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Master Angler Website Adds New Tools to Find Big Fish

Recent additions to the master angler program website at https://programs.iowadnr.gov/masterangler/ will help Iowa anglers quickly find the best spots to catch qualifying size fish. Pinpoint where master angler fish have been caught across the state on the new electronic map or search for hotspots by species or location.

The master angler program celebrates angler success at catching a quality sized fish by awarding a vehicle or boat decal and certificate for each fish species caught that meets program criteria. Anglers who submit an entry can now choose to print their own certificate from an electronic file posted online or request a printed certificate. Once an entry has been approved, the picture of the fish (if included), along with the certificate will be available online for family and friends to admire.

“Spring offers some of the best fishing of all year,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Fisheries Bureau. Crappies, yellow bass, and bluegill move close to shore and are willing to bite.

Look for big black and white crappies around rocks or trees in Coralville Reservoir, Red Rock Reservoir, Lake Macbride, Big Creek Lake and farm ponds. Master angler black crappies can also be found at Lower Pine Lake, Crawford Creek Impoundment, Bussey Lake and Kent Park Lake. Try Saylorville Reservoir, Rathbun Reservoir, Desoto Bend at Desoto National Wildlife Refuge, and Mississippi River Pool 10 for qualifying size white crappie. Use a 1/64-ounce or 1/32-ounce jig with or without a minnow or a small hook (size no. 4, 6 or 8) tipped with a minnow and a light split shot placed about a foot above the hook.

Master angler yellow bass can be found around brush, boat docks or rock piles in West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Clear Lake, Minnewashta Lake, Arrowhead Lake, Lost Island Lake and Beeds Lake. Download structure location maps from the DNR’s Where to Fish website to quickly find the best spot to cast your line. Minnows are the best bait to catch yellow bass in the spring. Keep the bait within six inches of the bottom.

Use light-weight line (4-pound) and small hooks (sizes 6 or 8) to catch spring bluegills. Find master angler qualifying fish in farm ponds, West Okoboji Lake, Big Spirit Lake, Twelve Mile Creek Lake, Lake Ahquabi, East Okoboji Lake, Farm Creek Lake, Lake Anita and Albia Lower Reservoir.

The master angler program has three award levels: anglers who submit one qualifying fish earn a master angler award; those submitting five different fish species earn a silver master award; and anyone submitting 10 different qualifying fish will earn gold master angler status.

A new ranking feature lets master anglers track the number or species they have submitted and see where they “rank” among fellow master anglers. A species specialist award has been added to track a master angler’s progress towards catching five of each eligible species. If you find an error in your individual records or if information is missing, contact fish.awards@dnr.iowa.gov

“I can see these new search options creating some friendly competition among participating anglers,” Larscheid said. “Who has more species that qualify, who was first to reach the silver level, the gold level, or are on top of the specialist award list.”

A list of the 41 different fish species eligible for master angler awards can be found in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or online at fishing.iowadnr.gov. All current state record fish have been reviewed and added to the master angler system. This review of state records unveiled a discrepancy with grass carp and common carp records, so the common carp record was vacated and is currently open. Pumpkinseed and silver carp state records remain vacant since those categories were opened in 2013.

            To submit a fish to the master angler program, measure the fish from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail. For paddlefish, measure the fish from the front of the eye to the unaltered fork in the tail. Measure a shovelnose sturgeon from the snout to the fork in the tail. One witness must attest to the length of fish to the nearest 1/4 inch.

Rules and registration forms for the master angler program are available in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or online at fishing.iowadnr.gov.

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