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Additional Regulations

Additional rules and regulations are listed below to help you fish safely, and legally, in Iowa. This is not a complete set of fishing regulations. For more fishing related regulations, check out the information found at Fishing Licenses & Laws

 

You cannot possess, introduce, purchase, sell, or transport aquatic invasive species in Iowa except when you are removing a species from watercraft and equipment, you catch and immediately kill or return the species to the water from which it came, or you transport the species in a sealed container for identification purposes. You cannot introduce any live fish, except for hooked bait, into public waters.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Aquatic Invasive Species Law

Spiny softshell, smooth softshell and painted turtles

 

  • Open December 15 until May 14.
  • Closed May 15 until July 15.
  • Open July 16 until January 10.

Common snapping turtle Continuous open season.

 

Turtle Limits You can take and possess a maximum of 100 pounds of live turtles or 50 pounds of dressed turtles.

Spiny softshell, or smooth softshell, Daily catch limit - 1 Painted turtle, Daily catch limit - 1 Common snapping turtle, Daily catch limit – 4 Turtle Regulations

  • You need a fishing license to take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles.
  • Nonresidents can only take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles from the Missouri, Mississippi and Big Sioux rivers.
  • You must have a special license to sell live or dressed turtles.
  • You cannot take turtle eggs from the wild.
  • You can take turtles only by hand, turtle hook, turtle trap or hook and line.
  • You cannot sort, cull, high-grade, or otherwise replace any turtle in possession.
  • Turtle traps must have no more than one throat or funneling device.
  • All turtle traps must have a functional escape hole provided with a minimum diameter in all directions of 7-1/2 inches to let fish and small turtles pass through.
  • The 7-1/2 inch escape hole on hoop type traps must be in the last hoop to the tail-line.
  • Set all turtle traps with the top of the trap visible above the waterline at all times.
  • You must attach an all-weather gear tag above the waterline to each piece of gear. The gear tag must plainly display the name, address, and license number of the licensee.
  • Check each trap and empty the catch at least every 72 hours (3 days). When checked, turtles shall be taken into possession or released immediately.

More information on Iowa's turtles:

All frogs except bullfrogs and crawfish frogs: Continuous open season in inland and boundary waters.

  • 48 frogs in daily bag limit
  • 96 frogs in possession limit
  • No minimum length limit

Bullfrogs: Continuous open season in inland and boundary waters.

  • 12 bullfrogs in daily bag limit
  • 12 bullfrogs in possession limit
  • No minimum length limit

Crawfish frogs: On Iowa's threatened and endangered list and cannot be taken.

  • You cannot possess, transport, import, export, process, sell or offer for sale, buy or offer to buy.
  • A common or contract carrier cannot transport or receive for shipment.

Frog Regulations

  • You need a fishing license to take frogs.
  • You cannot shoot a frog in the water with a rifle.
  • You can use frogs for food or bait.
  • You cannot use any device, net barrier, or fence which stops frogs from having free access to and from the water.
  • You cannot transport any frogs, taken in Iowa, out of state.
  • You can buy, sell, or possess frogs or any portion of their carcasses that have been legally taken and shipped in from outside the state.

Season Dates: Feb. 4 - April 30 sunrise to sunset

This special paddlefish snagging season is limited to waters of the Big Sioux River below the I-29 bridge (both Iowa and South Dakota waters) and Iowa waters only on the Missouri River beginning at the Big Sioux River confluence and extending to the Hamburg Landing boat ramp. This includes all backwaters and sloughs and any tributary of the Missouri River at its confluence and extending below its Interstate 29 bridge.

Download printable maps of the of the Iowa-Nebraska boundary line for Woodbury, Monona, Harrison and Pottawattamie counties. The boundary line in Mills and Fremont Counties is the center of the river channel.

A downloadable GPX file with the boundary line for Iowa waters of the Missouri River is available. Right click and choose "save target as" or "save as", and save the file to your computer (not to your device's card). When saving, change from XML file type to All Files, and type in .gpx at the end of the MissouriRiver_Boundary_Line file name. After saving to your computer, you should be able to add the data to your GPS. The saved file "MissouriRiver_Boundary_Line.gpx" should be universally usable on most GPS units.

