Friday, May 29, 2015

Iowa Residents Enjoy Free Fishing Days June 5-7

Iowa residents may fish without a license on June 5, 6 and 7 as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources free fishing weekend.

Free fishing weekend is the first weekend in June each year.  It allows Iowans an opportunity to try fishing without purchasing a license.  All other regulations remain in place.

Fishing is an activity that can be done during any stage in life and is a great way to spend time together as a family. “We want people to fish because it is a good, wholesome activity,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau.

DNR staff will be at popular fishing spots across the state to help beginner anglers get started. They will assist with setting up fishing poles and distribute small kits with basic terminal tackle for panfishing along with tips and a few fun items.

“If someone needs a little instruction, there are fun, hands-on fishing clinics available to teach parents or kids the basics of fishing,” said Larscheid.

A list of fishing clinics, derbies, and other fun events co-sponsored by the DNR are available on the special events page.

Anyone catching their first fish is encouraged to take a photo of it and send it in to receive the DNR’s first fish award. The DNR will commemorate the event with a certificate suitable for framing and the submitted photo.

Information on the first fish program is available in the Iowa Fishing Regulations and online at

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Iowa Naturalist Recognized for Fishing Education Efforts

Laura DeCook, naturalist with the Mahaska County Conservation Board is the 2015 recipient of the Brass Bluegill award from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fish Iowa! program. The 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!
DeCook began working with Fish Iowa! almost 20 years ago with the introduction of the national “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” materials. As the At-Risk Coordinator for Southeast Warren Community Schools, she developed a K-12 mentoring program based on fishing that is still active today.
DeCook moved into the County Conservation Board system in 1997 where she continued to be a strong advocate for angling and general aquatic education in Warren, Appanoose, and Mahaska counties. She has conducted fishing classes, camps, and events for thousands of youth, families, women, and persons with disabilities. Her programs have encompassed Fish Iowa! topics and skills ranging from basic spincasting and ice fishing to fly-fishing. She has also been active in recruiting by assisting schools in conducting the Fish Iowa! Games casting contest and currently is serving as an advisor to the national Archery Trade Association in the development of Explore Bowfishing.
DeCook has been a Fish Iowa! trainer since 2002, sharing the educational resources, and her love of fishing, with some 40 other teachers, naturalists, and youth leaders throughout southeastern Iowa.

“Fishing is a lifetime activity.  It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.  Being able to share this activity with others and to spend time with people outdoors is a highlight of my profession.” said DeCook.  When she is not teaching fishing classes she can be found at one of her favorite bow fishing spots or taking her two boys fishing, hunting or to youth sporting activities.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spring Fishing In Full Swing Across Iowa

Spring fishing is often some of the best for the entire year. Water temperature allows for fish to be active during the entire day and many fish are in spawning mode, which usually means they are close to shore and willing to bite..

“Late May and early June is an excellent time to take kids fishing because many species are spawning and do not spook as easily,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau. 

Fish close to structure in the water, like rocks or a pile of brush or gravel to find bluegills or crappies. Bass will be around brush or boat docks or rock piles. The new online fishing atlas contains fish structure locations or you can download structure location maps from the DNR’s Where to Fish website.

“Remember to keep the hooks, bobbers and bait small because panfish have small mouths,” he said. “The biggest problem we see is anglers using too heavy of line, and large bobbers and hooks. Use as light of tackle as you can. I would suggest using four pound line, a bobber the size of a quarter and a size 8 hook.”

“Parents can make the trip more memorable by bringing snacks, taking photos and celebrating each fish as if it were a record breaker. It is up to parents to help pass along this Iowa tradition,” he said.

The Iowa DNR has a first fish program that commemorates a person’s first catch with a certificate suitable for framing.  “We want to celebrate fishing and bring more people to this high quality, family-friendly activity,” Larscheid said. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issues a weekly fishing report each Thursday afternoon at, then click on fishing report in the left column. The website also has places to fish, lake maps and other information to help with success.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 Great Iowa State Parks for Spring Fishing

Spring is a great time to head out fishing, so grab a buddy, call up Dad or Mom, or load the kids into the car and get out there. Plan a day trip or spend the entire weekend at one of Iowa’s great state parks. Enjoy the beautiful weather and “hook” some memories that will last a lifetime.

