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Trout Fishing Under a Canopy of Fall Colors

DECORAH – Fishing Iowa’s trout streams this fall is a unique way to enjoy the cool weather and marvel at the amazing colors of fall and Iowa’s prize trout. Male brown and brook trout will display their brightest, most vibrant colors this time of year.

Northeast Iowa is dotted with hundreds of miles of trout streams. Stocked and naturally occurring trout can be found in the breathtaking forests and streams of this part of the state. Last year, nearly 39,000 Iowans and over 4,300 nonresidents spent over 430,000 days trout fishing.

Iowa’s trout season is open all year. Iowa’s trout streams are too. There are about 105 coldwater trout streams in 10 northeast Iowa counties. More than 40 trout streams have consistently naturally reproducing brown trout and natural reproduction is occurring, but not consistently in another 30 streams. These streams have a lot of wild fish available for anglers to test their skills.

Some streams are stocked with 10-12 inch trout weekly through October, so plenty of fish are available. The October stockings are unannounced. A list of stocked streams is available the DNR trout map or trout stream webpage. Wander downstream of the areas that are stocked and you will find wilder fish and fewer anglers.

Mike Steuck, Iowa DNR fisheries supervisor for interior streams recommends Twin Bridges and the Upper Maquoketa in the southern area and Sny Magill and Trout Run downstream of the Decorah Hatchery in the northern area as great places to try trout fishing this fall.

Trout are beginning their spawning rituals. They are trying to bulk up for winter and seem to be always hungry.  In October and November, brown and brook trout lay their eggs in nests called redds, areas of cleaned gravel on the stream bottom. The eggs will remain in the redds until they hatch in the late winter or early spring. Be careful where you walk to avoid stepping in or directly above these nests.

Fish overcast and gray days when using spin fishing gear. Trout seem to be less wary of lures at this time. If fly fishing, target midday on sunny and bright days. In cooler fall temperatures, bright warm days can stimulate an insect hatch. Dry flies can still be productive, but the insect hatches become more sporadic and less intense than in the summer. 

Early fall is grasshopper time. They can be gathered in the cool of the early morning and are especially good for brown trout. Imitation grasshoppers also work well along with night crawlers, particularly following light rainfall.

“Brown trout are wary, be as quiet and concealed as you can,” said Steuck. “If you can see them, they have already seen you and probably will not bite.”

Learn to “read” a stream, to identify habitats that offer food and cover. Trout are not randomly scattered in a stream. They locate themselves along the edge of the current flow near protective cover. The stream current carries food to the trout while it waits.

Anglers need to have a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout.  The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.

More trout fishing information is available on the Iowa DNR’s website: