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Brown Trout

Brown Trout, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


As its name implies, this trout is generally brown, shading into a background of green and yellow. Spots on the sides are larger and more prominent than on other trout, and they are often bordered with a light-colored "halo". Few, if any, dark spots are found on the tail fin. The leading edge of all belly fins on Brown Trout is yellow or about the same color as the body. Lower portions of young Brown Trout are yellow, fading to gray or white underneath. Males, during the breeding season, often have vivid yellow to reddish-yellow colors along the belly and a sharply hooked lower jaw. The vomer, a bony structure in the roof of the mouth, has sharp teeth in an alternating "zig-zag" row. There are 115 to 150 scales in the lateral line.


Brown Trout Distribution

Introduced into Iowa from Europe in the late 1880’s; restricted to northeast Iowa. Some limited natural reproduction of this exotic species occurs. The Iowa DNR stocks Brown Trout to maintain its abundance. Brown Trout fingerlings are stocked each year in put-and-grow streams. Almost all trout streams in Iowa receive Brown Trout, with some trout streams being stocked only with Brown Trout.


aquatic insects and their larvae, other aquatic life

State Record

15 pounds, 6 ounces - North Prairie Lake, Blackhawk County, June 1995 - Gerold Lewis, Gladbrook, Iowa

Expert Tip

Try fly-fishing around fallen trees and undercut banks.


Brown Trout thrive in clear, cold water streams and lakes to a lesser extent. It is typically found in streams around dense cover, such as submerged logs, undercut banks or in deep water below riffles. It can be found in similar places throughout the Midwest where it is stocked.

Brown Trout spawn in October and November, depositing their eggs in saucer-shaped nests called redds, which are dug by the female in the clean gravel lining the bottom of spring-fed streams. The redd is made by the fish while lying on its side and rapidly beating its tail in an up-and-down motion, letting the current move the gravel slightly downstream. Up to two males then move alongside the female and the eggs and sperm are deposited at the same time into the redd. The female then moves to the upstream edge of the redd, again beating its tail on the stream bottom, burying the eggs in gravel.

The eggs are abandoned after spawning is complete. The eggs incubate through the winter, hatch during late winter, and the tiny fry emerge from the gravel during the first warm days of spring. This whole process is temperature dependent. With a constant water temperature of 50 degrees, hatching occurs in 41 days. The number of eggs produced depends on the size of the fish. An 8-inch mature Brown Trout may spawn 200 eggs, while a 10-pound female might spawn over 8,000 eggs.

Fingerling Brown Trout released at 2 l/2-inches long in May will average about 7 l/2-inches one year later and start entering the catch that summer. Browns grow almost one inch per month during mid-summer, with much slower growth in spring and fall, and like most fish, they usually don't grow in the winter. Growth of hatchery-raised fish is constant when water temperature and feeding levels are uniform, averaging slightly over one-half inch per month. A 10-inch Brown Trout stocked from an Iowa hatchery is probably about 18 months old. Trophy-sized fish over 3 pounds have probably survived in our streams for at least three years.

Brown Trout move to hiding cover at the first sign of movement on the bank. They can survive in many cold water streams as long as there is protective cover and the water temperature does not continuously exceed 70 degrees. Brown Trout feed largely on terrestrial and aquatic insects, worms and small crayfish. Fish become important in the diet of larger browns. Daily eating patterns change seasonally with varying water temperature and light intensity. Peak insect drifts will often happen after dark, and browns are well-known for their night feeding. Brown Trout can switch from life in a hatchery to that in a stream and easily adapt to a diet of natural food items.

