On a recent trip to his rural Louisa County home, DJ Vogeler was discussing the new master angler program with his father who is a passionate angler. The discussion led to the trip to a nearby farm pond and a short time later, the elder Vogeler had his first entry into the new program - a bluegill.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources established the master angler program to promote fishing in Iowa. The program replaces the big fish award with three levels of recognition.
Anglers who catch one fish meeting the minimum length criteria are awarded a certificate and a boat or car decal with the master angler logo. Anglers who catch five different species are recognized with a silver level master angler medallion, in addition to the certificate and decal. Anglers who catch 10 different species are recognized with the gold medallion in addition to the silver medallion, certificate and decal.
"Fishing stories are usually about the one that got away," said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa DNR. "This new program celebrates the one that didn't get away. It's about bragging rights and competition among friends, each with their own plan on how they are going to get the gold."
Vogeler, who is a fisheries technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at the Onawa office, has been fishing over much of the state as he gets transferred between offices.
Based on his experiences, Vogeler offered his roadmap if he were to go for the master angler gold medallion in one year.
"First, anglers need to be realistic and look for which fish is more attainable based on where they live," Vogeler said. "It's going to take some perseverance, but the main factors for catching really big fish are luck and timing."
This list is Vogeler's idea of how to catch 10 different qualifying fish species in one year and other anglers will have their own ideas for locations, timing and species.
In late April and early May, a trip to the Upper Iowa River for white suckers [18-inch minimum] and large brown trout [18-inch minimum].
May, target crappies [15-inch minimum] in well managed farm ponds, Lake Red Rock or Lake Rathbun.
In late May and early June, it's bluegills [10-inch minimum] in farm ponds, Twelve Mile Lake and Lake Ahquabi
Largemouth bass [22-inch minimum] Farm ponds, Three Mile Lake: fish midday in the spring, then first light or at night during the summer. Use crankbaits, soft plastic salamanders or worms, and top water lures.
White bass [17-inch minimum] Big Sprit Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Mississippi River, Red Rock, Saylorville, in August, fish early morning or sunset, use top water lures and watch for bait fish busting surface and match the lure to what they are chasing.
Smallmouth bass [20-inch minimum] Skunk River near Ames, Spirit Lake, Upper Iowa River and Pool 9 Mississippi River, use inline spinners, soft plastics, crawdads, leeches or crankbaits.
Northern pike [35-inch minimum] Mississippi River near Guttenberg, Wapsipinicon River around Oelwein, Spirit Lake and, in a few years Diamond Lake, in Dickinson County, use large twisters, spoons and crankbaits.
Muskellunge [45-inch minimum] Pleasant Creek Lake in May, West Okoboji Lake in August, and Three Mile Lake: large inline spinners or soft plastics at the old roadbed and face of the dam at Pleasant Creek; any of the drop-offs with good weeds at West Okoboji.
Channel catfish [30-inch minimum] Saylorville, Rathbun, Red Rock, Coralville reservoirs and the Des Moines, Iowa and Cedar rivers: use live bait for larger channel catfish.
Flathead catfish [35-inch minimum] Missouri, Mississippi, Des Moines, Iowa, Cedar and Skunk rivers and Saylorville, Rathbun, Red Rock and Coralville reservoirs: look for deep water holes with large trees or brush piles, rip rap along the dam or any big crevice or hole and use live bullheads, bluegills, green sunfish or chubs.
Dogfish [26-inch minimum] the backwaters or slow moving water in the Mississippi River: often caught while fishing for bass on a spinner or crankbait.
Yellow bass [10-inch minimum] East Okoboji Lake, Clear Lake: May fishing is prime time, use small jigs tipped with a night crawler, minnow or piece of cut bait.
Bullheads [15-inch minimum] Farm ponds, and possibly Twelve Mile Lake and Spirit Lake - April and May use night crawlers on the bottom.
Pumpkinseed [9-inch minimum] Willow Creek Lake in Osceola County: use small baits or jigs similar to bluegills.
Redear [11-inch minimum] Belva Deer, Lake Geode, Pollmiller and in Shimek State Forest by Donnellson, White Oak Lake and Shagbark Lake: use black colored hair or tube jigs.
Yellow perch [12-inch minimum] Mississippi River near Guttenberg, Spirit Lake in the fall and winter use minnows.
Walleye [28-inch minimum] Mississippi River, Maquoketa, Cedar, Turkey and Des Moines rivers, and Rathbun, Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and Silver Lake at Lake Park: use twisters, larger minnows, jigs or crankbaits in the early spring or late winter.
Paddlefish [40-inch minimum] Mississippi River and Des Moines River near Bonaparte: snagging season is open March 1 - April 15. Other rules apply.
Shovelnose sturgeon [26-inch minimum] Cedar River near Palasades-Kepler State Park: use night crawlers on the bottom.