Iowa fisheries biologist recognized for excellence in fish management techniques

Iowa fisheries management biologist Mark Flammang was recognized as the Fisheries Biologist of the Year by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) at their annual meeting recently in Ashland, Neb.

MAFWA, an organization of 13 state and three provincial Midwest fish and wildlife agencies, exists to share ideas and information, pool resources, and initiate action to benefit the management and conservation of fish and wildlife resources in the Midwest.  This award is presented annually to a fisheries biologist that demonstrates unparalleled initiative towards the better understanding of fishes and their conservation.

Flammang, DNR fisheries management biologist for the eight county district in south central Iowa, was recognized for initiating new approaches to refine fish management techniques including how and when fish surveys are conducted, fish marking techniques, documenting fish movement behaviors and improving water quality through lake and watershed management.

Flammang evaluated the use of baited tandem hoop-nets to standard gill net efforts to capture adult channel catfish. The results showed that tandem baited hoop-nets were much better than gill nets at capturing large numbers of channel catfish. This technique is now part of Iowa Fish Management Section’s standard operating procedures, and is used by other state agencies.

Flammang has taken an active role in improving other fish sampling techniques such as comparing catch rates for large 3’x6’ versus small 2’x4’ fyke nets, evaluating un-baited hoop-nets for panfish population assessments, and improvements to the fish management database.

Some of Flammang’s work has influenced the way fish management is done in Iowa and throughout the Midwest.

Rotenone is often used to control undesirable fish species and improve water quality. Flammang led a recent study to evaluate the effect of four different low concentrations of rotenone to remove gizzard shad while minimizing the impact on important gamefish populations. Results of this work provided a useful tool to help managers eliminate specific problem species like gizzard shad with minimal impacts to important gamefish and lessening the need to remove all fish.

Recent higher flows at Rathbun Reservoir, along with declining walleye populations, motivated Flammang to study walleye escaping through the gates at Rathbun Reservoir. Since 2009, Flammang has tagged and monitored walleye at Rathbun Reservoir.  His work confirmed that many walleyes are leaving the reservoir. This prompted further research, in collaboration with Iowa State University (ISU) and the US Army Corps of Engineers, on potential methods to minimize the escape of walleyes. Flammang and an ISU graduate student evaluated various fish barriers. Efforts are underway to secure funding for an electric fish barrier to minimize fish escaping from the reservoir.

Flammang has been active with numerous lake restoration projects within his district. Recent lake restoration projects completed at Hawthorn Lake, Lake Miami and Red Haw Lake have improved water quality and fishing at these popular lakes. Flammang is currently involved in three additional lake restoration efforts at Lakes Keomah and Lacey-Keosauqua, and Rathbun Reservoir, along with other smaller man-made lakes around his district.

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