Monday, November 23, 2015

Iowa State-Fish Art Contest

Contest Rules & Guidelines
2016 Entry Form
The Iowa DNR is partnering with the Wildlife Forever® State-Fish Art® Contest to host an Iowa State-Fish Art Contest. Students are encouraged to use their artistic skills to create an image of their favorite Iowa fish (see the eligible fish list) in its natural habitat.

The first place artwork in each judging category will be submitted for National Awards. First place winners at the state level will be honored at the annual State-Fish Art Expo this summer. Each student submitting an entry will receive a Certificate of Recognition.

Judging Categories
Group 1 – Kindergarten-Grade 3
Group 2 – Grades 4-6
Group 3 – Grades 7-9
Group 4 – Grades 10-12
All entries must be postmarked by March 31, 2016.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Get Your Fish on with the Berkley High School Fishing Club

The Berkley High School Fishing Club is an interactive, online fishing program for all junior and senior high school students and their coaches in the US. Students and coaches complete monthly tasks (challenges) to gain points to win Berkley products. The program encourages students to learn new fishing skills and techniques while raising awareness of environmental stewardship and conservation.

High school students compete individually against other students to become the best angler in the nation. High school teams compete against other teams to become the winners of The Challenge.

  1. Junior and senior high school students: (Ages 13-19) Students may compete individually or as a part of a fishing team. Students will gain points by completely monthly challenges to redeem points for Berkley rewards.
  2. High School Team Coaches: gain points by completely team tasks and monthly challenges for the chance to win “The Challenge”
Join today: Register now!

Coaches and teams, get your high school age team involved in the Berkley High School Challenge. Compete with other teams around the nation for the chance to win $4000 in Berkley and Abu Garcia products. Beginning November 1st gain team points by completing the team tasks and individual tasks that could put your team in the winner circle in May 2016.

How the challenge works:
Coaches and students register for the online club and complete the challenges for points. Coaches report on activities that are completed by the club; students report on activities that they can do by themselves. At the end of the Challenge season, the schools with the most points will win prizes. Coaches and students will have the opportunity to win prizes throughout the Challenge season so be sure to check in often to see what new challenge you can be doing for prizes and points!

Time Period: November 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016; students may continue to participate in the online Club year round.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fall Trout Spawn in Full Swing

Hundreds of yellow ovals offset the brown and green coloration of each female brown trout ready to spawn at the Manchester Fish Hatchery. The splashes of color are signs that trout spawning season is in full swing.

Brook trout, Iowa’s only native trout, already gave up their eggs in October.  A domesticated strain of brook trout is maintained at the Manchester Fish Hatchery. Over 453,000 eggs were collected this year.

Brown trout are currently being spawned. Brood trout are brought to the hatchery from French Creek in Allamakee County. They are held at the hatchery across two spawning cycles then released in several dozen stretches of streams throughout northeast Iowa, supplementing earlier generations of brown trout.

All brown trout are stocked as 2-inch fingerlings. “Anglers like these ‘wild’ stream raised fish. They are harder to catch than our put-and-take stocked fish,” explains Mike Steuck, Iowa DNR fisheries supervisor for interior streams. “Many of the public streams have great numbers of brown trout in them.”

Rainbow trout, the backbone of Iowa’s trout program, take up much of December and January. Roughly 750,000 eggs will be collected this season.

Once a week, crews check for ripe female brood stock. After a quick sedative bath to quiet them, each big trout is held firmly over a plastic bowl, as one of the workers rolls a hand down her belly to force out a stream of orange-golden eggs—up to 4,000 to 6,000 per fish. Mixed in quickly is the milk-white sperm from two males. Water is added to activate the eggs and sperm allowing fertilization to occur. The ingredients are gently stirred with a turkey feather to avoid bruising the eggs.

The fertilized eggs are poured into an incubator tray and slid into their place below a stream of 50 to 52 degree water until they hatch. Approximately 30 days after fertilization, tiny sac-fry hatch. Dark clouds of tiny fish grow in raceways within the hatchery. The fish are “trained” by automatic feeders to eat.

As they develop and grow, they are monitored and transferred to larger tanks, then raceways.  The fingerlings will be kept at Manchester or transferred to Iowa’s two other stations, near Elkader and Decorah, to be raised for future stocking. In 12 to 14 months, they will be a half-pound and ready to be stocked.  Nearly 50 put-and-take streams throughout nine northeast Iowa counties and nearly 20 urban locations are stocked through the cold weather months.

“We stock about 400,000 catchable rainbow trout at the hatcheries,” said Steuck.  “We also stock approximately 200,000 brown and rainbow trout fingerlings annually to grow in the streams.”

There’s natural spawning, mostly brown trout and some brook trout, in over 40 northeast Iowa streams. Most trout caught, though, are spawned under the eyes of hatchery workers at Manchester. These coldwater fish are great fighters and beautiful in their spawning colors this time of year.

