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Fishing Frenzy: 2018 Fishing Forecast

  • 3/28/2018 9:33:00 AM
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We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazine

Last year, we recruited readers to join a mission by taking someone fishing. We called it Mission Fishin’ and asked you to share your stories and photos. And you responded. Readers took kids, friends, coworkers and neighbors and turned them on to the joy of angling. You shared your stories with letters, emails and posts to the DNR’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #MissionFishin. The photos here are from that campaign, submitted by readers.  

Thank you for getting out, having fun and bringing many new anglers along for the journey. Keep it going!

This year we have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. 

Keep sharing your photos and stories with us and most importantly, keep taking someone new to fishing with you!


Bring the whole family 

AUDUBON—Littlefield Lake is popular for all ages. Catch 15- to 20-inch-plus channel cats, 8-inch bluegill and 9- to 10-inch crappie. Well-manicured shore access. Camping, beach, playground, trails and a live bison display. 

CLAY - Easy fishing for bluegill, crappie and lots of catfish at Scharnberg Pond. Great access with a handicap accessible fishing pier and rock jetties. Camping, cabins, beach, playground, hiking trail and paddle boat and canoe rental at the county park.

DAVIS—At Lake Wapello State Park, hit one of Iowa’s premier largemouth waters with good bluegill (6- to 8-inch) and improving crappie numbers (up to 11 inches). Miles of lakeside and park trails take you to prairie, woods and wetlands. Shaded picnic areas, family cabins and a revamped, rebuilt campground with lake access. 

FLOYD—Plenty of bass, catfish and panfish await anglers at Rudd Lake, off Highway 18 east of Rudd. Find bluegill around pallet structures within casting distance of two jetties. Look for largemouth near cattails and other submerged vegetation. With extremely clear water, early morning and late evening is best for channel catfish (9 to 22 inches). Boat ramp, trail, picnic area, playground and a beach. Close to a city campground, too.

FRANKLIN—Plan a family fishing and camping trip to Beeds Lake State Park near Hampton. Use several jetties, a two-mile lake trail and a pier to catch 7- to 7.5-inch bluegill, 7- to 10-inch crappie, a few 7- to 10-inch yellow bass and quality largemouth, too. Enjoy a relaxing lunch at a shaded picnic area along this quiet, no-wake lake. 

JOHNSON—Hook family memories at Lake Macbride State Park catching bluegill, walleye, channel catfish and crappie. Easy access to limestone shores, numerous fishing jetties and a handicapped accessible fishing pier. It’s Iowa’s only spot to catch the prized Kentucky spotted bass. Pontoon, motorboat, canoe, paddle boat or kayak rentals. 

KOSSUTH—Put the family on spring crappie and bluegill over 9 inches at Smith Lake north of Algona. Bass have an 18-inch minimum, so large fish can be found. Find outdoor activities at Water’s Edge Nature Center on the west shore. Campgrounds, fishing docks, playgrounds, boat ramp, jetty, hiking trail and a couple beaches. 

MONROE—Lake Miami is one of the fastest improving lakes with bluegill at 9 inches and bigger. Great largemouth bass fishing with 18-inch fish common. Crappies improving with 10-inchers. Campground, cabins, trails, playground, lodge and captive elk herd.

MUSCATINE—Start the day in Muscatine at Discovery Park Pond, close to many attractions including the Muscatine Arboretum and Fuller Park. Excellent bluegill, largemouth bass and channel cat fishing and a chance to catch a trout stocked each spring and fall. Try a chunk of nightcrawler under a bobber for ‘gills or chicken liver for cats. Catch bass with a variety of lures, from rubber worms to topwaters to Beetle Spins. Try flashy spinners for hungry, stocked trout; dough baits, corn or other scented baits work best after trout settle in. Stroll to Heron Hideaway Pond, with its renovated shoreline, located behind the Environmental Discovery Center. The center’s large aquarium features local fish species.

SAC— Keep kids busy catching lots of largemouth at Black Hawk Lake, renovated in 2012. Spring and early summer walleye fishing has been great the last two years. Cast off Ice House Point (part of Black Hawk State Park) for buckets of 8-inch bluegill and 10-inch-plus crappies. About half the shore is public, with restrooms near most public accesses. Two campgrounds on either end of the lake make for a perfect family getaway. Great playground in Speaker Park, across the street from the lake, and a new splash pad scheduled to open by the end of May. Miles of hiking trails within walking distance of the lake and a paved bike trail that runs 30-plus miles to Carroll.