Brown Trout will remain our most important fish for fingerling stocking and for our special regulation trout streams because they survive well under different stream conditions. They provide the greatest challenge to dedicated trout anglers.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Backbone Lake Delaware 4m SW Strawberry Point, Backbone State Park. 80.00
Upper Iowa River (above Decorah) Winneshiek Find this stretch in Howard and Winneshiek County. A popular access is found in Kendallville Park and Campground off of Hwy 139 about 8 miles northeast of Cresco. 79.00
Upper Iowa River (below Decorah) Allamakee This stretch includes Winneshiek and Allamakee County. A popular access is at Lower Dam about 11 miles northeast of Decorah. 57.00
Yellow River Allamakee Coldwater section begins below Livingood Springs and east of Old Stage Road flowing through Allamakee County and the Effigy Mounds National Monument where it empties into the Mississippi River. 25.00
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Waterloo Creek Allamakee Streams runs through Dorchester along Waterloo Creek Drive and Highway 76. 10.50
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
Bloody Run Creek Clayton Located 2 miles west of Marquette off of Highway 18. 6.50
North Bear Creek Winneshiek Located 2.5 miles northeast of Highlandville. 6.00
French Creek Allamakee Located on French Creek Wildlife Management Area and private land 6 miles northeast of Waukon. 5.60
South Bear Creek Winneshiek Located at Highlandville. 5.20
Trout River Winneshiek Located 5 miles southeast of Decorah off of 133rd Avenue. 5.00
Sny Magill Creek Clayton Located in the Sny Magill Wildlife Management Area, 3 miles southwest of McGregor along Keystone Road. 5.00
Coldwater Creek Winneshiek Located 3 miles northwest of Bluffton off of Coldwater Creek Road. 4.00
Clear Creek (New Albin) Allamakee Located on Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area, 4 miles east of Dorchester along Sleepy Hollow Drive. 3.40
Little Paint Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry just off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 3.00
West Canoe Creek Winneshiek About 5.5 miles north of Decorah off CR W34, 320th Street, and Fox Hollow Road. 3.00
Elk Creek Delaware 2.70
Coon Creek Winneshiek Located in Coon Creek Wildlife Management Area, 7 miles northeast of Decorah. 2.60
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
McLoud Run Linn Along the east side of I-380 in central Cedar Rapids 2.50
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
Pine Creek Allamakee Located on Pine Creek Wildlife Management Area, 2 miles northeast of Sattre on Balsam Road or CR W60. 2.50
Fountain Springs Delaware 2.5 miles northeast of Greeley along Oak Road. Most of the fishery lies within Fountain Springs County Park 2.30
Spring Branch Delaware 3 miles east-southeast of Manchester off 205th Avenue. Parking available near highway 20 overpass and Manchester Fish Hatchery 2.20
Trout Run (Winneshiek) Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Turtle Creek Mitchell Located about 1/2 mile north of St. Ansgar off of Highway 218. 2.20
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
North Cedar Creek Clayton Located 3 miles west of McGregor off of CR B60 or Ivory Road. 2.00
Clear Creek (Lansing) Allamakee Stream runs along Highway 9 through Lansing. Public angling access is at the County Park located off South Road Drive. 2.00
Pine Spring Creek Winneshiek 6.5 miles north of Decorah. Take Hwy 52 north and then North Winn Road (W34) north to Seed Savers' Exchange. 2.00
Canoe Creek Winneshiek 14.5 miles northeast of Decorah on Ferris Mills Road. 1.80
White Pine Hollow Dubuque This fishery is located primarily within White Pine Hollow State preserve, about 2 miles northwest of Luxemburg. Access to this fishery is difficult. A small parking area is available on the east side of the preserve. Best fishing is on the west side. 1.80
Buck Creek Clayton Located 3 miles northeast of Garnavillo. 1.70
Brush Creek Fayette Located in Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, 1.5 miles north of Arlington off of CR C2W or 90th Street. 1.60
