When 8-year-old Cyle Hawkins, of Toddville, went fishing with his dad, the thought of coming home with a new state record redear sunfish was probably not on the top of his mind.
Cal Hawkins took his son to a private lake near Belle Plaine last month when the younger Hawkins landed an 11.5-inch redear sunfish, which also happened to be the first fish for this budding angler. That one trip earned Cyle a First Fish award
, a Master Angler award
and he is in the running for a state record
for the new category of redear sunfish.
This is the first year for two new awards from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, celebrating an angler’s first fish and big fish.
The First Fish award recognizes novice anglers regardless of age with their photo on a certificate commemorating the accomplishment.
The Master Angler award recognizes anglers who catch a memorable fish in Iowa that meets minimum length criteria with a certificate and photo, if submitted, and a decal for their boat or vehicle.
There are 41 species eligible for Master Angler awards including nine new species available for a state record. In addition to redear sunfish, other new species include pumpkinseed sunfish, warmouth sunfish, common carp, blue sucker, white or spotted sucker, northern hog sucker, carpsucker and redhorse sucker.
Anglers who catch five different Master Angler qualifying species will earn a Silver Master Angler award which includes a silver medallion. Anglers who catch 10 different Master Angler qualifying species will earn a Gold Master Angler award which includes a gold medallion.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in this program and it will be fun to see who earns the first gold master angler award and what species they catch and where to earn it,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of Fisheries for the Iowa DNR.
The program began on January 1 and so far, 106 certificates for First Fish and 206 Master Angler awards have been issued.
Larscheid said anglers looking to join the quest for the gold have a number of opportunities to land qualifying fish. He asked his staff across the state to put together a list of locations where their data shows Master Angler level fish are, and based on their experience, how to catch them during the heat of July.
Largemouth Bass (22 inches to qualify)
- Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – use top-water baits close to shore or in shallow water.
- Lake Geode, Henry County – use top-water baits in the upper arm and back of coves or crankbaits along the dam and weed lines.
- Farm Ponds – about any bass bait will work. A rubber worm with little weight fished slowly along weed lines are especially effective. Make sure to get landowner permission before entering.
- Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – use crankbaits along jetty, dam and shoreline riprap. Frog imitation baits fished in and among vegetation is effective.
- Diamond Lake, Poweshiek County – use crankbaits or top-waters around brush piles, or rubber worms tossed into structure.
- Three Mile Lake, Union County – use a weedless spinner, crawler or jig through the flooded trees.
- West Lake Osceola, Clarke County - use a weedless spinner, crawler or jig through the flooded trees.
Channel Catfish (30 inches to qualify)
Sunfish (Bluegills, 10 inches to qualify)
- Lake Geode, Henry County – fish in shallow water in the morning or evening using chicken liver under a bobber. Structure also holds fish and drainage areas after a significant rain should be targeted.
- Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – fish the jetties, fish habitat sites and upper end of the lake after a heavy rain. Use a bobber in the timber and jetties.
- Lake of the Hills, Scott County – use shad guts under a bobber to keep the bait above the thermocline.
- Crawford Pond, Washington County – fish the eastern shoreline and the weed line.
- Mississippi River Pool 19, Burlington to Keokuk – fish the Burlington Island complex of cuts and side channels, Montrose riprap banks and mouths of small creeks.
- Pleasant Creek Lake, Linn County – use cut bait throughout the lake.
- Three Mile Lake, Union County – use sunfish or cut bait fished near the bottom during twilight or during the dark, in less than eight feet of water during the hottest of July and August.
- West Lake Osceola, Clarke County - use sunfish or cut bait fished near the bottom during twilight or during the dark, in less than eight feet of water during the hottest of July and August.
- Silver Lake, Dickinson County – fish in the evening or after dark with cut bait on the bottom near downed trees.
- Lake Belva Deer, Keokuk County – drift fish with typical bluegill baits above the thermocline. Target the contour of the creek beds.
- Lake Geode, Henry County – drift fish and vertical jig the drop-offs. Use dark colored baits when the water is clear or bright colored baits if the water is stained.
- Farm Ponds – use typical bluegill baits and target weedy or woody habitat. Often a worm and a bobber works best.
- White Oak and Shagbark ponds, Shimek State Forest, Lee County – use any bluegill baits around structure.
- Lake Sugema, Van Buren County – move often and target timber areas as well as underwater structure, and drift fishing.
- Briggs Woods Lake, Hamilton County – use a piece of night crawler on a number 8 hook and fish along the weed line.
- Yellow Smoke Lake, Crawford County – use a 1/32 ounce to 1/64 ounce black hair jig tipped with a wax worm and fish near submerged trees or just above the thermocline.
- West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – vertical jig with a number 8 hook and split shot over deep rock piles with a leech or crayfish.
Sunfish (Redear, 11 inches to qualify)
Sunfish (Warmouth, 7 inches to qualify)
- Lake Anita, Cass County – redear are snail eaters so look for submerged vegetation and use a 1/32 ounce or 1/64 ounce black feather jig.
Sunfish (Pumpkinseed, 9 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River – fish the backwaters and around wing dams and closing structures, riprap and other rocky habitat.
- Conklin Fish Farm, Cass County – make sure to check closely because warmouth look similar to green sunfish.
Smallmouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River Lower Pool 11 – use light tackle tipped with a wax worm or piece of garden worm fished along the edge of weed beds or woody debris.
- Wapsipinicon River, Linn and Jones County – use crankbaits, spinners, twister tails or live crawfish below low head dams through the fall.
- Des Moines River, Polk County – fish eddies, woody debris and deep holes from Birdland Marina to Saylorville, with jigs, crankbaits and spinners.
