If you have caught a big fish in Iowa, you could be a Master Angler!
Sponsored by the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Master Angler Award recognizes memorable-sized catches for more than 40 fish species. Those anglers who apply and qualify receive an official certificate and car/boat decal. The rules and qualifying fish species and lengths can be found on the Master Angler Rules page.
It's easy to submit an entry - submit your entry online. You can also download a Master Angler Award Form with award criteria and details on how to apply.
The Master Angler program was a huge success in 2011, its first year. The list of 2011 Master Angler award winners is now available.
A few notes:
- The fish can be released and still qualify for an award.
- A witness must verify fish size; any fish believed to be a new state record must be verified by a DNR Fisheries official.
- The more fish you catch, the better! Five qualifying fish species over time will earn an angler a silver Master Angler award, and 10 qualifying fish species earns an angler a gold Master Angler Award.
- Download the Master Angler Award Form to find qualifying lengths and program details.
Good luck and good fishing!
Potential Master Angler Hotspots!
Largemouth Bass (20 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)
- 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.
Sunfish (Bluegills, 10 inches to qualify)
- 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)
- 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.
- Lake Ahquabi, Warren County - fish near the bottom in open pockets of the dense submerged vegetation, using 1/32 ounce or 1/64 ounce black feather jig.
Sunfish (Warmouth, 7 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.
Sunfish (Pumpkinseed, 9 inches to qualify)
Smallmouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)
- 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)
- Mississippi River Pool 19 - in the late summer white bass like open water and Lake Cooper offers excellent fishing.
- Pleasant Creek Lake, 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.
Hybrid Striped Bass (Palmetto Bass) (24 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.
Brook Trout (15 inches to qualify)
- Trout River and Trout Run, Winneshiek County – use a variety of live bait and artificial lures.
Rainbow Trout (18 inches to qualify)
- 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)
- 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.
Black Crappie and White Crappie (14 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.
Walleye (26 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.
Yellow Perch (12 inches to qualify)
- 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)
- 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.
Northern Pike (35 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.
Freshwater Drum (25 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.
Yellow Bass (10 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.
Rock Bass (8 inches to qualify)
- 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)
- 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.
Common Carp (32 inches to qualify)
- 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.