Geode State Park
Danville, Henry County, southeast Iowa
Lake Geode is well known for excellent fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, bullhead, and red-eared sunfish. The water clarity can be exceptional. Try fishing a wet fly below a very small bobber – the bobber will allow you to cast for distance. Retrieve the bait very slowly. Trails around the lake provide easy access to several picnic areas.

Green Valley Lake State Park
Creston, Union County, southwest Iowa
Green Valley Lake is a popular fishing spot. Bluegills up to 8 inches can be caught near the fishing jetties or along the two fishing piers using small jigs. Fish for crappies along the fishing jetties using jigs. Troll crankbaits along the dam or rocky structure for walleyes. For largemouth bass, use crankbaits along weed lines or plastics fished near cedar tree piles. 

Lake Wapello State Park
Drakesville, Davis County, south central Iowa

Lake Wapello is quickly becoming one of the best largemouth bass fisheries in the state. Bluegill and crappie are abundant and will continue to grow. Seven fishing jetties help you get to the water if you don’t have a boat.

Black Hawk Lake State Park
Lake View, Sac County, northwest Iowa

Black Hawk Lake is a popular fishing destination for anglers of all ages to catch a variety of fish species. Bluegill: Use small black jigs with a small piece of bait; shore anglers should try off the West Stone Pier, the floating dock off Ice House Point, and the state marina; if in a boat, fish over the rock piles and search out nest colonies. Walleye: Cast twisters or fish live minnows under a bobber; shore anglers should fish along the east shore (north of the outlet structure) and along Ice House Point; from a boat, fish the rock piles and steep dredge cuts. Largemouth bass: cast twisters, crankbaits, and other traditional bass baits along the natural shorelines (Cottonwood Point, Ice House Point, Shotgun Hill) and around rock piles. Yellow Perch: Fish with small live minnows or pieces of night crawler. Channel Catfish: During the spawn fish over the rock piles or in tight to shore where there is a lot of rock (e.g., Cottonwood Point); Use cut bait, stink bait, shad guts, or crayfish for bait.

Fayette, Fayette County, northeast Iowa
Volga Lake may be one of the best kept secrets for catfish in northeast Iowa. Try dead cut bait to catch catfish. Cast for crappies and bluegill in shallow water. Use the universally accessible walkway from the ramp to cast to cedar tree fish attractors or fish from two jetties (one accessible). Paddle, wade or fish for smallmouth bass in the Volga River, which flows through the park.
Lake Macbride State Park
Solon, Johnson County, east central Iowa
Lake Macbride has a strong year class of crappies now measuring 7 to 9 inches and growing, a bonanza of 6- to 7-inch bluegill plus a variety of popular fish species including bass, sunfish, walleye, catfish, and muskellunge. There is easy access to limestone shores, numerous fishing jetties and a handicapped accessible fishing pier connected via sidewalk to the parking lot.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iowa Master Angler Award

If you have caught a big fish in Iowa, you could be a Master Angler!

Sponsored by the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Master Angler Award recognizes memorable-sized catches for more than 40 fish species. Those anglers who apply and qualify receive an official certificate and car/boat decal. The rules and qualifying fish species and lengths can be found on the
Master Angler Rules web page.

It's easy to submit an entry -
submit your entry online. You can also download a Master Angler Award Form with award criteria and details on how to apply.

The Master Angler Program presented 304 awards for 28 different species of fish caught in 84 DNR managed lakes during the 2014 fishing season. 


