The Mississippi at Guttenberg


A look at the lock and dam just upstream from the anchored barge.


Hello and welcome to the blog.  This is the second time I’ve visited the anchored barge on the Mississippi River at Guttenburg (Clayton County) Iowa.  The barge is secured about 500 feet below the dam in relatively still water.  It’s scenic and a terrific place to fish.  I spent about five hours here on Thursday and brought home a lovely catch of fish.


One of the plentiful pelicans. They were enjoying fishing for small bluegills.

Arriving at 8:30, I visited the little shoreside bait shop to catch a boat ride to the center of the river.  The shop was closed but there was a phone next to the door to call for assistance.  While speaking with a friendly gentleman, I also asked if there was a place to pee and he gave me detailed, crystal-clear instructions to the hotel … and followed that up with an earthy sounding “… or you can just piss off the side of the dock.”  After laughing, I selected the dock.  The boat driver was just as fun to talk to on the trip to the barge.

Once arriving, I chose a spot near the current.  The sheepshead (freshwater drum) fish were hungry and downright pesky.  On the fishing line (about a foot from the hook) I was using a heavy split-shot sinker with 2 one-ounce egg sinkers behind it.  (The heavy weights sit on the river bottom but allow the line with the worm on it to slide and be pulled up by hungry fish without feeling the weight … until it’s too late.  The combination was deadly and I started catching fish.


Sheepshead live near the bottom for virtually all of their lives.  Unlike channel catfish, suckers, bullheads or carp, the food intake for sheepshead (freshwater drum) is not garbage but rather insects, mollusks, and fish.  Freshwater drum have scales and have some pretty nasty fins.  But unlike carp, sheepshead are not very bony inside.  Filleting them is very easy.  The flavor varies a little from fish to fish, but I’ve found them to be quite delicious – even tastier than trout.  Battered and fried, the texture is much like deep fried shrimp!  One can also boil them like lobster and eat pieces with butter.

The final body count was thirteen, 11 of them being sheepshead and 2 catfish.  Once filleted out at the bait shop’s “cleaning station”, there was still so much meat that later I ended up taking a bag of fillets to some friends from work.  It was a fun, productive day!  To cap it off, I had some ice cream and bought an incredibly delicious pizza from Joe’s.  They carry a premium line of ice cream products from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.    It’s the creamiest I can ever remember… just magnificent!

8_ice cream2

In other news, I’ve got a new friend to hang out with.  We’ve known each other for years but recently re-connected.  She likes camping, cooking out, fishing, good food, enjoying the outdoors, etc.  It’s only a matter of time till we hit the streams.  More about that later.

9_Basmati Rice with Fried Drum

That’s today’s (Friday) evening meal:  freshwater drum (in a lemon-pepper batter) over lemon basmati rice.

That’s about it for now.  What’s on the horizon?  We’ve got some 100 degree weather coming up next week – camping is not going to happen.  But in the meantime, the new Star Trek movie is coming out and I’ve got a ticket for the first showing.  I might even to get to a county fair sometime soon, too!

Take care and thanks for visiting!  Have a great weekend!

Bradford, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

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