Special Paddlefish License and Tag: Licenses are available first come, first served - 950 resident licenses ($25.50) and 50 nonresident licenses ($49) are available each year. You can buy up to two tags per year - one from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31 and an additional tag from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7, or two tags if you didn’t buy one in December.

Buy your license via the Iowa DNR online licenses sales website.

You will receive your paddlefish license and tag(s) in January along with a packet of information that will help you have a successful season. Special License Requirements: A resident angler must have a fishing license plus a special paddlefish license. A nonresident angler must have a fishing license that is valid in Iowa plus a special nonresident paddlefish license. Resident and nonresident youth under sixteen years of age are not required to have a fishing license; however they must have a special paddlefish license. Youth under sixteen years of age must first get an Iowa DNR Custom ID number before buying a special paddlefish license. Customer ID numbers are available from any Iowa DNR license vendor.

You must have a valid paddlefish license and unused tag(s) to fish for paddlefish. You can snag fish to catch paddlefish and rough fish (common carp, bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp, black carp, bigmouth buffalo, smallmouth buffalo, black buffalo, quillback, highfin carpsucker, river carpsucker, spotted sucker, white sucker, shorthead redhorse, golden redhorse, silver redhorse, freshwater drum, shortnose gar, longnose gar, bowfin, gizzard shad and goldfish). Once you have caught and used all of your tags on Paddlefish, you must stop snagging. Hooks and Gaffe: You cannot use hooks larger than 5/0 treble or measuring more than 1¼ inch in length when two of the hook points are placed on a ruler. You cannot use a gaffe hook or other penetrating device to help you land any snagged fish. This is the regulation for Iowa waters. If fishing in the South Dakota waters of the Big Sioux River, you are limited to 2/0 treble hooks (1/2” gap from shank to tip of hook).

Length Limit:

You can only possess paddlefish less than 35-inches or more than 45-inches. You must immediately release alive all paddlefish measuring 35-inches to 45-inches when measured from the front of the eye to the natural unaltered fork of the tail. To properly measure a paddlefish, use a flexible tape and measure along and over the center line contour of the fish while it is lying flat.

 

Measuring a Paddlefish:

Measure a Paddlefish from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail.

Measure from the front of the eye to the fork of the tail. Paddlefish between 35” and 45” must be released.

Tagging, Possessing and Processing Paddlefish: Immediately upon taking into possession a legal paddlefish, you must visibly attach the transportation tag issued with the license to the fish’s lower jaw. Attach the tag in such a way that it cannot be removed without mutilating or destroying the tag. You cannot possess a paddlefish license or transportation tag issued to another angler or tag a paddlefish with a transportation tag issued to another angler. The transportation tag must remain attached to the paddlefish until it is processed for consumption. The paddlefish must remain intact except for the snout in front of the eye until the fish reaches the final processing place. The “final processing place” is defined as your home or the location where consumption occurs. The transportation tag is your proof of possession of the carcass.

Cut slit in jaw for Paddlefish transportation tag. Slide the Paddlefish tag’s tab into slot until locked.

Cut slit in jaw for transportation tag. Slide the tag’s tab into slot until locked.

Closed Season: During the closed season, you cannot possess paddlefish on waters opened to paddlefish snagging during the season.

What can I use to take fish? You can use gaff hooks or landing nets to help land fish. You can take rough fish (carp, buffalo, quillback, gar, sheepshead, dogfish) day or night, by:

  • snagging
  • spear
  • bow and arrow

What cannot be used to catch fish? You cannot use to take or try to take any fish by:

  • grabhook
  • snaghook
  • net
  • seine
  • trap
  • firearm
  • dynamite
  • explosives
  • poisonous substances
  • stupefying substances
  • lime
  • ashes
  • electricity

How many lines and hooks can I use?