A few notes:
  • The fish can be released and still qualify for an award.
  • A witness must verify fish size; any fish believed to be a new state record must be verified by a DNR Fisheries official.
  • The more fish you catch, the better! Five qualifying fish species over time will earn an angler a silver Master Angler award, and 10 qualifying fish species earns an angler a gold Master Angler Award.
  • Download the Master Angler Award Form to find qualifying lengths and program details.  
Good luck and good fishing!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Great Bets for Fun Family Fishing

If you want to get the family fishing this year, DNR fisheries biologists have all the information you need on where to go, baits to use, what to fish for, and more for quick family angling getaways. Be sure to get your fishing license before you go (kids younger than 16 don't need a license) and if your kiddos make their first catch, be sure to get them a First Fish certificate!

Southwest Iowa
Lake Icaria near Corning is the family spot to catch 8- to 11-inch crappies, bluegills up to 8 inches, walleyes, largemouth bass and channel catfish. Try jigs or minnows around the fishing jetties for springtime panfish. Troll crankbaits along the dam for walleyes, or cast over fish mounds or cedar tree piles with jigs or plastics for largemouth bass. Channel catfish like nightcrawlers along the rocky shoreline, silt dam or fish mounds.

The 648-acre lake is surrounded by a popular, well-maintained park managed by the Adams County Conservation Board (; 641-322-4793). Make it a family overnighter at one of two modern campgrounds, 14 log-style cabins, trails, swimming beach with concessions, volleyball court, playground and picnic areas. A full-service marina rents boats and sells bait and tackle. After fishing, tire out the kids in the 1.25-mile water ski zone.

Green Valley Lake State Park features a recently upgraded campground, three cabins, picnic areas, playground, trails and swimming beach. Ride the 5-mile bike trail into Creston from the park for antique shops and eateries.

Bluegills up to 8 inches are caught near the fishing jetties or along two fishing piers. Use small jigs in the spring. The lake has tons of 13- to 27-inch walleyes and 13- to 17-inch largemouth bass. Crappies range from 9 to 11 inches.Troll crankbaits along the dam or rocky structure for walleyes. For largemouth bass, use crankbaits along weed lines or plastics fished near cedar tree piles.

There are four boat ramps, courtesy docks, a fish cleaning station and a ski zone for recreational boating on the 379-acre lake. 641-782-5131.

Central Iowa
Shoreline access abounds at bluegill-laden Thomas Mitchell Pond south of Mitchellville. Enjoy a quiet family picnic and spend an afternoon fishing at this county park. Use a 1-inch piece of nightcrawler suspended under a small bobber.; 515-967-4889.

Bluegills at Copper Creek Lake in Pleasant Hill are accessible from shore, but kayaks or canoes make fishing even more fun. Go in May to cash in on the spring bite using a small piece of nightcrawler. Bring the kids’ bikes and ride the 1.22 mile trail around the 40-acre lake. 515-262-9368.

Ada Hayden Lake north of Ames is stocked with trout during the cool months and hold over into summer for exciting fishing using a flyrod or typical panfishing methods—a small bobber and small hook tipped with an inch of nightcrawler or prepared bait. A paved trail around the lake is perfect to locate pods of trout near shore. Once found, present bait ahead of the feeding fish. Search Ada Hayden Park at

Trout stocked in fall and winter at Lake Petocka in Bondurant remain into spring. Excellent shore access is especially inviting for flyrodders after trout or bluegill. To baitfish trout, cast a small piece of nightcrawler and a small weight to the bottom and let the fish come to you.

Northwest Iowa

Mill Creek Lake in O’Brien County is on par with many of the better fisheries in the area. The 23-acre lake bursts with largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies and channel catfish. Make a weekend family getaway with the campground, cabins, concession, lodge, swimming, beach, trails and universally accessible fishing platform. 712-295-7200.

Black Hawk Lake State Park. When not fishing, young anglers can burn energy at the new playground in Speaker Park across from the stone piers in Town Bay. With two campgrounds and two hotels in Lake View, lodging is easy. The town holds concerts, weekend festivals aimed at kids and families and other events for fun after fishing. Roam or ride paved trails to other public areas to watch wildlife. 712-657-8712.

