<![CDATA[My Site - Blog]]>Sun, 24 Jan 2016 15:02:46 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Winter Games Just Around the Corner]]>Sun, 24 Jan 2016 17:54:32 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/preparing-to-celebrate-a-new-yearIt's hard to believe that the University of Okoboji Winter Games are just about here. Set for January 28-31, it's the 36th annual event! This winter has been an incredibly strange one with warm weather, cold weather and lots of snow. It has made the ice conditions really iffy!

In many areas the ice runs up to 14" in depth, and it's good ice. Cuts good with the power auger. The bad news is that the conditions are not the same all over. Part of the trouble is the snow, especially on the bays of West Okoboji, all of Big Spirit and the smaller lakes. They froze and then close to a foot of snow fell. The weight caused lots of pressure and water came up the seams, which caused slush pockets. Even now on Big Spirit Lake, if you drill holes in the ice, water will overflow the ice and cause lots of slush.

I know of some guys that went out between Jackson Point and Stony Point on Big Spirit, drilled some holes and found only about 5 inches of ice! 

Another fisherman that I know used his four-wheeler to pull his ice shack out to the bar between Eagle Point and Pocahantas Point on West Okoboji. He went through a deeper snow area and had water come up several inches on his tires! Nothing happened, but if a vehicle went through that, would it make it? 

Another guy found a slush pocket, walked up to it and drilled a hole - only 3 inches of ice!

At the same time, water is still going over the spillway on Big Spirit and excess water is eventually going out the overflow at the end of Lower Gar. That is causing a tremendous current around all of the bridge areas in the Okoboji chain. Even during the really sub zero weather, these current areas never really froze over completely. That has certainly caused problems for snowmobilers and some have even gone down. 

So, ice conditions are safe and not safe. We just need to make sure that we use common sense and don't take unnecessary risks.

So, enjoy the Winter Games, but use plenty of common sense and be safe!
<![CDATA[Reflections on the Clean Water Concert]]>Tue, 11 Aug 2015 01:12:06 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/reflections-on-the-clean-water-concertSaturday’s Clean Water Concert was truly a celebration of all the efforts made throughout the Iowa Great Lakes area to improve the quality of the waters in which we spend so much of our leisure time.

Clean water activities started at 4 p.m. and included several opportunites:
·      a look at the importance of pollinators with Dickinson County Naturalist Charles Vigdal
·      water quality information from the Iowa Environmental Council
·      water samples holding invertebrates - environmental indicators of the degree of water quality
·      interactive coloring station – both youngsters and adults enjoyed coloring and building their own “fish” hats.

During the annual Okoboji Protective Association’s  (OPA) annual meeting, President Barry Sackett shared successes over the past year. Greg Drees announced the winner of the 10th annual Ace Cory Conservation Award, which honors an individual whose work in the Iowa Great Lakes area, voluntary or professional, and reflects the principles of the late Ace Cory, one of the region’s pioneer environmentalists. This year’s recipient was Steve Anderson District Supervisor of the Iowa Great Lakes Sanitary District, who was recognized for his years of conservation leadership in the Iowa Great Lakes.

Keynote speaker, Joe McGovern, President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), reflected on the partners the INHF has worked with since its initial joint effort in 1979 and first completed project in 1985. Over the past 30 years, 62 projects have been realized right here in the Iowa Great Lakes area and Dickinson County.

He noted, “None of this would have happened without the efforts of so many individuals and groups in this area. These projects have all greatly benefited the Iowa Great Lakes.”

Big Blue Sky Band highlights day with Clean Water Concert
Led by Jon Stauvers, the Big Blue Sky Band took the stage and the audience listened to their message of love for life, nature and the great outdoors…on a mild August evening along the shores of West Lake Okoboji. Of course, the “special Iowa/Okoboji” song was well received. One of the highlights for OPA members was Jane Shuttleworth lending her musical talents by performing as a flutist with the Big Blue Sky Band.  

Kicking off the evening, OPA President Barry Sackett and a group of youngsters with their OPA T-shirts took the stage to share the OPA mission to “improve and enhance the water quality and ecological health of Lake West Okoboji and the Iowa Great Lakes watershed.” Barry introduced Sawyer Miller, who was a third grader this past year at Okoboji Elementary School, and recognized him for his part in keeping Okoboji beaches clean: his personally constructed Beach Clean-up Box. 

 This was the first OPA event like this that my wife and I have attended. We enjoyed everything, especially experiencing the beauty of the afternoon/evening along the shores of West Lake Okoboji. We hope that more people in the community will come out for this event next year!

