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Steve Ibarra 2

Steve Ibarra, of Mason City, holds a 37-inch northern pike he caught in the Winnebago River in East Park on Feb. 17, 2017. He said he regularly catches pike, walleye and smallmouth bass in the park.

MASON CITY | The fishing is getting real good Mason City's East Park. 

Steve Ibarra, of Mason City, pulled a 37-inch northern pike out of the Winnebago River in the park Friday morning. 

It weighed 12.44 pounds. 

Ibarra, who regularly fishes the park, said the northern struck about 8 a.m. while he was casting with a Rapala-brand lure.

He knew it was big. 

"It bent my pole pretty good and it swam around in the water," said Ibarra, who brought the fish to the Globe Gazette's office Friday afternoon. "Right away, it went into the current, so I started pulling it really hard and I was able to play it out and land it."

Ibarra says he's had good luck fishing in East Park in recent years. 

He chalks the success, in part, up to the efforts of Mason City staff who maintain the park and the oversight of the City Park Board and City Parks and Recreation Department.

"It's a lot nicer to fish since they cleaned it out in the last few years," he said. "So, it's made it a very good fishing area."

Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Scott Grummer said this spring is shaping up to be particularly good for fishing in the park, thanks to lower river levels and relatively calm water.

He said the fishing isn't as good when heavy snowmelt causes high water levels and turbid, or churned up, water in the river.

"It's been real good fishing conditions," Grummer said. "The spring we had last year and so far this year gives anglers a better opportunity."

The DNR stocks the Winnebago River with 3-inch fingerling northern pike and walleye each year. The pike are usually released in mid-May and the walleye in the latter half of June.

Ibarra regularly catches both species, as well as smallmouth bass.

There's also catch channel catfish, bullheads and carp, he said. 

Ibarra, who showed the northern to Grummer, plans to apply for an Iowa DNR Master Angler award. The program recognizes sizable fish catches of different species. 

At 37 inches, his fish qualifies because it surpasses the 35-inch minimum for the northern pike. Requirements for the award vary by species.

Grummer estimates the northern was 8 to 12 yearsold.

Although Ibarra says he caught the fish along the Winnebago River, he politely declined Friday afternoon to reveal the exact location of his fishing hole.

"Well, let's just say everybody can fish everywhere in East Park," he said. "Good luck. Get out there and try all the spots!"

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