  • You can use one or two lines when still fishing or trolling. Each line can have one or two hooks.
  • Each single pointed hook is counted as one hook.
  • Each double-pointed hook is counted as one hook.
  • Each treble-pointed hook is counted as one hook.
  • All hooks attached as a part of an artificial bait or lure are counted as one hook.
  • You can use one or two flies on one line when fly fishing.
  • You can use one or two trolling spoons or artificial baits on one line when trolling and bait casting.

How close do you have to be in attendance of your fishing tackle? You must be in visual sight of your fishing tackle when they are being fished in the water.

Can You use a Tip-Up Fishing Device for ice fishing? A "tip-up fishing device'' is an ice fishing mechanism, with an attached flag or signal to indicate fishing action, used to hold a fishing rod or pole with line and hook.

You can use one or two lines with two hooks while tip-up fishing on all inland waters and the Big Sioux River. You may fish a combination of one tip-up fishing device and one additional line, or, two tip-up fishing devices and no additional lines.

The following regulations apply when fishing the Mississippi River or Missouri River and connected backwater:

  • You cannot use more than three tip-up fishing devices.
  • You can use two or three hooks on the same line, but the total number of hooks you use cannot exceed three.
  • Each tip-up fishing device you use must have a tag attached, plainly labeled with the your name and address.
  • You must be 300 feet or more from a dam or spillway to use a tip-up fishing device.
  • You cannot use tip-up fishing devices in a part of the river which is closed or posted against their use.
  • You can use three tip-up fishing devices in addition to two lines with no more than two hooks per line.

Can You use Trotlines or Throw lines? "Trotlines" are lines commonly called "tagged lines," "throw lines," "bank lines," "ditty lines, " "ditty poles" and other names. You can use trotlines in all rivers and streams of the state, except those in Mitchell, Howard, Winneshiek, Allamakee, Fayette, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, and Jackson counties. Trotlines may be used in the above nine counties only in the following stream sections:

  • Mississippi River
  • Maquoketa River, mouth to Backbone State Park dam
  • North Fork Maquoketa River, mouth to Jones-Dubuque county line
  • Turkey River, mouth to Elkader dam
  • Upper Iowa River, mouth to the first dam upstream in Winneshiek County

You need a valid sport fishing license to use "trotlines". You can use one to five "trotlines". All the "trotlines" you are using can have a total of 15 hooks. For example: You can have one "trotline" with 15 hooks or 5 "trotlines" with three hooks each. Each separate "trotline" must have a tag attached, plainly labeled with the owner's name and address. You must check each "trotline" at least once every 24 hours. You cannot use "trotlines" in a stocked lake, within 300 feet of a dam or spillway, or in a stream or portion of stream, which is closed or posted against their use. One end of the "trotline" must be set from the shore and visible above the shore waterline. You cannot set the "trotline" entirely across a stream or body of water. Any conservation officer can remove untagged or unlawful lines.

Is there a Boundary Water Sport Trotline? A boundary water sport trotline license applies to the waters of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Big Sioux rivers. You can use a maximum of four trotlines with 200 hooks (total) with a boundary water sport trotline license. All boundary water sport trotlines must be tagged with your name and address on a metal tag affixed above the waterline.

You cannot sell fish with a boundary water sport trotline license.