<![CDATA[Thinking ¬†Ahead to the 2015 OPA Clean Water Concert]]>Tue, 14 Jul 2015 01:29:42 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/thinking-ahead-to-the-2015-opa-clean-water-concertI hope everybody is getting excited for the August 8 Clean Water Concert!  I think it is going to be one awesome event for everybody, young and old alike.  It's about celebrating our wonderful Iowa Great Lakes area and the work being done to improve the water quality in our lakes.

After all, we are users of these public waters, and it is our RESPONSIBILITY to work both individually and collectively to make a positive difference for our lakes!

So, let's come together on August 8 to celebrate our efforts and at the same time learn how we can make a difference. Joe McGovern's speech during the annual OPA meeting (from 5-6 p.m) is open to the public and will be an opportunity to listen to the thoughts of the President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

At 7:30, the fun really gets going with a two-hour performance by Big Blue Sky Band. Headed by Jon Stravers, their musical style includes the influence of folk, bluegrass, blues, and reggae. In their music they seek a closer connection to the planet, and their musical writing comes from the inspiration of wild places and a celebration of our natural heritage and the natural rhythms of life.   

Stravers is excited to be bringing Big Blue Sky to Okoboji. He told me in a phone interview, “It’s a beautiful place with wonderful lakes, and its geological significance. I know that people care a lot about the quality of their lakes and take great pride in what the area has to offer.”

Stravers did hint about putting together some special music for the Clean Water Concert. As a songwriter, he is “already thinking about a specific song just for Okoboji!”  So that's definitely something to look forward to. 

One of the reasons Stravers is coming to Okoboji is his love of the outdoors. Through his environmental work and in his music, it is easy to see that Stravers is a true steward and champion of nature!


<![CDATA[Get Ready for Clean Water Concert]]>Mon, 29 Jun 2015 01:28:22 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/get-ready-for-clean-water-concert            Mark Saturday, August 8th on your calendar.  That’s the date of the annual Okoboji Protective Association’s “Clean Water Concert” at the Arnold Park green space.
            Everybody is invited and as OPA president, Barry Sackett says, “This event is meant for everyone.  No matter your age, I think you will find something memorable about this event."
              There is no cost! Just come and enjoy the camaraderie as the OPA membership celebrates efforts to protect and improve water quality on the Iowa Great Lakes.  It promises to be an event filled with interactive family activities and information sessions from 4-7 p.m.
             Sackett notes, “We will be having our annual OPA meeting from 5-6 p.m. with Joe McGovern, President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, as our guest speaker.  Joe, a great conservationist, who graduated in 1994 from Iowa State University with a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology.  He began working at the Story County Conservation Board as a Deputy Biologist with Vegetation Management.  After five years there, Joe joined the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation staff in 1999 as Land Stewardship Director, which gave him the opportunity to restore and protect Iowa’s natural areas across the state.  He became president of INHF in 2013. “
            Highlight of the day will be the performance by Big Blue Sky Band from 7 – 9 p.m.
            OPA memberships will be available throughout the event.  
              Look for special “Clean Water Concert” previews on the Mediacom Local Access (Channel 22) June 25-July 2 and July 23-30.  Show times will include 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, Monday night at 7 p.m. and Thursday night at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., and also Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

<![CDATA[Celebrating Father's Day]]>Tue, 16 Jun 2015 21:14:39 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/celebrating-fathers-dayThis is one of those blogs that isn't going to be about clean water or our environment.  Instead, it's one of those in which I ask us to reflect on our life's journey.  

About a month ago, we celebrated Mother's Day, and this weekend marks the celebration of Father's Day.  You know, as we celebrate these two days, we need to reflect back on what a mother and a father really are.  It's certainly not an easy task, and there is no "one shoe fits all" when it comes to parenting.

As a high school language arts teacher for 33 years (now at age 67, I consider a life-long educator), I witnessed a lot of parenting skills over those years.  Some were exemplary, while others left a lot to be desired.  In some instances, it was pretty obvious that there were none.  The children were pretty much on their own or already ran the ship, and the parents had long ago given up. 

Bottom line was a family with strong family values and solid caring parents led to students who were much better adjusted and easier to teach.  They respected authority.

Here is something that has always amazed me about parenting...we pretty much learn parenting skills from our elders (parents-grandparents), other peers, maybe some books or simply by guess and by gosh!  While we go to 12 years of schooling, followed by more schooling, there are no prerequisites for being a parent.  If we have a child, we are just automatically considered a parent.  Really kind of scary isn't it? 