Catch walleye from shore on Storm Lake in late April and May. Ample public shoreline makes fishing easy, and playgrounds at city parks are a nice diversion for young anglers. King’s Pointe Resort is on the water and includes waterparks and beach for a ready-made family weekend. Campgrounds and cabins dot the east shore., 866-552-5960; camping at or 712-732-8023.

Yellow Smoke Lake has extremely clear water, big bluegills, bass, ample shoreline access and a well-manicured swimming beach, plus cabins, a campground and playground. Use the bridges and fishing jetties to get over the water without a boat.; 712-263-2748.

Southwest Iowa

Lake Anita State Park is a family fishing destination a few miles south of I-80 in Cass County with modern camping, playground, fishing jetties, picnic shelters, paved bike trail and swimming beach—plus 8-inch bluegills. The best fishing begins late May when bluegills arrive on spawning beds to build disk-shaped nests in 2 to 4 feet of water along protected shorelines. Get your kids to look for open areas in vegetation and cast a small hook with an inch of worm dangling one foot below a quarter-sized bobber. For even faster action, try a 1/32 ounce black feather jig tipped with a piece of nightcrawler.

By early July, bluegills move out, so fish deeper water off the ends of fishing jetties or, better yet, drift fish from a boat. Cap the family fun with a movie and free popcorn in the campground Saturday nights during summer. 712-762-3564.

The Greenfield City Reservoir, just south of Greenfield in Adair County, is a secret family-fun spot that consistently produces fish. Kids can catch ample crappie and bluegills (use small jigs tipped with a piece of worm) plus largemouth bass and channel cats. A city park around the trolling-motor-only lake offers a paved path, playground, picnic shelters and disk golf.

Viking Lake State Park in Montgomery County is a longtime family favorite now made better due to improved water quality, a new restaurant, expanded campground, swimming beach, hiking trails and easy fishing. Photos adorning the park’s bait shop wall confirm the largemouth bass here are lunkers. Kids can catch bluegill and crappies, swim and gobble ice cream at the restaurant—all without leaving the park. Stocked channel catfish is an automatic success, and with Viking Lake’s campground on the water and new fishing jetties, it’s ideal for catfishing. 712-829-2235.

Southeast Iowa
Marr Park near Ainsworth is a premier Washington County recreation area with its 6-acre lake, 1-acre pond, paved lake trail, nature center, campground, volleyball, softball, playgrounds and shelters.

The lake has swarms of 12- to 15-inch largemouth, bluegills up to 8 inches and oodles of 14- to 18-inch channel cats near the dam. The lake has a lot of fish-attracting structure, some visible from the surface. There is a single lane boat ramp and an electric motor-only restriction.

The lake trail connects with one leading to Ainsworth. The pond is on the comeback after it was drained, deepened and a fishing jetty installed. Nearby is a gazebo, new playground and rental lodge.; 319-657-2400.

Wilson Lake Park in Lee County receives fall trout stocking that attracts hordes of anglers, and its pockets of cool water allow trout to grow all summer. “There is a lot of enthusiasm when people see trout in the summer,” says fisheries biologist Chad Dolan. In addition to trout, the 6-acre lake has improving panfish and largemouth bass opportunities. The park caters to families with its trail system, shore access and campground with cabins.; 319-463-7673.

Lake of the Hills in West Lake Park next to I-280 and U.S. 61 in western Davenport is the primary fishing lake in Scott County. The 54-acre lake holds channel catfish up to 20 inches and excellent numbers of largemouth bass. It is stocked with 2,000 trout spring and fall. All the lakes in the park have 6.5 to 7-inch bluegills.

The park’s expansive campground has primitive trails that connect four bluegill-laden lakes. It’s a family fun spot with beach, concession, shelters, playgrounds, children’s forest, universally accessible fishing pier, boat ramp and picnic areas.; 563-328-3281.

