Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Test Your Fish ID Skills

How well do you know your game fish? Being able to properly identify the fish you catch will help you know follow Iowa fishing regulations. Test your fish identifying skills with this simple quiz.

Which is the White Crappie

The easiest way to identify a black and white crappie is the pattern of spots on the side. White crappie have spots arranged in vertical bars; spots on a black crappie have no distinct pattern. Identifying fish solely by color is not always reliable so double check by counting the number of dorsal fin spines. Black crappie have 7-8 dorsal spines while white crappie have 6. 

Can you identify the Smallmouth Bass?

A smallmouth bass has a smaller mouth than the largemouth bass. Hence their common names. Look at the location of the upper jaw and eye. A smallmouth’s upper jaw does NOT extend past the eye. The upper jaw of a largemouth bass extends past the eye. 

Which fish is the Bluegill

Bluegill have an olive green back with sides that are yellow or reddish brown and often have dark vertical bars. A bluegill’s chin and gill cover is blue with a black, flexible tip at the rear of the gill cover. A green sunfish is mostly green with a yellow belly. Its ear flap is black with a white or yellow margin. 

Which one is a Walleye?

A walleye has a white tip on the lower lobe of the caudal fin and no distinct dark bars or mottling on the side.  A sauger has 3-4 dark saddles extending down the side with 2-3 rows of dark circles on the first dorsal fin. 

Can you pick out the Rainbow Trout?

Rainbow trout have a pink horizontal stripe along the side with dark spots. Brook trout have light colored “worm-like” markings on the back and a white line on the front edge of the lower fins. Brown trout have dark brown backs and a greenish yellow belly. The spots on the side of a brown trout are surrounded by a yellow “halo”. 

Which is the Muskellunge?

Muskellunge (or muskie) have an olive to dark gray back with light colored sides. Dark markings on the sides are arranged in vertical bars. Northern pike have irregular rows of light colored spots which are arranged in a horizontal pattern.

Find more information on fish identification and waters where these species are located on our Iowa Fish Species website

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tips for Cooking Fish

Wash cleaned fish thoroughly. If you are not going to cook the fish right away, freeze immediately in a container (milk carton, pop-top plastic container, freezer bag, etc.) filled with water. Thaw fish in the refrigerator or under cold running water. Do not thaw fish more than one day before cooking.

Rinse fresh fish in cold water and pat dry. Make several shallow, diagonal cuts in large fillets to shorten cooking time. Cook refrigerated fish within three days.

There are several ways to cook fish. Fish cooks very fast. When done, it will pull apart and flake. To check if it is done, cut into the thickest part and make sure there is no opaque color or jelly texture left. Do not overcook.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Top Reasons You're Not Catching Fish

Are you struggling to catch fish this summer? Don’t get discouraged – you are not alone. Here are some common reasons why you aren’t catching fish and tips for being more successful.

Fishing too deep
Don’t fish deeper than 10-15 feet in most Iowa Lakes after mid-June. Anglers often fish too deep – below the
thermocline, a natural barrier between warm water in the top of the water column and cold water in the bottom. These warm and cold layers do not mix. Cool water is heavy and sinks to the bottom of the water column. The lack of mixing with surface waters prevents new oxygen from entering this cool water and over time, organisms use up most of the oxygen. By mid-summer, the oxygen levels below the thermocline fall to the point where fish cannot stay for long. Use our handy infographic to know how to fish by depth.

Wrong time of day
Fish bite best in the morning and evening.

Hook too big
Size 6 or 8 hooks are best for panfish.

Bobber too big
Try a 1-inch or smaller bobber to catch panfish.

Fishing in the wrong location
Fish close to structure like brush piles and stumps. Downloadable fishing structure location maps are available on the DNR’s Where to Fish website. Use these maps to pinpoint panfish hotspots.

Retrieving bait too fast
Fish often become lazy and sluggish in the summer heat. Reel in your line a bit slower to make your lure an easier target.

Find a great place to fish close to home on the DNR website along with tips for catching specific fish species this summer. Sign up for our weekly fishing report to find out what’s biting where.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Fishing Tips

Making plans for summer outings with family and friends this summer? Add fishing to your list. Whether it’s part of your camping trip or just a day trip, schedule time to go fishing. Try these simple tips to get you started.
Fish Early and Late
Fish are more active during these times. Avoid the brightest, hottest part of the day - fish move to deep water to cool off. Know when to go and what depth to fish at with our handy summer lake fishing infographic.

Think Small
Use light tackle with small baits to catch panfish.

Match the size of the lure to the size of the prey.
As prey species like gizzard shad grow through the summer, predators become attuned to a certain size prey. Match the size of the lure to the prey to increase your chances of catching a fish.

