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Spend a winter day ice fishing

Ice fishing has a passionate following across Iowa. Get a group of friends and/or family together, bundle up and go ice fishing this winter.

Check the weekly DNR fishing report (www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing-Reports) for ice conditions across the state before going out. Smaller bodies of water usually freeze faster and thicker than larger lakes or river backwaters, which often have a warmer current moving through.

At a minimum, four inches of clear blue ice is recommended for fishing. Be especially careful on ice around submerged trees and emergent vegetation, this ice tends to be weaker. If the ice does not look right, find a different spot.

“Most Iowa lakes are full of bluegills, which are the easiest and most often caught during the winter,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Start with a number 8 hook or a tear drop and tip it with a waxworm. Drop the baited hook to the bottom of the lake, then lift it back up about a foot.

Lakes in northern Iowa will have yellow perch and walleye in addition to bluegills.  In the south, crappies join bluegills.  “You catch an occasional catfish, northern pike, largemouth bass, and other species, but not as consistently,” Larscheid said.

Use the DNR's online maps of the lake you are going to fish to find edges of creek channels, fish mounds, brush piles and rock piles that likely hold fish. Printable maps and the online Fishing Atlas are available on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing-Maps.

“You can position yourself right over the habitat, place your bait and lure it front of the fish and can catch a lot of fish per trip,” said Larscheid. 

Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake. Drill test holes near shore and periodically as you move to measure the thickness and quality of the ice. Don’t go out alone and always let someone else know where you will be and when you expect to return home.

New to ice fishing and need a little help to get started? Learn the basics at a free clinic scheduled across Iowa this winter. Check the DNR fishing calendar atwww.iowadnr.gov/fishing to find an ice fishing clinic near you.

Find more ice fishing tips on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/icefishing.

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