After struggling for years to sustain a population on their own, native brook trout are again thriving in the Yellow River headwaters and Mullen Creek following work on the land to improve water quality, thanks to efforts of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its partners.
Brook trout once thrived in most of northeast Iowa’s clear, spring-fed streams, but years of erosion and polluted runoff harmed trout habitat. To save the fragile native Iowa species, the DNR brought a number of the trout to the Manchester fish hatchery, raising new “brookies” to live in restored creeks.
Communities have come together on two of those streams, Yellow River and Mullen Creek, through the DNR-funded Yellow River Headwaters Watershed Project, led by the Winneshiek Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Silver Creek Watershed Project, led by the Howard Soil and Water Conservation District. Teaming with DNR Fisheries to restock the streams with South Pine brook trout, the watershed projects also worked with landowners in the area to make changes on the land to protect and improve water quality.
The two watershed projects are partially funded by DNR through EPA Section 319 grants, which provide financial assistance for water pollution cleanup. Landowners and the watershed projects have invested almost $6 million throughout the region to restore and clean creeks and rivers.