As children, parents are our first role models.  We look to them for everything.  They are our protectors, our everything.  A child is born a clean slate and the environment that surrounds the child helps shape what that child becomes as they grow older.  Again, I find this kind of scary.  It is really a huge commitment and responsibility to be a good parent.  That's not to say that good parents don't make mistakes.  We are all human, and mistakes are part of life.  What is important is that we learn from these mistakes, and try to give our best to our children.

As you read this blog, I ask all of us to take a look at where we are at in life...a child, a parent, a grandparent or great grandparent?  If your life has been positively influenced by a parent(s), a grandparent(s) and even a great grandparent(s) and they are still living, reach out to them and thank them.  I know it will mean a lot to them. 

My own father died nearly 14 years ago, when I was 53 years old.  I don't think that a day goes by that I don't rely on some advice or saying that he gave to me.  Two of his most memorable quotes were "Take it one day at a time" and "If it's in your row, you gotta' hoe it!"  They used to really bug me when I was a teenager.  Not the words I wanted to hear back then. 

But, oh my how I have used both of them many times as a teacher, coach, father and grandfather.  

Happy Father's Day!]]>
<![CDATA[Happy Memorial Weekend - The Beginning of Summer Fun]]>Mon, 25 May 2015 16:06:38 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/happy-memorial-weekend-the-beginning-of-summer-funIsn't it amazing just how fast time can fly! It's hard to believe that we are moving into what Nat King Cole enthusiastically sang about in his 1963 Top 10 hit - "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer!" I think that is especially true here in the Iowa Great Lakes. Lazy-Hazy-Crazy...yup that's what we have!

Time to kick back and enjoy family and friends as we recreate on these wonderful lakes...all the while thinking and responding to our task at hand: protect these beautiful waters for today and tomorrow. It is the mission and the goal of the OPA.

Let's Do Our Part
Part of that comes through educating all people about the dangers of aquatic hitchhikers. The DNR has a slogan that all of us can follow: Clean. Drain. Dry. That is a great way to protect Iowa lakes and rivers from these terrible aquatic dangers.  We are such a mobile society moving from area to area, often taking boats out of one body of water and then trailering them to another body and maybe even another in the same weekend. That's where the problem can come in. People can unknowingly be harboring these aquatic hitchhikers on their boat, in their motor, live well, bilge or even transom well. 

Before leaving a ramp, drain all water from boats and equipment, and remove all drain plugs. Before moving to another body of water, spray the boat (including levels and motor) and trailer with hot, high-pressure water. Make sure everything is clean-no mud or vegetation. Even better, if moving to another spot, dry the entire rig for at least five days. 

Congratulations to OPA
Congratulations are in order for the OPA and its gift of conservation land located just south of the Gull Point to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources earlier this spring. This land, which was donated to the OPA in the 1980s, is a pristine wetland area that makes the Gull Point area complete. 
<![CDATA[OPA Helps Youngster Keep Okoboji's Public Beaches Clean]]>Mon, 11 May 2015 13:30:27 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/opa-helps-youngster-keep-okobojis-public-beaches-cleanCongratulations are in order for a young Okoboji elementary student and the OPA! Sawyer Miller, a third grader at Okoboji Elementary, wanted to make a difference on Okoboji's public beaches and came to the OPA board for its help. He came to a board meeting in late April to make his request.

As part of the Talented and Gifted program at his school, his teacher, Mrs. Sackett, was working with each of her students on solving a real world problem. Sawyer’s huge general problem was pollution, and he had narrowed it down to pollution on our own beaches: specifically trash.

His solution to the problem was the beach cleanup box project that he had worked on for several months. The first box, which he brought to the board meeting, would be placed at the beach by the bridge between East and West Okoboji.  Inside the box, Sawyer had built a top compartment for placing plastic gloves, while the larger compartment was built for biodegradable trash bags…and that’s why Sawyer was there. He was hoping the board would provide the financial support for the gloves and trash bags.

He felt $210 would be enough for up to three boxes that he planned to eventually build. A board member responded, “How about $300?” This would give Sawyer some extra funding in case he had the time to build another box! 

The smile on Sawyer's face said it all! With the help of the OPA board, his project would become reality.

We can all do our part

Sawyer’s belief in his project and that this can make a difference should be an inspiration to all of us. It’s an example that each of us can make a difference in the way we take care of our environment.

Thanks, Sawyer, for reminding us all that we owe it to ourselves and all of those around us to step up to the plate. After all, it’s the only environment that we will ever get!

