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Plenty of opportunities await trout anglers in Iowa:
Schedule time during your next trip to northeast Iowa to visit one of Iowa's three trout hatcheries - Manchester, Decorah, or Big Springs. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.
Get the most out of your trout fishing trip with information about each stream's location, qualities, and other fun facts on the trout streams webpage.
Check out the overview map of all trout streams in Northeast Iowa online, or email the DNR or call the DNR Phone Center at 515-725-8200 to request a printed version. A mobile-friendly version of the trout map is also available.
Buy Your Fishing Licenses Online
Find your favorite trout stream and when it will be stocked with the Trout Stream Stocking Calendar. Call 563-927-5736 for current trout stream or urban stocking information.
Iowa Fishing Regulations
Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Children under 16 may possess or fish for trout without having paid the Trout Fee if they fish with a properly licensed adult who has paid the Trout Fee and together they limit their catch to the one person daily limit of five (5) trout. Children under 16 can buy their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).
Annual Fishing License*
Resident - $19
Nonresident - $41
Resident - $12.50
Nonresident - $15
*Shorter term license options are available - see options on the Fishing Licenses & Laws webpage or page 2 of the Iowa Fishing Regulations.
Season: All waters - Continuous
Length Limits: None, except a 14-inch minimum length limit applies to all trout in Spring Branch Creek (Delaware Co.), from the spring source to County Hwy. D5X as posted, and on brown trout only in portions of Bloody Run Creek (Clayton Co.) where posted.
Daily Bag & Possession: All waters - Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10.
Catch & Release Only Streams: Trout caught from the posted portion of these streams must be released alive immediately:
Artificial Lure Only Streams: Artificial lure means lures that do not contain or have applied to them any natural or human-made substance designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell.
In the posted areas of:
Put-and-Grow Wild Trout Streams
Wild Trout Streams Open to Public Fishing
The Iowa DNR buys land along some streams from willing landowners to provide trout fishing on publicly-owned land with Angler Conservation Easements. Look for the grey “Open for Public Fishing” or white “Public Fishing Only” signs.
Angler Conservation Easements along trout streams provide water resource protection, fish habitat restoration and public fishing. These easements are an important partnership with participating landowners.
Over 10 miles of Northeast Iowa trout streams are conserved by easements. Your cooperation helps protect these “Trout Trails” and allow the public to fish as guests of the landowner.
The stream bottoms of Iowa trout streams are privately-owned except when surrounding lands are publicly-owned. If the stream access does not have a public fishing sign, assume that it is private property. You need permission from the landowner to fish areas that are not posted as open for public access.
Public-owned fishing areas are typically well-marked with green “Public Hunting” or brown “Park” signs.
The past 20 years, northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. Over 75 streams now have some level of natural reproduction and provide anglers with an excellent opportunity to pursue wild trout.
These increases occurred as watersheds were improved, in-stream habitat was installed, improved trout genetics were used, and Iowa had an extended period of above average annual rainfall.
Iowa’s put-and-grow streams are stocked with fingerling brown trout. These streams are entirely on private property - you need permission from the landowner to fish them.
Fingerling trout are also stocked into streams open to public fishing.
Brook Trout from South Pine Creek are the only know population of native Iowa Brook Trout. In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started spawning trout from South Pine Creek to restore populations in other NE Iowa coldwater streams.
Adult Brown Trout from French Creek are spawned and their offspring stocked as fingerlings into coldwater streams with suitable water temperatures and habitat conditions. Several populations of naturally reproducing Brown Trout have been established in northeast Iowa streams using this stocking approach.
Fisheries staff play an active role in trout stream projects to improve and maintain quality water and habitat that benefit both trout and trout anglers. They have worked with 18 landowners to protect over 10 miles of streams in Northeast Iowa with Angler Conservation Easements.
Successful water quality improvement projects are led by groups and communities that partner with the DNR to create and implement long-term plans to improve the land and water. Using conservation practices on the land upstream is key to help stop sediment, nutrients and bacteria from entering into the stream.
Several projects are currently ongoing in Northeast Iowa. The longest running project was implemented in 2000 on the Upper Iowa River. It continues to secure funding for additional tributaries within its watershed and on the immediate corridor.
Watershed improvement projects have helped many trout streams by changing the way water flows through them. Bank stabilization projects occur on public and private owned properties. Cutbanks are stabilized by bank shaping, armoring with rock, seeding, willow stake planting and cedar tree or root-wad revetments.
Landowners who want to improve the habitat in their trout streams should contact the Decorah or Manchester fish management biologist for help with project plans and potential funding sources.
Kids (15 years and younger) have their own trout fishing ponds at Big Spring Hatchery and Bellevue Station. These ponds offer a safe and easy spot for young anglers to learn the basics of fishing, with an excellent chance to reel in their first trout and earn a first fish award. A limited number of fishing poles and basic tackle is available for kids to use.
All kids must be with a properly licensed adult (fishing license + trout privilege). There is a 2 trout limit per day, which includes trout caught and released. Artificial tackle is recommended for kids planning to catch and release fish.
Catch and release fish
Urban trout stockings offer a "close to home" option for anglers in cities and towns across Iowa who might not normally travel to northeast Iowa to discover trout fishing. These cool weather stockings, held each October through April, are a great place to take kids to catch their first fish.
Contact our partners listed below for more information about each Family Fishing Event.