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If you’ve never gone ice fishing before, it’s time to get in on the fun. Bundle up the family and enjoy some of the best fishing experiences of the year.
“It’s a thrill to walk out on a frozen lake or pond and fish through the ice,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resource. “If you are new to ice fishing, go with someone who has experience and equipment to use.”
Iowa lakes are full of bluegills, crappies and other panfish. Lakes in northern Iowa will also have yellow perch and walleye.
Check the weekly DNR fishing report (www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing-Reports) for ice conditions across Iowa before going out. Smaller bodies of water usually freeze faster and thicker than larger lakes or river backwaters, which often have a warmer current moving through.
At a minimum, four inches of clear ice is recommended for fishing. Ice with a bluish color is safer than clear ice.Avoid any ice that is covered by snow or slush. Keep your eyes open for any cracks or changes on the surface of the ice. Rocks, trees, docks or other things that poke through the ice will conduct heat and make the ice around it less stable. If the ice does not look right, find a different spot.
Ice conditions change constantly and its thickness can vary across the lake. Drill test holes near shore and as you move to measure the thickness and quality of the ice. Don’t go out alone and always let someone else know where you will be and when you expect to return home.
Use the DNR's online maps of the lake you are going to fish to find edges of creek channels, fish mounds, brush piles and rock piles that likely hold fish. Printable maps and the online Fishing Atlas are available on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing-Maps.
Dress warm, have fun, and stay safe on the ice this winter. Find more ice fishing tips on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/icefishing.