- West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – fish deep rock piles with a live bait rig with either chubs or crayfish.
White Bass (17 inches to qualify)
Wipers (24 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River Pool 19 - in the late summer white bass like open water and Lake Cooper offers excellent fishing.
- Pleasant Creek, Linn County – use top-water or subsurface lures and look for jumping shad and fishing seagulls.
- Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – use shad colored crankbaits trolled or cast along rocky shorelines, from the Mehaffey Bridge to the dam is best.
- Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – use a top–water lure at inlet areas, like the footbridge, in early morning or at sunset. Watch the surface for activity.
Brook Trout (15 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River Lock and Dam 15 in Sylvan Slough and below Lock and Dam 19 are the top places to catch wipers, but they can be caught below most of the lock and dams.
- Lake Macbride, Johnson County – use top-water and subsurface baits or troll shad colored crankbaits.
- Saylorville Reservoir, Polk County – troll large crankbaits under schools of gizzard shad or fish below the Saylorville spillway.
- Three Mile Lake, Union County – use a small crankbait or medium sized spinner near rocky or gravel areas at twilight. Any shoreline could hold fish, but the dam and east shore near the dam are the most popular.
- Lake Manawa, Pottawattamie County – fish the east shore around boat docks near inflow tube using twister tails and crankbaits.
Rainbow Trout (18 inches to qualify)
- Trout River and Trout Run, Winneshiek County – use a variety of live bait and artificial lures.
- All catchable stocked trout streams receive an equal number of brood stock rainbow trout. A variety of live bait and artificial lures will work.
Brown Trout (18 inches to qualify)
- Spring Branch Creek, Ensign Hollow and the Upper Maquoketa River – fish the bank hides or large downed trees.
- The Catch and Release areas on French Creek and the downstream portion of Waterloo Creek are restricted to artificial lures only and fish must be released. A photo and witnessed length are necessary for an award. Midsummer has abundant hatches of aquatic and terrestrial insects and water levels tend to be stable.
Flathead Catfish (35 inches to qualify)
Crappie (15 inches to qualify)
- Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – fish with live bullheads, green sunfish or chubs on the flats.
- Mississippi River Pool 16 and 18 – fish in the area where rivers drain into the Mississippi with a variety of live baits.
- Des Moines River, Central Iowa – use ditty poles with green sunfish, bullheads or large bait.
- Larger Southwest Iowa Rivers – fish areas just upstream from log jams or fallen trees with live sunfish or bullheads during the evening and after dark.
Walleye (28 inches to qualify)
- Lake Rathbun, Appanoose County – target submerged timber and other woody structure with a jig and minnow combo fished vertically or with a slow retrieve.
- Lake Macbride, Johnson County – drift fish with a jig, a minnow or a jig and minnow under a bobber.
Yellow Perch (12 inches to qualify)
- Lake Rathbun, Appanoose County – fish submerged points and humps, troll crankbaits or drift fish live baits.
- Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – troll crankbaits over the artificial weed beds on the north shore.
- Storm Lake, Buena Vista County – troll crankbaits, Lindy rigs or 1/4 ounce jigs with a twister tail around the dredge cuts or rock piles.
- North Raccoon River, Sac, Carroll and Green counties – cast 1/4 ounce jigs tipped with a 3-inch fire tiger colored twister in eddies, current seams and scour holes.
- Mississippi River Pools 9 to 13 – fish the vegetation in backwaters with a minnow under a bobber or switch to a crawler long the lower portions of wing dams.
Muskellunge (45 inches to qualify)
Northern Pike (35 inches to qualify)
- Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – troll rock reefs or cast docks with muskie sized crankbaits.
- Brushy Creek Lake, Webster County – cast near any rock piles, weed lines, jetties, dam face with bucktails, crankbaits or top-water lures.
- Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – cast weed lines with large in-line spinners.
Freshwater Drum (25 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River - target where tributaries enter the Mississippi River where pike will take refuge in the cooler water. Use medium to heavy weight gear and live bait with a steel leader or daredevil spoons.
Yellow Bass (10 inches to qualify)
- Mississippi River – fish the lock and dam tail waters and immediately below wing dams. Drum prefer quiet water and rocky areas. Use live crayfish. Drum will hit twice – the first strike kills the crayfish, the second they swallow it.
- Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – drift fish a life bait rig tipped with a crayfish, minnow or nightcrawler in 20 to 22 feet of water.
Rock Bass (8 inches to qualify)
- Clear Lake, Cerro Gordo County – vertical jig or drift with a small jig tipped with a piece of night crawler or cut bait near the reefs, artificial weed beds or dredge cuts.
- Arrowhead Lake, Sac County – drift the length of the lake with a small, brightly colored jig tipped with a small piece of bait.
- East Okoboji Lake, Dickinson – cast 1/32 ounce hair jigs tipped with a piece of night crawler at any of the bridges.
- Turkey River, Howard and Fayette County – fish deeper water in rocky areas when the water is clear and stable with live bait or minnow imitating lures.
- Cedar River, Mitchell and Floyd County – fish deeper water in rocky areas when the water is clear and stable with live bait or minnow imitating lures.
Bullheads (15 inches to qualify)
Common Carp (32 inches to qualify)
- Lake Anita, Cass County – use a nightcrawler on the bottom.
- Twelve Mile Lake, Union County – use night crawlers or a small chunk of liver on the bottom in three to five feet of water. Avoid areas with a lot of rooted vegetation.
- Three Mile Lake, Union County – use nightcrawlers or dough balls on the bottom in two to six feet of water at the upper end of the lake. Carp are most active during the evening and twilight hours.
- Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – bow fishing and fishing in the upper ends of the reservoir above I-380
- Pollmiller Lake, Lee County – fish worms or prepared carp baits.