TAMA— Good shore access at Casey Lake for bluegill, largemouth, and channel catfish. Cabins, campsites, natural areas, hiking trails and a wildlife exhibit at the county park.

UNION—Green Valley State Park, north of Creston, was voted one of Iowa’s Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat in 2017. Cast for 14- to 18-inch bass, 6- to 8-inch bluegill, 7- to 9-inch crappies and 12- to 15-inch walleye—some top 20 inches. Rent a pine log cabin, camp, walk lakeside trails, swim or enjoy a picnic.

WARREN—Take a camping and fishing outing at Lake Ahquabi State Park south of Indianola. A fishing pier, jetties and trails provide access to bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie. Fish late April through early June. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard. Explore the nearby Annett Nature Center or attend outdoor events at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse, across from the park entrance.

WINNESHIEK—Trout Run is great for all skill sets. Stocked weekly April through October with hatchery raised brook and rainbow trout or wild brown trout. Wander the hatchery grounds, feed the fish, walk through a prairie, picnic or access a multiuse trail circling Decorah. Catch a glimpse of the world famous Decorah eagles.


We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazinePerfect for beginners 

ADAIR—With easy access jetties and a paved lakeside path, Greenfield City Reservoir is heaven for new anglers to hook bluegills, crappies, channel catfish, largemouth and an occasional walleye. May and June are prime for crappies and bluegills on spawning beds.

ALLAMAKEE—Patterson Creek, northwest of Waukon, is a good choice for fly fishing newbies. Grazed pasture provides easy walking and little casting obstruction. Almost two miles of stream on private property is open to public fishing. Stocked weekly (except in July and August) with catchable rainbow trout, it also sustains wild brown trout. 

CARROLL—Tons of access at Swan Lake State Park helps newbies get close to the action. Reel in lots of bluegill and crappie from nine jetties, an enclosed fish house or shore—especially late May and early June. 

DUBUQUE— Catch bass and bluegill using two accessible jetties and a paved trail around Bergfeld Pond. Playground at the Bergfeld Recreation Area by the fairgrounds. 

JASPER—The secluded 28-acre county-owned Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve Lake has fantastic fishing for 13-inch crappies and 9-inch bluegills. A mowed trail rings the lake with access made even easier with a north end pier. Relax with a snack in the picnic area.
JEFFERSON— Catch lots of bluegills at Jefferson County Park Pond in Fairfield. Most run 6.5 to 7 inches. Bring tackle for many species—bass and channel catfishing is also good. Jefferson County Park has a campground, restroom, shelters and a nature center. 

LOUISA—Usually uncrowded, Virginia Grove Pond has lots of hungry fish to keep newbies busy. Stocked with largemouth, bluegill and channel cats. Use chicken liver on a medium to large hook under a bobber for catfish. Nightcrawlers are always good. The pond is isolated from the campground, restrooms, playground and hiking trails. 

LUCAS—All anglers are successful at Red Haw State Park. Great bluegill fishing with 8.5- to 9-inchers and redear up to 11 inches. Loads of quality largemouth and crappies, too. Easy bank fishing with several jetties and many shore accesses. Shady campground overlooks the lake, picnic areas by water’s edge and a multi-use trail. Enjoy thousands of redbud trees in bloom mid- to late-April.

LYON—Quickly learn fishing basics at Lake Pahoja with fast biting largemouth and lots of bluegill and channel cats. A 3.5-mile concrete trail inside the county park surrounds the lake. Rental cabins overlook the lake. Paddle boat, canoe and kayak rentals, playground and swimming beach. 

RINGGOLD—Great shore access and recently added spawning beds and rock piles for bluegill, bass, wipers, channel catfish, yellow perch and crappie at Fife’s Grove Park Pond north of Mount Ayr. 

STORY—Excellent shore access to Dakins Lake, north of Zearing, with two jetties and a dock with a cleaning station. Catch many bluegill and bass. Stocked 2014, bluegills now push 9 inches. Camp in the well-kept county park. 

TAMA —Easily catch hungry largemouth bass at Union Grove Lake around the fishing jetties and rocky shore. Loaded with 6- to 7-inch bluegill and 8- to 10-inch largemouth bass. Renovated and restocked in 2015. 

TAMA—Catch lots of 9-inch yellow bass near shore at Otter Creek Lake near Toledo around Memorial Day. Bluegill, bass and crappie, too. Fish cleaning station near the ramp. 

