Quick and easy access to recreational privileges in Iowa, including hunting, fishing, and specialty licenses:
Purchase Your Licenses Online
Iowa's natural resources plates include the state bird and flower, pheasant, eagle, buck and a Brook trout. Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
Natural Resource Plates
Experience Iowa's natural beauty and all the fun our state parks offer. Make your online reservation for state park cabins, camping sites, shelters and lodges.
Support conservation in Iowa by buying a natural resource plate for your vehicle.
Natural Resource Plates
Iowa DNR Customer Service
Mon - Fri, 8:00am - 4:30pm CST
Submit Online Inquiry
Information / Records Requests
Contact Information by County
An Iowa pond is the perfect spot for many fun outdoor activities, such as swimming, fishing, hunting, trapping, camping and picnicking. Many Iowans’ first fishing experience was at one of our 110,000 ponds. Anglers enjoy 1.6 million fishing trips each year to Iowa ponds with a local economic impact estimated at $7.5 million.
Iowa's ponds reflect the fertility of its agricultural land. A pond in Iowa will support more fish than ponds in most other states. This high fertility provides excellent fishing opportunities, but can also create vegetation issues in ponds. A pond plant identification guide can help you identify the plants growing in your pond so you can correctly manage them. Find more information on the aquatic plants in ponds webpage or download the printable stocking and managing Iowa ponds handout.
Life in a pond is a complex system with the many life forms dependent on each other. Small single and multicellular plants called plankton live in ponds. These microscopic plankton are eaten by animal plankton as well as some crustaceans, insects and tadpoles living in the pond. Small fish, crayfish and frogs eat the animal plankton, crustaceans and insects and are then eaten by larger fish. Bluegills, although they may grow to nine inches and over, eat mostly animal plankton and insects throughout their lives, while bass eat plankton and insects only during their early stages. As bass get larger, they become the major predator in a pond eating fish, crayfish and frogs. Each link in this web of life is needed to survive. Man, actively looking for and eating fish caught from the pond, forms the final link in the chain. Proper management of the pond and its surroundings is important to keep the pond healthy.
Many ponds are well protected with good sod growth. When sod establishment is not sufficient, place football sized stones or pieces of broken concrete along the dam or the affected area several feet above and below the water level. This will effectively protect the area. You can also stack and anchor logs along the eroded area several feet out in the water to absorb the energy of waves and prevent erosion. Pond edge plants like cattails and bulrushes can be planted behind the breakwater to create a stable shoreline. See the Aquatic Plants in Ponds webpage for more information.
These water-loving animals will find a way into your pond. Turtles and muskrats will eat pond plants. Their burrows only cause damage if there are too many along the dam. To prevent this, don’t let a thick stand of cattails or other tall plant become established on the dam and attract these burrowing animals. Allowing trapping in your pond can help to control the number of muskrats. A common misconception is that snapping turtles will eat so many fish that their numbers will drop. They eat both dead and live fish, but the fish they catch are small and abundant.
Use proper dam construction
techniques and don’t build a pond in an area with exposed limestone or
permeable soils. Pond dams with a well compacted clay core tied into existing
clay substrate rarely leak if burrowing animals are not allowed to penetrate
the core. Repair of a leaky dam or pond bottom is often difficult,
expensive and requires draining the pond. A blanket of clay taken nearby or the
addition of bentonite to the bottom can seal leaks.
This is anything that causes the soil of the dam to erode and let the water in the pond escape. Anti-seep collars placed along the length of the mechanical spillway will stop water from following the tube, creating a cavity through the dam and causing it to washout. An emergency spillway that is too small for the flood water going over it will also quickly cause the dam to washout. The emergency spillway should be built on undisturbed soil. Do not extend the mechanical spillway with any type of riser pipe to increase the area of the pond. This will raise the high water line on the dam which could lead to water going over the dam during a long downpour.
Muddy water is often caused
by a watershed that has unprotected soil; row crop is one use of land that can
lead to a pond with muddy water. Letting
cattle drink from the pond can also make the water muddy. A larger buffer strip
of grass planted around the pond can reduce soil erosion and help stop chemicals
from entering the pond. It will not clear up the water from a pond with a lot
of bare soil in its watershed. If the
self-sustaining bass-bluegill fishery has died or been reduced because of
chemical poisoning or an extended time without oxygen in the water, the multiplying
of common carp, bullhead, green sunfish, crayfish, or even burrowing mayflies
can make the water muddy.
Deepening shoreline areas when building the pond can remove many future aquatic vegetation problems. This can often be done at little or no extra cost if borrow areas for dam material are taken from along the shoreline. Deepen these areas so there is a slope of 3:1 down to a depth of 6 feet. Limit these steep shorelines to two thirds of the pond. Keep the remaining third shallow for fish spawning, nursery areas and for other wildlife uses.
Early spring or fall, when the lake is not stratified, are the best times of year to renovate a pond. Start fish renovations only in ponds with adequate depth (8-12 feet), sufficient size (1/2 acre or larger), controlled watersheds, and undesirable fish populations. Fish population improvements in poor ponds would be short-lived and costly. Contact your local fisheries management biologist for renovation options and a list of licensed pesticide applicators who can help renovate your pond.
If you need help to diagnose problems or evaluate your pond for stocking, contact your local DNR fisheries management biologist.
Tips for stocking a farm pond are available on the pond stocking webpage.