Northeast Iowa
George Wyth Memorial State Park is a popular family spot in Waterloo. The 75-acre lake features plentiful shoreline access and sizeable populations of bluegills, crappies, northern pike, catfish and largemouth bass.

Kids love to cast from the floating fishing platform, roam the fishing jetties and burn energy at the swimming beach and playground. Bring your bicycles as the campground connects to the metro’s extensive bike trail system that leads to shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues. 319-232-5505.

Casey Lake in Hickory Hills Park is managed by the Black Hawk County Conservation Board, although it is located in Tama County near LaPorte City. The lake has high catch rates for largemouth bass, bluegills, channel catfish and crappies. Half the lake has easy shore fishing access. Enjoy three fishing jetties and a fishing platform at this 37-acre lake, which is benefiting from watershed work to reduce sediment and improve water quality. After fishing, see wildlife exhibits, including live animals. The park has camping, trails, playground, cabins and boat ramp.; 319-342-3350.

Volga River State Recreation Area. The massive 5,700-acre Volga River State Recreation Area south of West Union is home to Volga Lake. The 135-acre lake is stocked every other year with 9-inch channel catfish. Cast for crappies up to 9 inches and bluegill up to 7 inches, along with numerous 10- to 16-inch channel catfish. Volga Lake sports a boat ramp and paved parking lot for easy watercraft access (boats must operate at no-wake speeds.) Use the universally accessible walkway from the ramp to cast to cedar tree fish attractors, or fish from two jetties, one accessible by walking the face of the dam.

The area features modern and equestrian campgrounds. Enjoy picnic spots and hike miles of multiuse trails. Paddle, wade or fish for smallmouth in the Volga River, which flows through the park. 563-425-4161.

Trout Run flows 2.4 miles along the southeast edge of Decorah and is stocked with 10- to 12-inch rainbow and brook trout weekly April through October, along with annual stockings of fingerling browns, ensuring plenty of fish willing to bite.

Bubbling from a spring near the fish hatchery, Trout Run provides easy angler access with ample parking, modern restrooms and picnic areas. Paved walkways provide universal access on hatchery grounds. Tour the hatchery to view and feed trout, walk through a prairie and glimpse the famous Decorah eagles. The stream is easily accessible by car or from the extensive multiuse trail system. Decorah offers both upscale and kid-friendly lodging, entertainment and dining choices along with museums and boutique shops.;

Lake Meyer offers anglers of all skills fishing opportunities in a relaxed, quiet setting. It has fishing jetties, an accessible fishing dock and shoreline access around the lake. Strategically sunken cedar trees provide fish habitat. Boats can be used, but only with electric motors. Just southwest of Calmar, the 38-acre lake is a paddler’s dream, especially on calm summer days. Haul in bluegills up to 8 inches, crappies up to 10 and largemouth up to 14 with some topping 20 inches. The lake is stocked annually with northern pike and every other year with channel catfish.

The park sits on 162 acres of deep woods and has a restored prairie for birdwatching. The modern campground offers picnic shelters, hiking, a baseball diamond, horseshoe pits, playground and nature center.; 563-534-7145.

Spring Branch Creek ends in Bailey’s Ford Park in Delaware County—a popular trout fishing destination. The stream is stocked twice weekly from April through August with rainbow and brook trout, and once weekly during September and October. Trout are aggressive soon after release, making stocking days popular.

“The stream is pretty small, so no need for any special equipment. It’s primarily shallow with small pools,” says fisheries biologist Dan Kirby. “Fish from shore and use small jigs or small hooks tipped with either a piece of nightcrawler or prepared bait.”

Special regulations apply upstream from Bailey’s Ford Park (14-inch minimum length limit, artificial lures only).Spring Branch Creek has parking, bank hides and stream deflectors and streamside paths.

The county park is home to a popular, modern campground, playground and shelters and a conservation center.; 563-927-3410.