WINNESHIEK—Fish attractors added to Lake Meyer provide hideouts for bluegill, crappie and bass. A concrete ramp provides easy boating. Abundant shore access. Two jetties access deeper water. Picnic areas, campground, playground, ball diamond and trails in the county park. 


Fun Weekend Getaways

ADAMS—Excellent shore access and jetties make it easy to fish at Lake Icaria. Use small jigs and minnows for bluegill up to 8 inches and crappie up to 11 on fish mounds. Cast nightcrawlers or cut bait along the bottom of rocky shoreline areas or the fish mounds for excellent numbers of channel catfish of all sizes. Camping, cabins, nature trails, playground and beach at the well-maintained county park.  

ALLAMAKEE—There’s a perfect trout fishing spot for all at Yellow River State Forest with easy access to adventurous treks at Paint or Little Paint creeks. Wild brown, stocked rainbow and brook trout challenge beginners and experts. Camping, hiking and horse activities, too. 

BOONE—Venture to Don Williams Lake in the county’s largest park. Great fun for all with a campground, beach, playground, trails, golf course and cabins. Catch plenty of crappie and bluegill. Dock fishing is good, especially late April and May when crappies spawn. From a boat, drift jigs down the middle of the lake during mid-summer. 

DELAWARE—Unique experiences for all ages await at Backbone State Park—trout fishing, cabins and camping, paddling and rugged trail hikes. Explore clear, cold-water Richmond Springs with easy trails. Keeper brook and rainbow trout stocked weekly April through October. Use small spinners, jigs, prepared baits or flyfish. Running through the heart of the park, the Maquoketa River yields brown trout in upstream areas and smallmouth bass below Backbone Lake. Easy lake access for small bluegill, crappie, largemouth and white sucker. 

FAYETTE—Volga Lake is surrounded by Volga River State Recreation Area with camping, hiking and horse trails, hunting and shooting opportunities and wildlife watching. Known for great panfish and bass, it hides an overlooked cache of catfish that routinely measure 23 inches. 

IDA—Stay in a lake cabin at Crawford Creek and enjoy a weekend of fishing for jumbo bluegill, large crappie and an occasional big perch (plus a solid largemouth population). Beach, hiking trails, picnic shelters and paddle boats.

JONES—Excellent river fishing at Wapsipinicon State Park south of Anamosa plus caves, golf and unforgettable views. Famous for walleye, smallmouth and channel cat, especially below the dam near the park entrance. Camping, hiking trails, lodge rental and playground. 

MONTGOMERY—Viking Lake State Park is activity loaded—lakeside camping, playground, beach, boat rental, restaurant and trails. Cast off jetties for 10-inch crappie in the spring. Catch bass up to 20 inches and 18- to 20-inch channel cat in summer. 

O’BRIEN—Mill Creek Lake near Paulina is a destination with big bluegill and crappie to enthrall kids. Family fun with camping, cabins, concessions, lodge, hiking and biking.

TAYLOR—Reserve a cabin or campsite at Lake of Three Fires State Park—the region’s most scenic—northeast of Bedford. Catch 9- to 11-inch crappie with some over 12 inches, largemouth over 20 inches and lots of 8- to 9-inch bluegills. Antique shops and golf course nearby.

VAN BUREN—Enjoy a fun weekend at Lake Sugema Recreation Area. Campground and playground, plus excellent largemouth, crappie and bluegill fishing. Cast for just about any species on the Des Moines River next to Lacey Keosaqua State Park. Campground, playground and hiking trail. Stroll the rustic Villages of Van Buren County—a tourism destination. 

WASHINGTON—Lake Darling State Park features new year-round cabins or camping cabins. Excellent spring crappie bite near submerged structure of rip-rap shorelines; many crappies are greater than 10 inches. Many bluegill 8 inches or greater and lots of 18-inch bass. Mile-long ADA-compliant fishing trail from upper arm to campground and many revamped jetties. 


We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazineUrban hot spots

BLACK HAWK—Venture to the Cedar River in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo metro area for great walleye, smallmouth bass and channel catfish action. Shore fishing is good with access in downtown Waterloo, several city parks, Black Hawk County Park and George Wyth State Park (which also has camping.) Use crankbaits or jigs tipped with minnows or crawlers. Small boats are best with shallow water in some channel crossovers. Cedar Falls and Waterloo offer lots of family fun with miles of bike trails, dining and sports and entertainment venues. 