Hickory Creek Allamakee Located 1 mile southwest of Volney off of Hickory Creek Road. 1.50
Grannis Creek Fayette Located in Grannis Creek Wildlife Management Area, 3.5 miles southeast of Fayette off of Grannis Road. 1.50
Patterson Creek Allamakee Stream located 4 miles northwest of Waukon. 1.40
Wexford Creek Allamakee Located 5 miles north of Harpers Ferry on the Great River Road or CR X52. 1.40
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Hewett and Ensign Creeks (Ensign Hollow) Clayton Located on Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area about 5 miles north of Strawberry Point. Access is provided on the north side of 322nd street. 1.30
Middle Bear Creek Winneshiek Stream located 7 miles northeast of Highlandville. 1.30
South Pine Creek Winneshiek Located 1.5 miles southeast of Sattre. Angler parking provided along Spring Creek Road. 1.30
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Management Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
South Fork Mill Creek Jackson Located in Big Mill Wildlife Management Area between Bellevue-Cascade Road and Mill Creek road about 4 miles west of Bellevue. 1.10
Ram Hollow Delaware 1.00
Turkey River Clayton Located 6 miles northwest of Elkader at Big Spring Hatchery. 1.00
Twin Bridges Delaware Just south of Highway 3 about 5.5 miles west of Colesburg in Twin Bridges County Park. 0.90
Mink Creek Fayette Located on private property 1.5 miles north of Wadena, access on Bighorn Road. 0.90
Big Mill Creek Jackson Located on Big Mill Wildlife Management Area, 4.5 miles west of Bellevue just south of Mill Creek Road. 0.90
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Glovers Creek Fayette Access in Echo Valley State Park, about 3 miles southeast of West Union. 0.80
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Bear Creek Allamakee From Waukon, take Hwy 76 north for 13 miles before turning west onto County Road A26 (Bear Creek Drive). Travel 2.5 miles and turn north on Washington Rd. Take Washington Rd north for about a mile before veering left onto Tahigwa Dr. 0.75
Little Mill Creek Jackson Located on Little Mill Wildlife Management Area and private property 2 miles west of Bellevue, with parking south off 216th street. 0.70
North Canoe Creek Winneshiek Stream located about 7.5 miles north of Decorah. Take Locust Road 5.6 miles north and turn west onto Canoe Valley Road for 1.3 miles. 0.60
Bankston Creek Dubuque Just south of Park Hollow Road, 3 miles north of Bankston in Bankston County Park 0.60
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60
Mossy Glen Clayton Located five miles northwest of Edgewood at the termination of the Level B portion of Eagle Ave. A small parking lot is on the opposite side of the farmstead with a 0.4 mile walk, then follow the grade B road to the lower end of the trout stream. 0.50
South Cedar Creek Clayton Located 2 miles south of Garnavillo and may be accessed from Jigsaw Road. 0.50
Bear Creek Clayton Bixby State Preserve, 2 miles north of Edgewood just east of Fortune Road. 0.50
Casey Springs Winneshiek Take Pole Line Road 2.2 miles west from Hwy 52. Turn north on Bluffton Road for 2.3 miles to Sindelar Wildlife Access. 0.50
Twin Springs Winneshiek Located on the west side of Decorah in Twin Springs City Park. 0.50
Trib to French Creek - French Creek Road Allamakee Located about 9 miles northeast of Waukon, just off French Creek Road. Tributary to French Creek. 0.40
French Creek - West Branch Allamakee Located on French Creek Wildlife Management Area 6 miles northeast of Waukon. 0.40
Chihak Creek Howard Lower: Take Hwy 9 south from Cresco. Turn south on 345th Ave and travel about 2.4 mi to Cleghorn Wildlife Area. Upper: Travel south from Cresco on Willow Ave. Turn east on King's Road and travel to the Turkey River WMA. 0.30
Bohemian Creek Winneshiek Located about 1.5 miles east of Protivin. 0.30
Ten Mile Creek Winneshiek Located 2 miles northwest of Decorah. 0.20
Arner Branch Allamakee From Dorchester, head east 0.6 mi on Dorchester Drive to the Waterloo Creek WMA. 0.20
Monastery Creek Dubuque Monastery Creek can be accessed through the Dubuque County Swiss Valley Nature Preserve about 4 miles SW of Dubuque off of Swiss Valley Rd. 0.20