Iowa has many quality walleye waters. With the exception of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, most walleye fisheries in Iowa are maintained through aggressive stocking programs. A list of rivers and lakes with fishable walleye populations is available on the DNR website.
Walleye start to move from their deep overwintering spots as soon as the ice cover melts from the lakes and rivers. Often a bump in river flow or an increase in water temperature can start their move to traditional spawning sites. This pre-spawn stage is an excellent time to catch fairly aggressive walleyes as they gather in shallower water near barriers, riffles, and rocky areas.
Spawning starts when water temperature is 42 - 54 degrees (usually in early April in Iowa). Adult females move into the shallows at night with several males. Walleye fishing can be a challenge during the spawn since the fish are not actively feeding. Most walleyes caught during this time are the more aggressive males.
After spawning, walleyes scatter from their shallow spawning areas to many places throughout rivers, reservoirs and lakes. Fishing can be difficult for a couple of weeks as fish recover from spawning.
As summer approaches, look for walleyes in deeper water in lakes and reservoirs. Find them along the outside edge of weed beds, submerged islands, points with drop-off’s, flooded creek channels, rip-rapped dam faces and submerged roadbeds. Walleyes are often spread out over open hard bottomed flats in reservoirs. Look for walleyes in interior rivers in 4-6 feet of water next to a current break made from downed trees or rock. On the Mississippi River, look for walleyes in flowing side channels or along the upstream side of wing dams.
As the water starts to cool in September, walleyes move from their summer hangouts to get ready for winter. They move from deep water to shallower areas in lakes and reservoirs, often near rocky shorelines, rock reefs and islands. River walleyes are often found in shallower riffle areas. Walleyes can be very aggressive during this time as they bulk up for winter.
Walleyes start their move to overwintering areas when water temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Look for them in the deepest areas of rivers where there is little to no current. Mississippi River walleyes gather downstream of the lock and dams, in deep current free side channels or in scour holes made by wing dams. This is a great time to catch a trophy fish.
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