*Snagging is NOT PERMITTED in the following areas: * - Des Moines River from directly below the hydro electric dam (Big Dam) to the Hawkeye Avenue Bridge in Fort Dodge. - Des Moines River from directly below the Little Dam to the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge in Fort Dodge. - Des Moines River from directly below Saylorville Dam to the Southeast 14th Street bridge in Des Moines. - Northeast bank of the Des Moines River from directly below the Ottumwa Dam, including the catwalk, to the Jefferson Street Bridge. Snagging from the South Market Street bridge is also prohibited. - Cedar River in Cedar Rapids from directly below the 5 in 1 Dam under I-380 to the 1st Avenue bridge. - Cedar River in Cedar Rapids from directly below the "C" Street Roller Dam to 300 yards downstream. - Iowa River from directly below the Coralville Dam to 300 yards downstream. - Chariton River from directly below Lake Rathbun Dam to 300 yards downstream. - Missouri River, any Missouri River tributary beginning at its confluence and extending below its Interstate 29 bridge, and the Big Sioux River from the Interstate 29 bridge to the confluence with the Missouri River with the exception of snagging paddlefish and rough fish during the open season. - Skunk River, from directly below the Oakland Mills Dam to the downstream end of the 253rd Street boat ramp. - Spillway area from directly below the Spirit Lake outlet to the confluence at East Okoboji Lake. *Snagging, bow and arrow fishing and spearing are NOT PERMITTED in the following areas:* - From the Ventura Grade roadway, jetties and bridges of Clear Lake and Ventura Marsh - Within 300 feet of the concrete culvert and metal fish barrier of Lost Island Lake Inlet - Within 300 feet of the outlet and metal fish barrier of Lost Island Lake Outlet - Within 300 feet of the outlet and metal fish barrier of Barringer Slough - Beginning at 230th Avenue and extending downstream to the signed Iowa Great Lakes Sanitary District property line of Lower Gar Lake outlet.

Do I Need a License to Catch Bait? You need a fishing license to take minnows or any other species of fish for your own individual use for bait.

What Equipment Can I Use to Catch My Bait?

  • a minnow dip net - up to 4 feet in diameter
  • a cast net - up to 10 feet in diameter
  • a minnow seine - up to 20 feet in length with a mesh size of one-fourth-inch bar measure or larger
  • a minnow trap up to 36 inches in length (each trap must have a metal tag with owner's name and address)

 

You can use alive or dead bait from the following species groups:

  • Minnows
    • chubs
    • shiners (excluding Pugnose Shiner, Blacknose Shiner, Weed Shiner and Topeka Shiner)
    • suckers
    • dace (excluding Pearl Dace)
    • Central Stoneroller, Largescale Stoneroller
    • Central Mudminnow
    • redhorse (excluding Black Redhorse)
    • Bluntnose Minnow
    • Fathead Minnow
  • Green Sunfish
  • Orange-spotted Sunfish
  • frogs (excluding Crawfish Frog)
  • crayfish (Crayfish collected from Storm Lake for personal use can only be used in Storm Lake and cannot be transported live from the lake.)
  • salamanders (excluding Mudpuppy, Central Newt, and Blue-spotted Salamander)
  • mussels (excluding threatened or endangered species; live mussels can only be collected from the Mississippi River and its connected backwaters)

 

You can only use dead bait from the following species:

  • Gizzard Shad

 

Non-bait Species You cannot use the following species for bait in any inland water of the state:

 

  • Common Carp, Grass Carp (White Amur), Black Carp, Silver Carp, Bighead Carp
  • Quillback (carpsucker)
  • Longnose Gar, Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar
  • dogfish (Bowfin)
  • Rusty Crayfish

 

 

You can return fish of these species to the water from which they were taken. You cannot possess live Gizzard Shad at any lake. Any Gizzard Shad taken for bait purposes must be killed immediately.

Selling Bait You must have a bait dealer's license to take or try to take bait for commercial purposes (selling, giving or furnishing to others). You need an aquaculture license to raise bait, but not to sell bait. See Iowa Code 481A.142 for more information. Selling Minnows Outside State Licensed bait dealers can carry, transport, or ship or cause to be carried, transported, or shipped any minnows for the purpose of sale beyond the boundaries of the state which are bred, hatched, propagated, or raised on a licensed aquaculture unit. Bait Dealer's License For more information about bait dealer's licenses, see Iowa Code 481A.144 and Iowa Code 481A.145. License fee: Iowa Resident - $30.50 and Nonresident - $125.00 Currently licensed Bait Dealers Bait Dealer Equipment Licensed bait dealers may use:

  • a minnow seine up to 50 feet in length, with mesh size larger than 1/4 inch bar
  • a minnow dip net up to 4 feet in diameter, with mesh larger than 1/4 inch bar
  • a minnow trap up to 36 inches in length (each trap must have a metal tag with owner's name and address)

 

Licensed bait dealers can sell minnows, frogs, crayfish, salamanders and mussels for fish bait.