Rathbun Lake. Crappie fishing at Rathbun Lake is tough to beat, with tens of thousands caught annually from this 11,000-acre lake. This spring will produce even more. Fishery surveys suggest crappie numbers are higher now than any time in the last 20 years. Many fish are 7 to 9 inches long, and will continue to grow. There are high numbers of slab crappies exceeding 11 inches, too.

The DNR and Army Corps of Engineers manage eight parks for camping, swimming, fishing and boating, while concessionaires operate two marinas and two more campgrounds.
The DNR’s Honey Creek Resort State Park provides a massive lodge hotel, restaurant, deluxe cabins, indoor waterpark, golf course, miles of trails, marina facilities, swimming beach and other amenities.; 877-677-3344.

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park offers a swimming beach, camping, trails and easy access to the Des Moines River. The 22-acre lake is known for bluegills exceeding 9-inches and for excellent numbers of largemouth. Many channel cats exceed 22 inches. 319-923-3502.

Next door is Lake Sugema, home to some of southern Iowa’s best largemouth bass fishing. The 575-acre lake has excellent fishing for crappies and walleyes, plus muskies over 40 inches. Crappies run 9 to 10 inches and walleyes up to 22. In the spring the dam is one of the best places to fish.; 319-293-3532.

Lake Wapello State Park in Davis County is home to largemouth bass commonly over 18 inches. “If you are looking to catch a big bass, Wapello is one of your best bets,” says fisheries biologist Mark Flammang. Bluegill and crappie are abundant and will continue to grow. Channel catfish up to 8 pounds were recently sampled. Recently remodeled Lake Wapello offers a campground, trails, lodge, playground, swimming beach and cabins. Seven fishing jetties get anglers close to fish. 641-722-3371.

East Central

Kent Park Lake. The 26-acre Kent Park Lake is a longstanding family destination. Home to the Johnson County Conservation Board and its nature center, its paved lake trail provides easy shore access in addition to jetties and a handicap accessible area.

Hook into 6- to 8-inch bluegills, largemouth and channel cat, with an occasional nice-sized crappie. A large population of 12- to 14-inch bass is a hit with kids.The popular beach and concession stand yield family fun after the bobbers are stowed, and the nearby campground and playground provide more family memories.; 319-645-2315.

Lake Macbride State Park. At 940 acres, Lake Macbride in Johnson County has easy access to limestone shores, numerous fishing jetties and a handicapped accessible fishing pier connected last year via sidewalk to the parking lot. Macbride has a strong year class of crappies now measuring 7 to 9 inches and growing, a bonanza of 6- to 7-inch bluegills plus “every other species imaginable,” says fisheries biologist Paul Sleeper.

Convenient fish cleaning stations dot each side of the lake. A concession stand and beach offer fun after fishing. Pedal bike trails and choose between a modern campground away from the lake or a primitive lakeside campground with playground. 319-624-2200.

Diamond Lake. Enjoy recent changes to 100-acre Diamond Lake in the heart of Poweshiek County, including a new and remodeled campground and a hard surface bike trail that connects to Montezuma. The lake is one of the area’s most consistent fisheries with a huge year class of small crappies.
Boats with electric motors are allowed. A convenient fish cleaning station is near the new campground. Select spots allow fishing and beaching of boats at your campsite. Part of the lake protection project added a 3-acre pond in the watershed, popular with anglers.; 641-623-3191.

CentralSmith Lake (Kossuth County). Catch bluegill, largemouth bass, crappie and channel cat on this 59-acre impoundment that features a jetty and six piers or docks and trails for shore fishing. Rent kayaks from Waters Edge Nature Center.; 515-295-2138. The county park has camping with 16 new sites on the north side of the lake, a playground, beach and shelters. A perk for campers is free canoeing on designated weekends. Take a history side trip to a war museum four miles away in Algona where 10,000 German POWs spent WWII.; 515-395-2267.

