Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer Tips to Land Iowa's Big Fish


The key to catching big fish is finding places that have big fish. Quickly find the best spots to catch master angler qualifying size fish with the electronic map recently added to DNR Master Angler program website (click on "Map" above the photos) or search for local hotspots by species or location.
Try these simple tips from DNR fisheries biologists to catch large bluegill, bass and crappie during the summer heat at one of these top locations identified through a search on the Master Angler webpage.
Bluegills (10 inches to qualify)
  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds surrounded by grass; fish the face of the dam or steep shorelines where the weed line is close to shore; drift or cast small jigs (1/32nd oz.) tipped with a 1-inch piece of worm 6 to 8 feet down; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – fish the rock reefs or rocky humps in 20-25 feet of water; jig live bait (small crayfish, Belgium worms, piece of night crawler or leech) with a split shot 8-10 inches above the hook.  
  • Big Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.  
  • Twelve Mile Creek Lake, Union County – fish the rock piles or cedar tree brush piles along the roadbed; try also along the weed line.
  • East Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.    
Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)
  • Farm Ponds – use top water lures at the edge of aquatic plants early and late in the day when the air is still; switch to a spinner bait or plastic worm later in the morning or late afternoon next to the weed line or around brush piles; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.
  • Big Creek Lake, Polk County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.         
  • Lake Anita, Cass County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.
  • Badger Creek Lake, Madison County – fish the cedar tree brush piles near the fishing jetties or along the dam. 
Black Crappie (14 inches to qualify)
  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering. 
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County –  look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks  in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast larger chartreuse twister tails  and slowly drop down the bank.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish. 
  • Crawford Creek Impoundment, Ida County – drift fish 1/16 ounce chartreuse jigs tipped with a small minnow; try also fishing around the brush piles.
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles. 
  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish.  
  • Saylorville Reservoir, Polk County –focus on areas where the shoreline is protected with rip-rap.  
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of  brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles.
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County  – look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks  in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast chartreuse twister tails and slowly drop down the bank.

For information on how to submit a Master Angler entry including a list of the 41 fish species eligible and minimum lengths, visit the Master Angler website.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Come Fish with Us at the Iowa State Fair



Stop by the Iowa DNR building to see the Iowa fish in the historic aquarium. Built in 1921, the wrap-around aquarium is the focal point of the pavilion, filled with Iowa fish of all shapes, sizes and species.

Learn the basics of fishing at these fun presentations (the whole courtyard schedule is available at iowadnr.gov/IowaStateFair):

Saturday, August 13
Fishing Day in the courtyard begins with a question and answer session with Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid, followed by an instructional presentation for kids who want to learn to fish. In the afternoon, you can get the scoop on primitive fish or get a close up look at real Iowa turtles.


Friday, August 19
The art of fishing is as intricate it is enticing, so come by on Friday for a second helping of fishing guidance and encouragement. Fisheries Bureau Chief Joe Larscheid returns for another discussion in the morning, and be sure to check out the live turtles native to Iowa in the afternoon. Kids are encouraged to join us at 11 a.m. for more fishing basics.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hooking Summer Catfish

Start a new family tradition this summer – go fishing for catfish. Bring along two coolers with ice, one to keep your bait firm and fresh and another to keep your catch cold and preserve that great taste.

Catfish tend to be more active in warmer weather. They are in every stream of any size and in all lakes and many farm ponds.


A catfish’s sense of smell and taste is tremendous. Try prepared dip baits, chicken livers, minnows or chubs, green sunfish, bluegill, crawdads, frogs, night crawlers or dead, but fresh, gizzard shad.

Lakes stratify, or form layers, this time of year, with cool, oxygen-deprived waters sinking to the bottom. Do not fish in water deeper than 8 to 10 feet. Look for areas with vegetation, brush piles or rock. Fish the upper ends of the larger reservoirs where the water is shallower and baitfish like gizzard shad gather. Fish baits on the bottom or suspended off the bottom with a bobber and let current or breeze move the bait to find active catfish.

Rivers in Iowa are loaded with catfish. Look for fish around downed trees and brush piles, but don’t overlook rock piles or other objects that deflect water and form a current seam. Position your bait just upstream of brush piles so the scent of the bait is carried downstream into the structure drawing the catfish out. Use a heavy weight to anchor the bait so it doesn’t drift into snags. If fishing the big rivers, try upstream and on the tips of wing dykes and wing dams on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

 Find more tips for catching catfish on the DNR website.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gone Fishing for Summer



Summer is all about relaxing with family and friends. Add fishing to your list of summer activities. Plan a day trip or bring along fishing gear on your next weekend getaway or camping trip.

“Fish are still biting, even in the middle of a sticky Iowa summer,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau. Like anglers, fish adjust to the heat, too. “The key is being in the right place, even when the thermometer says it’s too hot to fish.”

The best fishing is early in the morning or later in the evening and after dark. Avoid the brightest, hottest part of the day. Fish might cruise the shoreline early in the morning, but will seek cover in deeper water as the sun starts beating down on the water. “Some of our best fishing is after dark,” reminds Larscheid. 

Look for fish in weed beds or structure, near shade during the day. They often are suspended in deeper water, just above the thermocline - a midsummer phenomenon many lakes develop creating two distinct layers.  Below the thermocline, often 8 to 10 or 12 feet deep, oxygen is nearly nonexistent.  Many fish suspend just above the thermocline, where temperatures and light conditions are tolerable, and where oxygen levels are sufficient. 