They cannot sell:

  • live Gizzard Shad
  • Common Carp, Grass Carp (White Amur), Black Carp, Silver Carp, Bighead Carp
  • Quillback (carpsucker)
  • Longnose Gar, Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar
  • dogfish (Bowfin)
  • Rusty Crayfish
  • any endangered or threatened fish, salamander, frog or mussel species

Bait dealers' tanks and bait boxes must be larger enough and have proper aeration to keep the bait alive and prevent substantial loss. Bait dealers can take only the size of bait they can use and must return all small minnows and frogs to the water immediately. They must be present when their bait is taken. You may take bait (except endangered or threatened species listed under Iowa Code 481B and Iowa Administrative Code 571 -77.2) from the lakes and streams in the state that have not been closed to the taking of bait. Bait Inspection Minnow and bait boxes and tanks are open to Iowa DNR inspection at all times.

Iowa DNR Special Events Application System

You need a permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a traditional or virtual fishing tournament on public waters under the jurisdiction of the state. Fishing clinics and youth fishing days are excluded. Fishing tournament means any organized fishing event, except for department-sponsored fishing events held for educational purposes, involving any of the following: (1) six or more boats or 12 or more participants, except for waters of the Mississippi River, where the number of boats is 20 or more and the number of participants is 40 or more; (2) an entry fee is charged; and (3) prizes or other inducements are awarded. Separate authorization is needed for each tournament.

During a virtual fishing tournament, also known as a catch-photo-release tournament, anglers photograph and release fish upon catching instead of keeping them in a live well. An aggregated virtual fishing tournament is similar to a traditional fishing tournament with participants gathering at one location at the same time. A distributed virtual fishing tournament, usually organized as an online contest, occurs on multiple bodies of waterand can last any length of time within one calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Only five or or fewer participants may be present on any one body of water at the same time.

Applications for fishing tournaments are accepted only via the online special events application system. You can submit an application starting on September 1 for the coming year. A $25 administrative fee is charged for each application. Aggregated virtual fishing tournaments are permitted the same as traditional tournaments. Distributed virtual tournaments need a special events permit, but the application fee has been waived.


Authorizations are not transferable. The area fisheries management biologist must receive your application at least 30 days before the proposed event. The tournament's sponsor or a representative must have the authorization letter in their possession and be available at the contest site for Department representative during contest hours.

All tournaments are listed on the DNR's webpage.


Guidelines Approval of any tournament application is at the discretion of the fisheries management biologist. The DNR may impose special conditions not specifically listed here for any fishing tournament if deemed necessary to protect the resource or to assure public safety. Special conditions may include, but are not limited to:

  • aerated live wells
  • release of live fish
  • fish measured to length and released from a boat
  • designated release areas
  • designated release persons
  • multiple weigh-ins when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • scheduled weigh-in no later than 2p.m. in the June, July, and August
  • no weigh-in tournaments allowed for walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge in June, July and August

Tournament size:

  • on lakes less than 100 surface acres - a 15 boat maximum
  • on lakes greater than 100 surface acres - a maximum of one boat per ten surface acres (Biologists may waive this rule in special cases.)

The number of tournaments at any one access area during a given day may be restricted if deemed necessary to avoid congestion with the public or competing tournaments.


Tournament Rules and Regulations Bass fishing tournaments

Bass fishing tournaments must:

  • State the minimum requirements for weigh-in, handling, and release of live bass by tournament participants.
  • Allow the measuring of bass length and release from a vessel.
  • Allow the possession of up to five bass for weigh-in during the tournament.
  • Allow the possession of bass of any length; the bass must be kept alive and released after weigh-in.
  • Require the cleaning of vessels, before and after the tournament, in compliance with department guidelines to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species

Catfish fishing tournaments The daily catch limit for a catch and release catfish fishing tournament is five catfish per boat regardless of the number of tournament participants on the boat.

