Rich often walks along the creek during lunch and here’s what he’s seen recently…..
Warm spring weather brings enormous change to aquatic life in Indian Creek. Much fishery research has been conducted on Iowa’s tributary streams, especially those that drain into the Mississippi River.
Indian Creek follows a typical pattern. When fall weather cools the creek’s water, most fish species head downstream. Walleyes, catfish, smallmouth bass, quillbacks, and other species essentially evacuate the creek and winter in deep sluggish pools in the main river. Some fish may go miles downstream. Most everyone is familiar with the epic journey of Pacific salmon who enter estuaries and ascend rushing streams to spawn in the same place where they began life years before. Something remotely similar happens in Indian Creek.
With spring’s warmth, smallmouth bass and walleyes swim up Indian Creek. Some spawning may take place but for these species, it’s more like moving from winter quarters to their summer homes. Indian Creek’s riffles produce an abundance of insect food, and its pools provide enough water depth for fish to thrive.
Usually the most visible fish in the spring and summer creek is the Quillback Carpsucker. Don’t let a homely name fool you. This is a beautiful fish with skin as bright as polished silver. It gets its name “quillback” for a long slender dorsal fin that some think looks like a catfish’s spine. However, it is a soft, not spiny, fin. Quillbacks move up and down Indian Creek in large schools. They feed on tiny bits of organic matter on the bottom and are rarely caught by anglers. They are an important part of the aquatic food chain and are eaten by bald eagles, ospreys, otters, and mink. Young fish of all species are gobbled down by larger predator fish.
Unfortunately, Indian Creek’s health has declined over the years, due almost entirely to the way people have changed its watershed. Thousands of culverts now spew rainwater into the creek immediately following storms, turning the creek into a raging torrent. When the water subsides, silt often covers gravel.
Despite its problems, Indian Creek is a delightful stream. It is a treasure not as well appreciated as it might be. It’s an outstanding place to bring children to explore during low water, and it remains a good fishing stream when conditions are right.