LINN—Find clear water and amazing views at Prairie Park Fishery in northeast Cedar Rapids on Otis Road. It’s popular for largemouth, crappie, bluegill, walleye and white bass. Trout stocked each spring and fall for more fishing fun. Use a small bobber and small hook tipped with an inch of nightcrawler or prepared bait. Good shore access with walk down areas and jetties. Other areas best reached by canoe, kayak or rowboat. Explore the Cedar River with access by the hard surface trail that loops around the lake. Boat ramps provide access to the lake and river. 

MUSCATINE—Deep Lakes, a small urban lake complex, is stocked with muskellunge every two years; the largest are 28-inches. A series of deep interconnected lakes and ponds are surrounded by extensive sand prairie habitat for a unique watchable wildlife experience. Good bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish fishing. Boat ramps, beach, hiking trails and restrooms.

POLK—Plan a quick get-away at Big Creek Lake State Park near Polk City. Use small tackle and light line to catch aggressive bluegill close to shore late May and early June. Here, May is best for walleye. Use the numerous jetties, a universally accessible fishing pier or visit Big Creek Marina to rent fishing boats, pontoons, water bikes, kayaks and more. Kids enjoy the large playground and cabanas near the popular beach. 

POTTAWATTAMIE—Lake Manawa State Park offers fun for all ages and skills. The spring crappie bite draws a large crowd. Summer fishing focuses on channel catfish. Cast for trophy size (24-inch-plus) walleye and wipers (a cross between a female striped bass and male white bass) stocked each year. Wipers are explosive fighters—use shad-imitating lures to hook one. Keep the kids entertained all afternoon with an abundant population of yellow bass. Jetties and pier provide access. The state park has a nature trail, lakeside picnic shelters, playground and canoe rental. 

SCOTT—Fish are well-fed and growing fast at Lost Grove Lake, six miles east of Eldridge. Catch 8-inch bluegill, muskies up to 34 inches, 14- to 15-inch walleye, bass (some above 15 inches) and crappies (many 10-plus inches). Easy access with ADA compliant fishing trails and jetties. Platforms help anglers get to deeper water. Spawning beds and culvert piles are within casting distance. Pines Point is loaded with structure such as brush piles, tree reefs, stump fields, hinged trees and terraced lake bottom. Popular spot for canoe and kayak anglers.

WOODBURY—Bacon Creek Lake, a fun family fishing destination on the east edge of Sioux City, features clear water, a paved loop trail, playground, restrooms, picnic area and dog park. Catch bluegills and crappie in shallow areas during the spawn (spring and early summer) then move to the deeper water in the upper area of the lake. Cast for rainbow trout stocked each fall.


Master Angler worthy 

BUTLER and BREMER—Trophy walleye up to 30 inches and lots of 15- to 20-inchers live in the Shell Rock River. Cast jigs, crankbaits or live baits. In springtime, look for schooled fish below dams, obstructions and cobble bottom areas. In summer, cast a jig and crawler, or try crankbaits. 

DICKINSON—East Okoboji Lake in the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes has a great, diverse fishery with trophy channel cat, muskie, bass, northern pike and yellow perch.

HOWARD—Stocked fingerling northern pike improve your chances to catch a trophy fish on the Turkey River near Cresco. Dam modifications at Vernon Springs Park improved angling. Also stocked with walleye fingerlings. Best fished with small watercraft. 

IOWA—Cast for master angler-size redear sunfish (11-inch-plus) at Lake Iowa north of Millersburg. Good bluegill, largemouth bass and crappie fishing, too. 

LOUISA—Explore the endless chain of connected lakes, chutes and sloughs of Lake Odessa for trophy 10- to 12-inch-plus crappies. Use a crawler and bobber or jig and 1-inch paddletail plastic body. Catch lunker largemouth with spinnerbaits near logs, beaver dams or rip-rap. Plenty of shore access, ramps and habitat. 

MARION—Explore the Whitebreast arm and marina at Red Rock Reservoir for a chance at a master angler-sized crappie. Large white bass and hybrid striped bass provide exciting action. Watch for gulls hovering over surfacing baitfish and toss silver or white lures into the frenzy. Fish below the dam February through May. 

MONTGOMERY—May and June are best for hooking largemouth bass over 20 inches and white crappies over 14 inches at Viking Lake State Park.

UNION—Catch largemouth—some over 20 inches—at Twelve-Mile Creek Lake, east of Creston. Elusive 10- to 12-inch jumbo yellow perch also lurk there.  