“When the water heats up, we really see the white bass and wipers come on,” said Larscheid.  “Hot weather is also a good time to catch big channel catfish and largemouth bass.”

White bass are active in the summer in the flood control reservoirs (Coralville, RedRock, Rathbun and Saylorville). Calm days are the best to fish for white bass because the seagulls can see the shad easier and will be feeding on them. Follow the seagulls to spot white bass. Telltale splashes on the water surface are good signs, too, as the shad leap from the water trying to escape.

“Bluegills spawn several times during the summer, so stay shallow, looking for them,” advises Larscheid.  Largemouth bass and channel catfish can be found close to shore. Look for bass near cover; stumps, wood structure. “Bass and bluegills will also use vegetation for cover and shade. It also holds a variety of zooplankton and insects which attract baitfish.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Holstein Teacher Recognized for Outstanding Fishing Program

Justin Kinney, physical education and health instructor at Ridge View High School in Holstein, is the 2016 recipient of the Brass Bluegill award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fish Iowa! program.

Kinney first learned about Fish Iowa! from the elementary physical education teacher. Kinney, Matt Best, and elementary principal Mike Richard were trained in April of 2015 and integrated fishing instruction into both the fifth grade PE and high school general PE classes that spring. High school students learned the basics then headed to local ponds for practice. Their final outing was at Crawford Creek and involved fishing and a picnic with fifth grade students, who had also been learning basics in their PE classes. About 80 high school students served as mentors to some 50 fifth graders.

Kinney, Best, and Richard attended more Fish Iowa! training in June 2015 and discussed options to expand their efforts. Besides fine tuning the basic fishing program, Kinney developed an additional course that encompasses a host of “Outdoor Education” components. The new course includes fishing, trapping, outdoor cooking, shooting, tomahawking, hunter safety, survival skills, orienteering, camping and more. It provides a host of hands-on opportunities that extend the basic introductory unit provided through general physical education courses. Each trimester-long class will accommodate 15 -20 students; 45 - 60 seniors will participate this year. The course will culminate in a trip to the Boundary Waters.

Kinney describes support for the new class as “mind blowing,” from Principal Richard to the superintendent, to the Board of Education, to parents and the community overall. He received a grant from the Ida County Community Betterment Foundation, but individuals, businesses and organizations have also given equipment, services and money - one parent donated $1,000; a business provided eight rifles at cost; and donations keep coming. Kinney credits the outpouring to an overall desire to help students “unplug” from technology.
Kinney grew up near the Mississippi River by St. Louis “doing all things outdoors” with his family and friends, but for him it is not about the skills. The outdoors provides a venue where people can connect.

“It’s really not about the fishing or other outdoor activities – it’s about the relationships. Relationships we build with our students. Relationships they build with each other,” Kinney said. “And hopefully, someday relationships they will build with the next generation through outdoor activities. Relationships are the key to successful students becoming men and women of character. That’s what we try to build here at Ridge View.”

As an administrator (and avid outdoorsman), Richard says the program has been easy to support because Mr. Kinney brings his "passion to the table" and his enthusiasm for the outdoors is contagious. “Students experience fun hands-on learning activities related to the outdoors that they can enjoy the rest of their lives,” Richard added. “The extended benefit is a generation that cares about the great land and water resources we have in Iowa.” He describes his experience watching high school students mentor fifth graders, “One boy was smiling ear to ear as his mentor helped him catch his first fish, a bluegill. Like Mr. Kinney said, it truly is all about relationships.”


Kinney created a Facebook® page to share student experiences with the community. Other teachers have been inspired by the success at Ridge View schools and are looking to create similar efforts. Kinney will present the program’s status and what they have learned at the Iowa Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (IAHPERD) annual conference in June.

Kinney was presented his award at the Natural Resources Commission Meeting in Otho on June 9. Richard and Best were also recognized for their role in establishing and supporting the program at the elementary level.

The Brass Bluegill award has been presented each year since 1996 to an instructor who has established an outstanding local program that exemplifies the goals of Fish Iowa!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Take Dad Fishing for Father’s Day


As we honor dad this weekend, give dad something he will always treasure – quality time together. Take dad fishing and create memories that you can relive every time you’re together.

Bring along insect spray and some vanilla for the small gnats. Wear light-colored clothing to reflect the sun and keep you cooler. Don’t forget sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Check the weather conditions often.

Put fish you plan to clean and eat on ice immediately in a cooler. This will help preserve the flavor of the fish. Fish are very perishable; the flesh will deteriorate rapidly and lose flavor if not kept cold.

Visit the Iowa DNR website for tips on making the most of your fishing trip this Father’s Day including fishing reportsfishing mapstips for fishing with kids and great places to fish close to home.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

DNR, Tourism Office Team up to Promote Family Fishing

The Iowa DNR and Iowa Tourism Office are calling on families to put down the screens and make lasting memories fishing.

The all-digital “Gone Fishing” campaign will educate families about fishing opportunities throughout the state and promote the sale of fishing licenses. The campaign is enabled by a $25,000 grant secured from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing participation in recreational fishing and boating. Iowa was one of only a five states to receive funding from the organization in 2016.

Iowa is home to some of the best fishing in the Midwest, with thousands of lakes and ponds and hundreds of streams and rivers. Iowa fishing licenses are available from the DNR for just $19 annually for Iowa residents. Children 15 years and younger can fish without a license. Additional fees apply for trout fishing. The DNR sold 370,160 licenses in 2015, generating revenues of more than $8 million.

Get your family out of the house this summer and get in touch with Iowa’s beautiful outdoors through fishing.