Pine Lake State Park and the Iowa River (Hardin County). Pine Lake State Park offers fishing in two lakes—the 69-acre upper lake and 50-acre lower lake—plus the adjacent Iowa River. Enjoy fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish. Both lakes have a boat ramp and fishing jetties. The lower lake has a swimming beach and shore trail.
A popular campground on Upper Pine Lake has four restored Depression-era cabins built by the CCC below the spillway near the river. 641-858-5832.
The Iowa River is known for smallmouth bass, walleye and channel catfish, plus inner tube rentals through a private contractor. After fishing, swing some clubs at Pine Lake Country Club, a nine-hole golf course between the lakes.

Beeds Lake State Park in Franklin County and its 100-acre lake offers largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies and channel catfish with a trail for easy access to jetties around the lake. Relax in the large campground with a playground, picnic areas, swimming beach and shelters. A bike trail connects the park to Hampton. Hike below a picturesque, cascading waterfall dam built by the CCC. 641-456-2047.

Mississippi River
Lansing Village Creek-
Pool 9. The Village Creek boat launch and floating fishing platform south of Lansing in Allamakee County is a favorite for boaters and weekend fun seekers. Avoid crowds at the boat ramp by walking the new fishing sidewalk across the bridge on the west side of Highway 76, a half-mile south of Village Creek boat landing. The area is an excellent bluegill and largemouth bass fishery, and catfish anglers have success around the bridge abutments early to late summer.

City of Guttenberg-Pools 10 and 11. Access to Bussey Lake’s floating dock and boat ramp above Lock and Dam 10 provides easy family-fishing. Yellow perch fishing is excellent along vegetation beds, as well as for bluegill, crappie and northern pike. An accessible walkway on South River Park Drive is behind the DNR fisheries station and aquarium. It is a popular fishing venue for children. Anglers catch panfish, bass and drum from the sidewalk. In early spring, catch walleye and sauger moving to the dam to spawn.

The three-lane Guttenberg South ramp provides boat access to Pool 11. Shore anglers can fish up and downstream from the ramp. Walk the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s educational nature trail south of the ramp. In early spring and summer, the rocky shoreline is excellent for bluegill, catfish, drum and large and smallmouth bass. Boaters can access dam tailwaters to fish wing dams for walleye, sauger and catfish. Then moor to a handy floating fish cleaning station.

Massey Marina Area, Pool 12, South of Dubuque; Dubuque County Conservation Board.
Massey Marina and Park offers boating access to Pool 12. The well-lit marina, five miles south of Dubuque off Highway 52 South and the Great River Road, offers seasonal and daily slip rentals, marine fuel and short-term courtesy docks. A concession offers food and drinks, showers and bait. Picnic grounds and campsites include playgrounds. A two-lane boat ramp and daytime parking for vehicles and boat trailers is located at the north side of the park. Shoreline fishing is also available.; 563-556-3416.

Spruce Creek Park,
Pool 12, north of Bellevue; Jackson County Conservation Board.
The 43-acre Spruce Creek Park lies on the banks of the Mississippi River at the mouth of Spruce Creek. It boasts a marina, modern camping, showers, large picnic area, two shelters and playground.; 563-652-3783.

Rock Creek,
Pool 14; Clinton County Conservation Board.
Rock Creek Marina and Campground is on the Mississippi River backwaters near the confluence of the Mississippi and Wapsipinicon rivers. It is site of the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center, home to popular Blue Heron Eco-Cruises.

Enjoy modern and primitive camping, cabin rentals, a camp store, dock rental, boat rentals (flat bottom, canoe, kayak and paddle boats), two boat ramps, bait, hiking, showers, playgrounds, water (camper hookups/adapter) and dump station.Southwest of Camanche on Highway 67, turn south on 291st Street (at Wendling Quarry) and follow the road to the park.; 563-259-1876.

Centennial Park in Davenport has a multi-lane boat ramp, shoreline fishing, picnic and playground areas and river gazebos. Hike or bike the trail through the park. Let the kids cool off in the spray park or heat up in the skateboard park. Even the family pet can have fun in the off-leash dog park. Exercise on the cricket or rugby fields and basketball court.
Catfish and drum are primary targets from shore up to the casino boat. Above the casino in the tailwater of Lock and Dam 15 are white and smallmouth bass, drum, walleye and sauger.