Culling or Sorting You cannot sort, cull, high-grade or replace any fish already in your possession. Participants in DNR-permitted black bass and catch and release catfish (five fish per boat restriction) tournaments are exempted if fishing from a boat with a functioning aerated or water-circulated live well.

 

 

 

  • Ice fishing shelters left unattended on land or water under the jurisdiction of the state must be labeled with the owner's name, street address, and city. Labels must be placed on all sides, and the lettering must be four-inch or larger block letters in a color contrasting to their background.
  • Attach reflectors to all sides on any shelter left on the ice after sundown.
  • Keep structures unlocked while in use.
  • Remove shelters from all state-owned lands and waters by February 20 or ice melt, whichever comes first, unless the deadline is extended.

A boat equipped with any size motor may be operated at a no-wake speed on artificial lakes, more than 100 acres in size, under the custody of the Department of Natural Resources. Lakes included in this regulation are:

 
Lake, County Lake, County
Ahquabi,Warren Pleasant Creek, Linn
Anita, Cass Prairie Rose, Shelby
Badger Creek, Madison Rock Creek, Jasper
Big Creek, Polk Sugema, Van Buren
Brushy Creek, Webster Swan, Carroll
Darling, Washington Three Mile*, Union
Geode, Henry Twelve Mile, Union
Green Valley*, Union Union Grove, Tama
Hawthorn, Mahaska Viking, Montgomery
Icaria*, Adams Volga, Fayette
Little River, Decatur Wapello, Davis
Miami, Monroe West, Clark

*Special Regulations Exist. Other lakes managed by counties and municipalities may be included in the above regulations. Check local regulations for more information. Where special regulations exist, check the regulations posted at the particular lake. Lake Macbride, Johnson County, has an additional regulation:

  • A boat with a motor exceeding 10 horsepower may be used only from Sept. 8 through May 20 of each year and operated at no-wake speed.

On artificial lakes under 100 acres, you can operate a motorboat equipped with one or more outboard battery operated electric trolling motors. There is no motor restriction on natural lakes and federal reservoirs. Some lakes have special exceptions; Motors of any horsepower operated at no wake speed are allowed on the following lakes:

 

Motors not more than 100 h.p.

Liquidated Damages In addition to penalties assessed by the court, a person convicted of unlawfully selling, taking, catching, killing, injuring, destroying or having in possession any animal, must reimburse the state for the value of the animal as follows:

  • For each fish, reptile, mussel or amphibian - $15
  • For each State of Iowa endangered or threatened species - $1,000

Multiple Offender Program A ''multiple offender'' is any person who has equaled or exceeded five points during a consecutive three year period. Fish and wildlife convictions are assigned point values as determined by the Iowa Administrative Code. Point values range from one to three points depending on the seriousness of the violation.

  • Three points for:
    • Illegal sale of fish or bait
    • More than the possession or bag limit for any species of fish
    • Fishing during the closed season
    • Any violation involving threatened or endangered species
    • Violation of most of the commercial fishing regulations
    • Taking of any fish by illegal method
    • Fishing while under license suspension or revocation
    • Illegal removal of fish, minnows, frogs or other aquatic wildlife from a state fish hatchery
    • Making false claims to get a resident or nonresident fishing license
    • Applying for or acquiring a license while under suspension or revocation
  • Two points for:
    • Fishing on a refuge
    • Illegal possession of fish
    • Possession of undersized or oversized fish
    • Snagging of game fish
    • Illegal importation of fish
    • Trying to take fish by illegal methods
    • Wanton waste of fish
    • Failure to make commercial catch reports
    • Illegal transportation of fish
  • One point for:
    • All other convictions of fish regulations

 

 

Your license will be suspended or revoked for a specific period as determined by the number of points accumulated. This program applies even if all violations occur as a single incident with no previous violations. This program is administered by the Iowa DNR. It is in addition to any penalties or revocation/suspension imposed by the court for the same violations. Persons with suspended or revoked hunting and fishing privileges are allowed to buy licenses during the suspension period.