<![CDATA[ISU to Study Merits of Fingerling Stocking in East/West Okoboji]]>Sun, 26 Apr 2015 00:54:54 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/isu-to-study-merits-of-fingerling-stocking-in-eastwest-okobojiOver the years, most of the hatched walleyes produced at the Spirit Lake Hatchery are stocked as tiny fry with the goal that they will provide a solid year class in Iowa’s natural lakes. Because of natural environmental conditions and predation, walleye fry stockings are unpredictable and on average producing strong year-classes only happens once every 3-5 years.

In visiting with DNR Fisheries Biologists Jonathon Meerbeek, and Mike Hawkins, in addition to the annual stocking of fry on West and East Okoboji, biologists have been stocking larger walleye fingerlings raised at Iowa’s largest walleye rearing facility at Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa. This has been done, because of the longer growing season at Lake Rathbun.

Over the past few years, these 7-9 inch fingerlings seem to be helping increase walleye numbers in years when fry don’t survive well.  However, these fish cost more to produce and the state has limited resources and space to raise this larger product. So, a study through Iowa State University aims to examine just how well these fish are doing and what kind of return they are having.   The study may also find ways to improve the survival of these fish.  

Hawkins says, “Walleye fingerlings will be monitored from the time they are put on the truck in southern Iowa, stocked into the lake and as they move into adulthood. Data collected will include their travel patterns after stocking, effects of predators and how many of these advanced fingerlings make it to a harvestable size and beyond.” Both biologists are looking forward to using the new ISU study to improve stocking methods.

When it comes to managing the fisheries here in the Iowa Great Lakes, Meerbeek and Hawkins look at it as both an art and a science. They collect large amounts of data related to walleye populations, but the real trick is being able to make predictions based on that data. They use complex simulation models to help provide insights into how increased stockings, changes in harvest regulations and changes in angler catch can impact the fishery. 

Some people would argue managing fish is simple. However, these are not controlled environments. Instead, they are living, breathing environments with all kinds of variables. Just think of all of the species of fish interacting with each other and their surroundings, and each lake is different! Simple regulation changes can have impacts that ripple throughout the fishery. These impacts aren’t always easy to understand and may take years to assess. There is rarely a one size fits all solution in fisheries management.

Hawkins and Meerbeek assure anglers, “We will continue to aggressively monitor walleye populations in the Iowa Great Lakes, and we are not afraid to suggest changes in regulations or stocking if the data and models suggest a better solution exists.”  

<![CDATA[Spring is Here!]]>Sun, 19 Apr 2015 19:15:44 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/spring-is-hereIsn’t it great to have spring bursting all around us? One of my favorite pastimes this time of year is to head to the backwaters of our Iowa Great Lakes to catch some nice eater size bluegills.

During this time, I just kick back and enjoy the sights and sounds that echo all around me. No traffic, no people noise…just nature.

Remember the song “Dueling Banjos?” Well, in these backwaters, it’s dueling Canada geese. It’s all about territory and intruders are banished, chased off the water. For a while, that is! They will come back later and attempt to regain their territory. Then the honking begins building to a crescendo as all four geese honk away!

Time after time this happens. As a matter of fact, I have witnessed this event every spring since I first moved to the Iowa Great Lakes area in 1978! Same backwater, same fights, same sounds…it’s awesome! Add to this the other sights and sounds: it doesn’t get any better than this!

Drain those livewells!

As we get those boats out and as the Walleye Opener approaches, anglers are reminded the regulations about transporting fish from the lake that you have been fishing.

The regulation states: Drain water from boat, livewell, bilge, ballast tank, bait bucket, and other equipment holding water before leaving a water access. Drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport. If you want to keep live bait when leaving a water access, you must replace water in bait containers with tap or bottle water.”

Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).

The regulation goes on to say: Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody and to release aquatic animals from one waterbody into another.”

Reason for the regulation

It all comes down to two words: invasive species. We’re talking all kinds of invasives…this next part also comes from the 2015 regulations booklet: Bighead carp, silver carp, Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and other nonnative aquatic species threaten Iowa waters. These aquatic invaders do not occur naturally in our lakes and rivers. When stocked into them, these invasive species can cause ecological and economic harm by displacing native plants and animals, damaging water resources, and interfering with water-based recreation, including fishing.

Statewide regulation

It is important to note that this is a statewide regulation that covers all bodies of water in Iowa. The regulation mirrors the regulations set by the state of Minnesota and now in the state of South Dakota for 2015. The bottom line is this: it is our duty to do whatever it takes to make sure that we limit the spread of invasive species in all of Iowa's water bodies!

<![CDATA[ Taking Time to Smell the Roses ]]>Wed, 08 Apr 2015 02:23:28 GMThttp://bythewatersedge.weebly.com/blog/-taking-time-to-smell-the-roses]]>