Fishing in Iowa

Iowa Fishing at a Glance

Anglers come to Iowa for many reasons. The state has nearly 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, as well as an abundance of lakes and ponds. And while the fish species found in each water body vary, there are a few that are consistently sought after by freshwater anglers.

The most popular game fish in Iowa is the largemouth bass. These fish are found in nearly every lake and river in the state, and can grow to be quite large. In addition to largemouth bass, other popular game fish include walleye, catfish, and crappie.

When it comes to fishing in Iowa, there are a few things you need to know in order to stay within the law. All anglers must have a valid fishing license, and there are limits on how many fish you can keep per day. In addition, certain rivers and streams may have special regulations in place that prohibit certain methods of fishing or limit the number of fish you can keep.

If you’re looking for the best place to go freshwater fishing in Iowa, there are a few factors to consider. The type of fish you’re hoping to catch, as well as the time of year, will play a role in where you choose to fish. In general, however, some of the best places to fish in Iowa include the Des Moines River, the Mississippi River, and Clear Lake.

Iowa ranks #28 in the U.S. for fishing licenses per capita and has a good number of local fishing enhtusiasts with over 10.54% of the population having fishing licenses.

Table of Contents

Estimated Fishing Enthusiasts
Population: 3,190,369
Fishing Enthusiasts 336,330
Fishing License % 10.54%
Hunters Rank 28

The state of Iowa is mostly private land with just 1.04% of acres considered public land -ranking #49 amongst all states.

Land Types (Acres)
Acres % Rank
Total 35,760,000
Public 370,740 1.04% 49
Private 35,385,660 98.95% 2
Tribal 3,600 0.01% 27

Iowa Fishing Licenses & Requirements

For the most accurate and updated information on fishing licenses and requirements, it’s always a good idea to check the Iowa DNR. We’ve provided their contact information and other helpful information for your convenience here.

Iowa DNR

502 East 9th Street, 4th Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034

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What are the most popular freshwater fish to catch in Iowa?

In Iowa some of the most common freshwater fish in the state are bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. Each type of fish can be found in different parts of the state, so it’s important to do your research before heading out on your fishing trip. Bluegill are commonly found in ponds and lakes while channel catfish are typically found in larger bodies of water such as lakes and reservoirs. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found in both ponds and lakes, while northern pike are typically found in larger lakes. Finally, walleye can be found in a variety of habitats including ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.

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Popular Public Fishing Spots in Iowa

Some of the best places to fish in Iowa include the Iowa Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, the Des Moines River, the Iowa River, and Saylorville Lake. The Iowa Great Lakes are a chain of natural lakes that are perfect for largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. The Mississippi River is one of the largest rivers in the country and is home to catfish, carp, and sturgeon. The Des Moines River is a smaller river that is great for smallmouth bass and trout. The Iowa River is another good option for trout fishing. Finally, Saylorville Lake is a man-made reservoir that supports a large population of crappie, bluegill, and channel catfish.

1. Rathbun Lake
2. Saylorville Lake
3. West Okoboji Lake
4. Clear Lake
5. Spirit Lake

Fishing private land in Iowa

Fishing on private land in Iowa has some real advantages over public lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds *if you can get access. For instance, there’s nothing like having a quiet lake all to yourself and oftentimes there are simply more fish available to catch, because they haven’t been fished out. There are generally more processes for access private land for hunting than fishing, though some similar methods exist. For instance, you can sometimes join a fishing club in Iowa or if you have the money, it may be possible to rent some private land for fishing. Another option is to knock on doors or work your contacts in an area to see if a landowner would let you fish for the day or possibly be open to a longer term arrangement.

Fortunately Wing It is simplifying land access for fishing, hunting, camping, and more. We’re adding new land every day and if we have some in your area, you’ll see some great options below.

More Private Land Fishing

• 552 acres •
• 79 acres •
• 152 acres •
• 1977 acres •
• 307 acres •
• 3 acres •
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Others activities
    • Kayaking
    • Turkey hunting by bow only
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Others activities
    • Kayaking
    • Turkey hunting by bow only
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