. Keep up the good work, I am sure you are keeping both fish and anglers happy!

  4. That's exactly what we are doing! :)
    The fish habitat serves a dual purpose. It adds structure in otherwise featureless lakes...which then serves as a substrate for invertebrates. More food in a lake results in a larger, healthier fish population. The invertebrates attracts minnows and sunfish. The structure then serves as both cover and as a feeding station for fish. This concentrates fish and makes then easier for anglers to find. Win-Win!

  5. That is cool. Some warm water stuff is done here, mostly with bass groups and the IDFG sinking XMAS trees and rip rap, and improving shore facilities and ramps. The largest majority of work is cold water though, by TU and the IDFG. Occasionaly our irrigation resevoirs dry, and are restocked with mature sunfish/bass electro shocked from the bigger waters.