Yellow bass at Iowa’s Great Lakes

It could be a bad idea and it could be a good idea depending on which side of the fence you’re standing on. Some fishermen will say its the worst thing that could happen. Others will say its about time and long overdue. But for better or for worse, yellow bass are now on the menu for anglers fishing in East and West Okoboji lakes up in northwest Iowa.

Long a favorite species at Clear Lake in north central Iowa, the yellow bass appeared in Department of Natural Resource surveys in the Okobojis several years ago. They have flourished and are now averaging 9 to 10 inches. And “lunkers” up to 12 inches are not unusual. On the plus side, anglers like yellow bass because they are fierce fighters, easy to catch and they’re delicious – mix them with yellow perch in the frying pan and very few people can tell the difference. The potential downside is that they are in direct competition with yellow perch. Clear Lake, for example, used to have a strong population of yellow perch, but now yellow bass have pretty much taken over from perch in that lake. Only time will tell if perch and yellow bass will co-exist at the Iowa Great Lakes or if yellow bass will become dominant.

Anglers at the Iowa Great Lakes are still figuring out where and how to catch the developing population of yellow bass in East and West Okoboji. So far, springtime has been a good time to target them in rocky shallows near the Narrows in East Okoboji. Summertime anglers find them suspended along the edges of weed beds near rock bars in West Okoboji. Same places where they’re fishing for walleye.

While small yellow or white jigs have proven popular baits, the hard-core anglers are having the most success on the old time-proven Whistler Jig. The Whistler jig is one of the most prolific lures ever designed to trigger and catch walleyes in stained water and it seems to be working wonders on suspended yellow bass. It’s secret is a sensitive metallic “propeller” blade that adds flash and sonic vibration. I’ve had great success myself using them up north in Minnesota and Canada. We’ll just have to wait and see how those yellow bass are going to interact with other species at the Iowa Great Lakes.

Me I’ve got my fingers crossed that they provide good, fun fishing without impacting other fishing opportunities in the area. Years ago, Little Wall Lake at Jewell had a highly flourishing population of yellow bass. I’m not sure what happened, but they slowly disappeared and the crappie population took over. I’m going to ride the fence on this one. I don’t like to see dominate populations of any given species of fish take over a lake, but on the other hand, yellow bass are delicious, and you can’t beat their flavor when fried in batter in a cast-iron skillet.

Tick season returns

This is going to ruin your day. I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, at least not now anyway. The wood ticks are back, both the regular kind and the tiny deer ticks.

Early season turkey hunters have already met up with the pesky little critters, Saturday and Sunday, I was at a hunter safety education certification at the Izaak Walton Park south of Webster City and several of them made their appearance. All it takes is a few warm days. And speaking of turkey hunting, so far I have not heard of any local hunters being successful. Hunting down in southern Iowa has proven no better. Ticks live on the ground. Contrary to accepted wisdom, ticks do not live in trees and they do not drop on your head as you walk by. If you have ticks on your head or upper body, it started at your legs and crawled all the way up until it got to that point. Ticks live on the ground, moving about as little as possible to conserve energy. And although some ticks have eyes, their vision is limited to tell between light and dark. The blood-sucking insects depend upon vibrations and scents like carbon dioxide to detect a host. If you have a dog, dogs are like biological vacuum sweepers. They’re going to find them.

The best defense against ticks is to dress carefully. Wear long pants, long socks and lace-up boots or tennis shoes. Stick your pant legs into your shoe tops. Ticks can survive without a meal months. The best tick repellent I’ve found is Permanone. It’s pretty effective, but not all sporting goods stores carry it. DEET, even in higher quantities, doesn’t work.

We seem to be seeing more ticks than normal and they seem to be starting earlier than normal. And all these spring rains and warmer weather have produced a bumper crop of something Iowans can do without – ticks.

And now have a good weekend.