Boat the tailwater and Sylvan Slough for excellent walleye and sauger fishing. After the catch, take the family to a baseball game at nearby Woodmen Field, home of the Quad City Bandits, ride a Ferris wheel, skate an indoor ice rink or hit the farmers market in the stadium parking lot. LeClaire Park has a band shell with events such as Bluesfest, Ribfest and other cultural events.; 563-328-7275.

Muscatine’s Riverside Park features a multi-lane boat ramp, city-owned marina, picnic tables and shelters, walking trail, playground, basketball court and buildings for rent. Fish here for catfish, drum and an occasional walleye, sauger and white bass at the upper end of the park where Mad Creek enters the river. With a boat, access Lock and Dam 16 tailwaters for walleye, sauger and paddlefish snagging in season.
Several backwaters below Muscatine offer bass, bluegill and crappie. The downtown area is just across the tracks from the park and several restaurants and boutique shops are within easy walking distance.

Downtown, visit the Pearl Button Museum (; 563-263-1052) to learn about this early 1900s industry that made buttons from freshwater mussel shells captured along the riverfront.

Burlington’s Riverside Park offers a multi-lane boat ramp, riverfront walking trail, visitor’s center and picnic tables. Fishing is mostly for catfish and drum. The riverfront trail leads from the visitor’s center upstream under the highway 34 bridge past the iconic Big Muddy’s Restaurant (in a former warehouse) to a walkway leading to a concrete piling 75 feet into the river.

With a boat it is an easy run upstream to Lock and Dam 18 for tailwater walleye and sauger, or downstream for backwater fishing in the Burlington Island complex for bass, bluegill, crappie, northern pike and catfish. Soak up some sun by boating over to the sandy beach created by channel dredging.

The visitor’s center features local artist showings, craft festivals and farmers market. Take the family for a spin down steep Snake Alley, a cobblestone street with seven curves on one block.

Venture bluffside to Crapo Park for sweeping river views. One block off the way, tour the boyhood home of Aldo Leopold, father of modern conservation.

Other family oriented areas include Buffalo Shores Park near Buffalo, with boat ramp, camping and swimming beach. Fort Madison River Front Park has a boat ramp, marina, picnic facilities, sand volleyball court, reconstructed fort, flower garden and an old steam engine and railroad museum. Learn more at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tips for Fishing with Kids

A child’s first fishing trip is exciting for both parent and child. A fun experience can lead to future years of fishing enjoyment. Here are some simple tips for taking kids fishing.
  • pack plenty of snacks and cold drinks
  • choose a spot close to home
  • morning trips are best – the fish bite better and kids have more energy
  • make sure there are restrooms near
  • pick a sunny day with moderate temperatures
  • keep the trip short – a couple hours at most
  • leave your fishing rod at home
  • remember you are taking the kids — they aren’t taking you
  • take plenty of breaks from fishing
  • take pictures
  • plan alternate activities to do if the weather turns bad or your child gets bored
  • emphasize that fishing is fun, catching is a bonus
  • have fun!
Fishing Trip Checklist
  • bobbers
  • camera
  • cooler/ice
  • drinks
  • fishing license (all anglers16 years and older)
  • fishing rods, youth
  • first aid kit
  • insect repellent       
  • life jackets
  • snacks
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen     
  • wet wipes
  • worms
Safety Tips
  • Bring a basic first aid kit with sterile bandages, tape, antiseptic, band aids, aspirin, scissors, wire cutters, tweezers, analgesic cream, sunscreen, and insect repellant.
  • A wide brim hat and sunglasses will keep the sun out of your child’s eyes and off his forehead. Avoid fishing in the middle of the day.
  • Life jackets are strongly recommended for children fishing around deep or fast-moving water. Make sure the life jacket fits your child snugly and won’t ride up around their face.