Visit the DNR website at for trout fishing tips and to find a trout stream near you.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2016 Fish Iowa! Games

Fish Iowa! Games is a great confidence builder for students. It doesn’t matter your size, age, or gender – everybody can compete on a fair level.”
Fish Iowa! Games is a competition where students cast from three distances using the flipping, pitching, and overhand techniques. It was developed by the Iowa Sports Foundation, in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in 2006. Since then, over 90,800 K-12 students throughout the state have participated.
2016 Registration Now Open!!!
Register your school or your class now to secure your competition kit. The competition may be held anytime between February 1 and May 1. Competition kits will be shipped beginning mid January.
Competition Kit
  • 3 targets
  •  2 contest spincast rods & reels
  • 10 casting plugs (5/16 oz) for practice
  •  Medals – gold, silver, and bronze for each class

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Essential Tips and Tricks for Bow Fishing

This fast-growing sport is fast and exciting, can be done anywhere in the state, and has potential environmental benefits to boot. All you need is a bow, a bow fishing reel, heavy test line, and bow fishing arrows, all of which can usually be purchased for a few hundred dollars. A sport fishing license is required to bow fish in Iowa, and allows the holder to take rough fish from public lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, as well as private ponds with permission.

Get some gear, find a friend, and see what you can catch. Try these helpful tips and tricks to get you started.

In the Rough
Bow fishing is only for taking “rough” fish. Iowa has a variety of rough fish found in lakes, rivers and ponds such as bigmouth buffalo, smallmouth buffalo, common carp, grass carp and primitive fish such as short nosed gar.  These fish are generally very large (but are all sizes), still make for good eating, and you don’t have to worry about length and possession limits. They are usually visible from the top of the water. Be sure you can identify the fish before you shoot. Game fish (ie. largemouth bass, bluegill) cannot be taken by bow and arrow.

It is not possible to catch-and-release while bow fishing. Excluding game fish gives desirable fish a better chance at reaching maturity. Rough fish often stir up mud in the water, feed on vegetation, or feed on the same food as game fish, such as zooplankton and other invertebrates.  Some rough fish, such as bighead and silver carp, are invasive species that damage the ecosystem. A full list of Iowa rough fish species is available in the 2015 fishing regulations booklet, available online here 

Bring a Friend
Large rough fish, like grass carp, may take more than one shot to bring in successfully. Bring a friend along to get a shot you missed, a neighboring fish, or just help you haul in a big catch. Carp are particularly easy targets at spawning time, as they tend to move to very shallow water and as much as half of their body may be exposed above the surface.  

Aim From Anywhere
Bow fishing is great for those looking for flexibility in their fishing experience. You can shoot day or night from the shore, the shallows, a dock or a boat depending on your preference. There are areas in Iowa that do not allow after-hours fishing, and a couple that don’t allow bow fishing at all (see the 2015 regulations booklet), so be sure to check the specific rules at any location you visit.
Practice Your Aim
The deeper a fish is in the water, the harder they are to shoot successfully because the water will slow down your arrow. Aim lower than you think you should to hit the fish, no matter how deep the water. Why? Water is denser than air, and thus light travels through it differently. The fish you see from above the surface of the water is not actually where you think it is, because the light rays that make up the image you see are deflected as the transition from water to air in a process called refraction. All you really need to know to decide how low to go is your approximate distance from the fish, and the fish’s approximate distance from the surface. If you’re about 10 feet away and the fish is one foot below the surface, aim about 4 inches below the fish’s belly. If your distance from the fish or the fish’s distance from the surface doubles, double your adjustment too.

Have Fun
Bow fishing is a great outdoor activity that’s easy to learn. Shooting rough fish can be extremely exciting.  It takes a quick eye and a fast shot to have a chance to reel in a carp as they often surface the water only briefly. It is fun to see your catch and reel it in. Have a plan to dispose the fish you shoot.  Disposing of them responsibly is good sportsmanship and positively promotes the sport of bow fishing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hot Fall Fishing Spots

Excellent fall fishing is one of Iowa's best kept secrets. It's a relaxing time to enjoy being on the water, with smaller crowds and picturesque views. Cooler temperatures trigger fish to actively search for food, and that means a lot more action on Iowa lakes and streams. Here are five top picks for fall fishing destinations in Iowa:

NW Iowa: West Okoboji
West Okoboji Lake, a popular Dickinson County tourist destination during the summer, becomes an angler’s paradise in the fall. Catching a fish is truly a bonus while visiting this beautiful lake. It offers great opportunities for panfish, walleyes, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and muskie. Take advantage of incredible aquatic vegetation lines, many rock reefs, points, and drop offs.

Others to consider: Silver Lake in Dickinson County and Storm Lake in Buena Vista County both for fall walleye fishing; Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County for great yellow bass fishing, plus walleye and muskie.

SW Iowa: Little River Lake near Leon
Just an hour south of Des Moines, Little River Lake is a gem for fall fishing. The lake was recently renovated and is now in its fourth year for producing healthy populations of walleye, bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. The lake has a small campground along its shore and is on the outskirts of Leon for easy accessibility to convenience stores and restaurants.

