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Start a new fall tradition with a trip to northeast Iowa’s hundreds of miles of trout streams. From easily accessible streams in state or county parks, to those found in Iowa’s most wild and remote natural spaces, there are plenty of places to catch rainbow, brown and brook trout.
Admire the vibrant fall scenery while testing your trout fishing skills at one of these destinations suggested by DNR fisheries biologists.
Brush Creek, Fayette County – located in Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve near Arlington; a steep narrow path through the forest leads you to the stream. Catch stream-reared brown trout up to 17 inches. Stream access gets better after the first frost. Bring along a variety of minnow, creek chub or crawdad imitation lures or flies.
Ensign Hollow, Clayton County – abundant wild brown trout with 10-13 inch fish common at the Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area. Access along shorelines improves in the fall after frost. Trout are usually near bank habitat. Use spinners, jigs or flies in patterns that mimic minnows, hoppers or caddis.
Little Paint Creek, Allamakee County – find wild brook trout up to 11 inches in the upstream end of Little Paint Creek nestled in the Yellow River State Forest. The narrow valley of Little Paint offers some of the best fall colors. Rainbow and brook trout are stocked weekly through October. Look for trout behind larger boulders and under rock ledges; let your lure or bait drift around the boulders and just in front of the ledges.
Maquoketa River, Clayton and Delaware County – miles of public access for stream-reared brown trout and stocked rainbow trout. Catch 10-12 inch rainbows as well as some browns up to 16 inches. Look for rainbows in pools and runs; brown trout will be near wood habitat. Try long casts with spinners, spoons and swim baits to search for active fish and cover lots of water.
Mill Creek, Jackson County – catch wild brown trout and stocked rainbow trout on Mill Creek and wild browns at South Fork Mill Creek, located in the Big Mill Wildlife Area west of Bellevue. Use spinners, jigs and live bait. Work from downstream to upstream with long casts for the best chances at catching “shy” trout. Most trout here are 8-13 inches.
Sny Magill Creek, Clayton County – abundant wild brown trout with 12-14 inch fish common along with stocked rainbow and brook trout. Several access points are available along this 7.5 mile stretch of coldwater. Lots of habitat work has been done along this stream corridor enhancing the plethora of deeper holes and long runs. Try a flashy spinner or a worm on a hook under a bobber in the deeper holes.
South Pine Creek, Winneshiek County – find Iowa’s native brook trout here. Be prepared to walk 1.5 miles along a mowed path passing oak forests and upland prairies. The water is clear and the stream is very narrow, so be ready to sneak up on these fish. Bait cannot be used here; try terrestrial patterns such as ants, hoppers, crickets and small mayfly and midges. All brook trout must be immediately released alive.
Spring Branch Creek, Delaware County – one of the best opportunities in Iowa to catch a “trout trifecta” (brook, brown and rainbow trout) in a single trip. Bait is not allowed here; fish feed on a variety of insects including caddis, mayflies and midges. Small patterns (size 16 and smaller) are the standard, but larger flies including hoppers and streamers are good fall choices. A favorite destination among fly fishers with its good insect hatches and great public access to more than 1.5 miles of coldwater stream.
Swiss Valley, Dubuque County – catch stream-reared browns as well as stocked rainbows at Catfish Creek in Swiss Valley Preserve and Campground near the attractions and convenience provided by the City of Dubuque. A well-developed trail provides fishing access into an area known for fall beauty. Fish large pools and along bank hides with nightcrawlers, plastics, spinners and jigs. Most trout here are 8-13 inch with opportunities to catch a few large (16 inch) browns.
Turtle Creek, Mitchell County – this 3 mile gem with deep holes and long riffles is reminiscent of a stream once found in the rolling prairies. It’s open landscape and low banks make it fairly easy to access. Rainbow and brook trout are stocked weekly through October. Catch wild brown trout up to 16 inches. Use terrestrial insects such as hoppers and crickets.
Bring the whole family and stop by the Decorah Fish Hatchery to view the thousands of trout raised here for stocking in area streams. Keep up to date with weekly stocking information on the 24-hour trout stocking hotline at 563-927-5736.
Learn more about Iowa’s trout streams, including maps, amenities, regulations and stocking schedules on the DNR trout fishing webpage. You need to have a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. Check conditions before you go with the weekly Iowa Fishing Report.