Keep Your Catch Cold
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.

Stay Comfortable and Safe
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, and of course, your fishing license! Check the weather conditions often.

Use our interactive Fishing Atlas to start planning your summer fishing trip. For summer fishing tips for specific fish species, visit our Howto Fish For website.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Care of Your Catch

Freshly caught fish tastes great if it's cared for properly. Store caught fish in a cooler with ice until you get home. To preserve a fresh taste, clean your fish as soon as possible. Filleting, pan dressing, and skinning are three simple ways to clean your catch.

Filleting Fish
Filleting is a very popular technique for cleaning fish because you don’t need to remove the internal organs, head, or fins. The fillets also are boneless. Filleting is easiest when you use a sharp fillet knife with a thin, flexible blade. Wear a fillet glove on your free hand to prevent serious cuts. (A fillet glove helps deflect an errant knife blade.) You also need a flat, firm surface to work on.

1. Place the blade of the knife just behind the pectoral fin and cut through to the backbone.
2. Turn the knife so the blade is against, and nearly parallel to, the backbone. Hold the fish firmly with one hand and use a sawing motion to cut through the ribs toward the tail. Continue to the base of the tail. (Note: Some anglers fillet the meat around the ribs rather than cutting through them.)
3. Place the knife near the tail end of the fillet with the blade next to the skin. Hold the fish at the base of the tail with your fingertips and work the blade forward between the skin and flesh.

4. Place the edge of the knife blade just under the top of the ribs and slice them out of the fillet. Repeat the procedure on the other side of the fish.

General Fish Filleting (uses a fillet knife) 
General Fish Filleting (uses an electric fillet knife) 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six Iowa Fish that Put Up the Biggest Fight

Looking for a challenge? Try catching one of these fish that are ready to battle.

Smallmouth bass - this aggressive, scrappy-fighting, aerial acrobat is the hardest fighting freshwater fish (pound per pound); found in free-flowing sections of streams and rivers, many anglers need to travel only a short distance for a chance to fish for this fierce fighter.

Bluegillounce to ounce, these quick to bite, slab-sided sunfish are the strongest fighters; they may be small, but they are mighty; they often turn sidewise when you hook them so you are pulling them in with their greatest surface area trying to come sideways through the water.


Flathead Catfish – these "big-water" fish grow to enormous size and put up a powerful fight; you are usually fighting the fish along with the current in a river.
Hybrid striped bass (wiper) a cross between a female striped bass and male white bass, they can attain weights over twenty pounds; these strong swimmers are explosive fighters when hooked.

White bass - these fast growing predators are incredible fighters; they are aggressive strong swimmers abundant throughout the Mississippi River and in the lower reaches of its main tributary streams.
Common Carp – these large minnows often weigh up to 50 pounds or more and put up a long, strong fight when hooked; you are usually fighting the fish along with the current

Find tips for catching these champion fighters on our How to Fish For website. Sign up for the Iowa DNR weekly fishing report to find out what’s biting where.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

State Fish Iowa! Games Target Casting Competition

The State Fish Iowa! Games finals were held June 6 at the Liberty Centre Pond in North Liberty.  Participants competed in one of two classes, Open or Medalist. The Medalist Class was for students who had placed as a medalist in a Fish Iowa! Games casting competition at their school. Over 9,700 Iowa students across the state took part in these competitions. The Open Class was for students who had not competed in a Fish Iowa! Games school casting competition or who participated but did not place first in their class.

All participants received a certificate. Medals were awarded for three age divisions. The first place winner in each division also received a rod and reel.
2015 State Fish Iowa! Games Medalists
Age 8 & Under

Age 8 & younger
Medalist/Open Class
Edward Xu – 1st Place
Damien Maylone – 2nd Place
Liam Strabala– 3rd Place

Age 9-11
Medalist Class
2015 State Fish Iowa! Games Medalists
Age 9-11
Holden Mathis – 1st Place
RJ Francois – 2nd Place
Kairi Griffin – 3rd Place

Open Class
Ben Sirdoreus – 1st Place
Makayla Asche – 2nd Place
Avery Van Abbema – 3rd Place

Age 12 & older
2015 State Fish Iowa! Games Medalists
Age 12 & Older
Medalist Class
Dalton Asche – 1st Place
Joanna Thury – 2nd Place

Fish Iowa! Games
is a casting competition developed by the Iowa Sports Foundation in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The program is a fun competition where students learn to flip, pitch and cast overhand to a target. Participants receive points based on the accuracy of each casting technique. Often, it is taught as part of an introductory fishing unit. For younger students, it may be their first experience with a rod and reel.