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Summer tips to land Iowa’s big fish

Iowa anglers have lots of opportunities to earn a Master Angler award this Labor Day weekend. Finding places that have big fish is key to catching big fish.

Quickly find the best spots to catch qualifying size fish with the electronic map on the Master Angler website (https://programs.iowadnr.gov/masterangler/). Click on "Map" above the photos or search for local hotspots by species or location.

Try these tips from DNR fisheries biologists to catch large bluegill, bass and catfish during the summer heat (early morning and sunset are best).

Bluegills (10 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – drift or cast small jigs (1/32nd oz.) tipped with a 1-inch piece of worm 6-to 8-feet down around weed edges and deep structure; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – jig live bait (small crayfish, Belgium worms, piece of night crawler or leech) with a split shot 8-10 inches above the hook in shallow areas around weed lines.
  • Yellow Smoke Park Lake, Crawford County – look for bluegills in 5- to 10-feet of water near the arm north of the swim beach, the flooded timber near the southwest shoreline, and the coves on the south shore; use a 1/32 ounce to 1/64 ounce black hair jig tipped with a waxworm.

Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

  • Brushy Creek Lake, Webster County – throw topwater lures, weedless baits, spinners and plastic worms along weed lines, near cover and wood structure.
  • 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; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – try spinnerbaits or crawdad imitating baits along the shorelines, among vegetation and around the jetties.

Channel Catfish (30 inches to qualify)

  • Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock), Polk and Marion counties – use stink baits and cut baits.
  • Farm Ponds – try cut bait or prepared baits around structure and vegetation edge; make sure you get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – drift cut creek chubs or shad above the mile long bridge in 6-12 feet of water.

The Master Angler program celebrates angler success for catching quality sized fish. Master anglers can track the number of species they submit and see where they “rank” among fellow master anglers.

The list of eligible fish species, complete rules and registration form is available in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or online at fishing.iowadnr.gov

 

Steps to submit a state record fish entry

If you believe you have caught an all-time state record fish in Iowa, follow these steps.

  • Look up the size of the current state record in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or on the DNR webpage to see if your fish is larger than the current record. Your fish must weigh one ounce or more than the current state record fish.
  • Weigh your fish on a scale certified for trade (like at a grocery store, meat locker and some bait shops), preferably while it is still alive. The fish will start to lose weight the longer you keep it.  The DNR will not accept the weight of a frozen fish.  If you need to freeze the fish before you can get it weighed, you must thaw it out before you weigh it. The fish will be lighter after it is frozen and then thawed. A witness must attest to the weight of the fish to the nearest ounce.
  • Contact your local conservation officer or fisheries biologist. The fisheries biologist must examine and verify the fish.  If you cannot reach the biologist, the conservation officer will contact someone who can help. Contact information for the local conservation officers and fisheries biologist is listed on the DNR’s webpage.
  • Submit your record fish online through the Master Angler system.

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