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Plenty of opportunities await trout anglers in Iowa:
Get the most out of your trout fishing trip with information about each stream's location, qualities, and other fun facts on the trout streams webpage.
Check out the overview map of all trout streams in Northeast Iowa online, or email the DNR or call the DNR Phone Center at 515-725-8200 to request a printed version. A mobile-friendly version of the trout map is also available.
Schedule time during your next trip to northeast Iowa to visit one of Iowa's three trout hatcheries - Manchester, Decorah, or Big Spring. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset. All DNR offices, including fish hatcheries, are closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19 precautions.
2016 Trout Angler Survey [PDF]
The Iowa DNR stocks 300,000 to 400,000 trout in 50 streams each week from April through October. More than 600 extra brood trout, weighing over 2 pounds each, are also released in small numbers into each stream.
The catchable stocking program uses rainbow trout. The number of trout stocked into each area varies, depending on length of the stream and how many anglers use the area. These criteria also determine how often each area is stocked.
Surveys show there are still good numbers of trout several days after the most recent stocking and throughout the winter. Along with the stocked trout, many areas have good to excellent numbers of wild brown trout that challenge even the best anglers. Brown trout up to 20 inches are possible.
A small number of trout streams are not stocked in July and August due to marginal water temperatures. This is an annual occurrence.
Iowa Fishing Regulations
Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Children under 16 may possess or fish for trout without having paid the Trout Fee if they fish with a properly licensed adult who has paid the Trout Fee and together they limit their catch to the one person daily limit of five (5) trout. Children under 16 can buy their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).
Annual Fishing License*
Resident - $22
Nonresident - $48
Resident - $14.50
Nonresident - $17.50
*Shorter term license options are available - see options on the Fishing Licenses & Laws webpage or page 2 of the Iowa Fishing Regulations.
Buy Your Fishing Licenses Online
Season: All waters - Continuous
Length Limits: None, except a 14-inch minimum length limit applies to all trout in Spring Branch, from the spring source to County Hwy. D5X as posted, and on brown trout only in portions of Bloody Run Creek where posted.
Daily Bag & Possession: All waters - Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10.
Catch & Release Only Streams: Trout caught from the posted portion of these streams must be released alive immediately:
Artificial Lure Only Streams: Artificial lure means lures that do not contain or have applied to them any natural or human-made substance designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell.
In the posted areas of:
Put-and-Grow Wild Trout Streams
Wild Trout Streams Open to Public Fishing
Iowa trout streams are on both public and private lands. Private lands open to public fishing will be marked with grey “Open for Public Fishing” or white “Public Fishing Only” signs. Public-owned fishing areas are typically well-marked with green “Public Hunting” or brown “Park” signs.
The Iowa DNR buys conservation easements along some streams from willing landowners to provide public trout fishing on privately-owned land. Angler Conservation Easements along private trout streams protect water resources, restore fish habitat and provide public fishing. These easements are an important partnership with participating landowners.
Over 16 miles of Northeast Iowa trout streams are conserved by easements. Your cooperation helps protect these “Trout Trails” and allow the public to fish as guests of the landowner.
The stream bottoms of Iowa trout streams are privately-owned, except when surrounding lands are publicly-owned. If the stream access does not have a public fishing sign, assume that it is private property. You need permission from the landowner to fish areas that are not posted as open for public access.
Community trout stockings offer a “close to home” option for anglers in cities and towns across Iowa. These cool weather stockings provide easy access trout fishing in areas that cannot support trout in the summer.
A family-friendly event is often paired with the stocking to help anglers have success and fun while fishing.
Between 1,000 to 4,000 rainbow trout are stocked twice a year at these 18 locations between October and April:
What do I need to catch trout in a community lake or pond?
The trout are very active and eager to bite when they come off of the hatchery truck. A small hook with a nightcrawler or corn under a small bobber, or small spinners such as a Panther Martin or Mepps is all you need to get in on the fun.
There are several ways to catch rainbow and brook trout in community ponds and lakes during the winter.
• If you are fishing through the ice, fish for trout just like you would for bluegill and crappie. A teardrop jig tipped with a waxworm under a small bobber works great. You could also use something flashy like a Super Duper, Little Cecil or a small jigging spoon with a blade on it to attract the fish.
• If you are fishing open water, cast several lure types with ultralight gear including a small jig and twister, in-line spinner such as a Panther Martin, or small stick baits such as a floating Rapala. You can also fish with a bobber, small split shot and a worm on a small hook.
Find more tips for catching trout on our
How to Fish for Trout webpage.
Fishing license and trout fee
Community trout stockings are supported by the sales of the trout fee. You need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.
Children age 15 or younger can fish for trout without a fishing license and trout stamp if they are with a properly licensed adult, but they must limit their combined catch to the adult’s daily limit of five trout. The child can buy a trout fee which will allow them to catch their own limit.
Once you buy your trout fee, you can fish for trout all year long at any of the community trout lakes or ponds (see list above) and
Northeast Iowa trout streams.
During the past 20 years, Northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. Over 75 streams now have some level of natural reproduction and provide an excellent opportunity for anglers to pursue wild trout.
These increases occurred as watersheds were improved, in-stream habitat was installed, improved trout genetics were used, and Iowa had an extended period of above average annual rainfall.
Brook trout from South Pine Creek are the only known population of native Iowa brook trout. In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started to spawn trout from South Pine Creek to restore populations in other Northeast Iowa coldwater streams.
Adult brown trout are collected from the wild and are spawned. Their offspring are stocked as fingerlings into coldwater streams with suitable water temperatures and habitat conditions. Many populations of naturally reproducing brown trout have been established in Northeast Iowa streams using this stocking approach.
Iowa’s put-and-grow streams support wild trout fisheries or are stocked with fingerling brown trout. These streams are on private property - you need permission from the landowner to fish them.
Fingerling trout are also stocked into streams open to public fishing.
Fisheries staff play an active role in trout stream projects to improve and maintain quality water and habitat that benefit both trout and trout anglers. They have worked with 18 landowners to protect over 10 miles of streams in Northeast Iowa with Angler Conservation Easements.
Successful water quality improvement projects are led by groups and communities that partner with the DNR to create and implement long-term plans to improve the land and water. Using conservation practices on the land upstream is key to help stop sediment, nutrients and bacteria from entering into the stream.
Several projects are currently ongoing in Northeast Iowa. The longest running project was implemented in 2000 on the Upper Iowa River. It continues to secure funding for additional tributaries within its watershed and on the immediate corridor.
Watershed improvement projects have helped many trout streams by changing the way water flows through them. Bank stabilization projects occur on public and private owned properties. Cutbanks are stabilized by bank shaping, armoring with rock, seeding, willow stake planting and cedar tree or root-wad revetments.
Landowners who want to improve the habitat in their trout streams should contact the Decorah or Manchester fish management biologist for help with project plans and potential funding sources.
Kids (15 years and younger) have their own trout fishing ponds at Big Spring Hatchery and Bellevue Station. The kids' trout fishing pond at Bellevue Station is closed this summer due to abundant aquatic vegetation; it will reopen this fall. These ponds offer a safe and easy spot for young anglers to learn the basics of fishing, with an excellent chance to reel in their first trout and earn a first fish award. A limited number of fishing poles and basic tackle is available for kids to use.
All kids must be with a properly licensed adult (fishing license + trout privilege). There is a 2 trout limit per day, which includes trout caught and released. Artificial tackle is recommended for kids planning to catch and release fish.
All DNR offices, including fish hatcheries, are closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19 precautions.
Catch and release fishTie your own soft hackle fly
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