Others to consider:  Twelve Mile Lake and Green Valley Lake near Creston both for crappie and bluegill.

NE Iowa: Decorah
Check out Trout Run trail near Decorah for several easy-access fishing spots. Start in Decorah at the Bow String Bridge Park along Highway 9 and cast your way all the way to the trout hatchery. Bring the kids and take a walking tour to view the thousands of trout raised here for stocking in area streams. Various trout streams, campgrounds, small shops, eateries, bike
trails and the State Trout Hatchery are all located within a short distance. Added bonus: access to all the streams improves later in September and into October, as vegetation begins to die back, which makes casting for the big one much easier.

Others to consider: The DNR stocks trout in 50 trout in northeast Iowa in September and October. See the stocking calendar for locations.

SE Iowa: Lost Grove Lake
Iowa’s newest lake, Lost Grove Lake near the Quad Cities, is now at full pool and offers plenty of opportunity to catch many different species. For being a young lake, sunfish and channel catfish sizes are already good. The area also includes accessible fishing trails and structures, special canoe and kayak accesses, courtesy docks and restrooms. Fish cleaning stations will be added next spring.

Others to consider: Lake Belva Deer in Keokuk County for crappie, bluegill and bass, Mississippi River (especially near Lock and Dam 17 at Muscatine for walleye, Sylvan Slough at Lock and Dam 15 near Davenport too).

Central Iowa: Banner Lake South, Summerset State Park
Trout fishing is not just for travelers to northeast Iowa; Banner Lake South in Summerset State Park north of Indianola is an established location for cold-weather trout stocking. The DNR stocks trout in about 18 urban lakes across Iowa during the fall and winter months as a way to introduce visitors to this enjoyable fish to catch. Banner Lake South is admired for its clear water and is located on Highway 65/69 between Des Moines and Indianola.

Others to consider: 17 additional locations for cold-weather lake trout stockings across Iowa; see the DNR stocking information.

For a complete listing of places to fall fish in Iowa including lake maps, directions and amenities, visit the DNR Places to Fish webpage. A 2015 fishing license is valid through Jan. 10, 2016, and is a bargain for your leisure time at $19 for resident or $41 for nonresidents. Seven-day and one-day licenses are also available. Licenses can be purchased online at, or at any one of the 900-plus license vendors in the state.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Trout Fishing Under A Canopy Of Fall Colors

Fishing Iowa’s trout streams this fall is a unique way to enjoy the cool weather and marvel at the amazing colors of fall and Iowa’s prize trout. Male brown and brook trout will display their brightest, most vibrant colors this time of year.

Northeast Iowa is dotted with hundreds of miles of trout streams. Stocked and naturally occurring trout can be found in the breathtaking forests and streams of this part of the state. Last year, nearly 39,000 Iowans and over 4,300 nonresidents spent over 430,000 days trout fishing.

Iowa’s trout season is open all year. Iowa’s trout streams are too. There are about 105 coldwater trout streams in 10 northeast Iowa counties. More than 40 trout streams have consistently naturally reproducing brown trout and natural reproduction is occurring, but not consistently in another 30 streams. These streams have a lot of wild fish available for anglers to test their skills.

Some streams are stocked with 10-12 inch trout weekly through October, so plenty of fish are available. The October stockings are unannounced. A list of stocked streams is available the DNR trout map or trout stream webpage. Wander downstream of the areas that are stocked and you will find wilder fish and fewer anglers.

Mike Steuck, Iowa DNR fisheries supervisor for interior streams recommends Twin Bridges and the Upper Maquoketa in the southern area and Sny Magill and Trout Run downstream of the Decorah Hatchery in the northern area as great places to try trout fishing this fall.

Trout are beginning their spawning rituals. They are trying to bulk up for winter and seem to be always hungry.  In October and November, brown and brook trout lay their eggs in nests called redds, areas of cleaned gravel on the stream bottom. The eggs will remain in the redds until they hatch in the late winter or early spring. Be careful where you walk to avoid stepping in or directly above these nests.

Fish overcast and gray days when using spin fishing gear. Trout seem to be less wary of lures at this time. If fly fishing, target midday on sunny and bright days. In cooler fall temperatures, bright warm days can stimulate an insect hatch. Dry flies can still be productive, but the insect hatches become more sporadic and less intense than in the summer.

Early fall is grasshopper time. They can be gathered in the cool of the early morning and are especially good for brown trout. Imitation grasshoppers also work well along with night crawlers, particularly following light rainfall.

“Brown trout are wary, be as quiet and concealed as you can,” said Steuck. “If you can see them, they have already seen you and probably will not bite.”

Learn to “read” a stream, to identify habitats that offer food and cover. Trout are not randomly scattered in a stream. They locate themselves along the edge of the current flow near protective cover. The stream current carries food to the trout while it waits.

Anglers need to have a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout.  The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.

More trout fishing information is available on the Iowa DNR’s website.