VAN BUREN—Lake Sugema is a trophy channel cat haven. Cats exceed 10 pounds, sometimes much larger.


We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazineCatch lots of fish fast

APPANOOSE—Push light tackle to the limit catching hybrid striped bass and white bass by the dozen at Lake Rathbun. Lots of fish between 12 and 20 inches. Rathbun is Iowa’s perennial crappie hotspot and hot this year for 9- to 12-inch crappies, especially mid-May to mid-June. 

BLACK HAWK—South Prairie Lake near the UNI-dome in Cedar Falls, has good catches of crappie, bluegill and bass. Use live bait in late spring. Trails along with a fishing jetty and accessible pier provide good shore access.

BUENA VISTA—Have fun catching and releasing slot-limit walleye (17 to 22 inches) at Storm Lake; lots of
keepers, too. Use live minnows under a slip bobber or white twister tails from shore, or toss or troll shad-colored crankbaits April through June. Anything silver works as shad and emerald shiners are main forage fishes. After ice-out, try shad guts or cut bait on windblown shores for channel cat. Tons of public access and family parks. 

CERRO GORDO—Fill stringers with yellow bass at Clear Lake every spring—the Island and Dodge’s Point are favorite hotspots. Catch 14- to 20-inch walleyes (14-inch minimum) on live bait rigs or crankbaits April through June. Great shore and boat angling. A handy fish cleaning station is at McIntosh Woods State Park. 

DECATUR—Bluegill fishing was phenomenal last year at Little River Watershed Lake, especially for fish over 9 inches. Catch lots of largemouth bass (some over 20 inches) with jigs or plastics fished near cedar tree brush piles, along weed lines or rock piles. Slowly troll jigs tipped with twister tails or Lindy rigs with live bait along rock structure or mud flats for spring walleye (12 to 22 inches). 

DES MOINES—Don’t miss the hot panfish bite at Big Hollow near Burlington each May. Catch 9-inch-plus bluegill and big crappies. Use a 32nd-ounce jig with a 1-inch paddletail body for panfish. Excellent bass lake for 15-inch plus fish. Lots of timber, hidden coves and structure, so bring plenty of jigs and lures. Stocked muskies prowl the waters. Camping, a beach, boat ramp and jetties. 

HOWARD—Excellent shore access at Lake Hendricks for bluegill, crappie, largemouth and channel cat. Plenty of places for fish to hang around with rock piles, crappie condos, pallets, concrete culverts and cedar trees, most within casting distance of shore.

KEOKUK—At Lake Belva Deer near Sigourney, big fish in big numbers await—plenty of bass exceed 20 inches, bluegill to 9.5 inches and pound-and-a-half redears. Excellent channel catfishing, too. Fish for large green sunfish along the rocks on the dam; use a chunk of worm under a bobber. ADA fishing pier, restrooms, gravel boat ramp and lake trail.

MAHASKA—Hawthorn Lake south of Barnes City has huge populations of bass up to 20 inches. Catch 25 fish a day. Abundant channel cat with some greater than 4 pounds. Crappie up to 9 inches and muskies up to 40 inches. Try the road grade, shallows on either end of the dam or the arm opposite the dam for spawning bluegills. 

POLK—Find fast action for 7- to 9-inch crappie at Blue Heron Lake in Raccoon River Valley Park in West Des Moines. Drift and cast small, white jigs late April into June. It also boasts a quality channel catfish population. A pier provides easy access for all ages and abilities. Fun to fish by canoe or kayak.

POWESHIEK—Catch lots of 7- to 9-inch crappie at Diamond Lake west of Montezuma. Excellent access with 11 jetties. Fish cleaning station, paved trails, playground and many picnic spots. Boats with electric trolling motors only allowed on the lake. 

SHELBY—Bluegills are big and black crappies aplenty in Prairie Rose Lake near Harlan. Quickly fill a stringer at the gravel spawning beds and rock reefs early May to mid-June. Find a printable fish structure map at Abundant bass provide great catch-and-release fishing (15-inch minimum length).

Off the beaten path

Adair—Largemouth bass and channel catfish grow big at secluded Meadow Lake. Catch 7- to 8-inch bluegills and 8- to 12-inch crappies. Spring bite is best.

CARROLL COUNTY— Hike in 1/4-mile to Tigges Pond—built and stocked several years ago with largemouth, catfish and bluegill that exceed 8 inches. 

CLAYTON—Escape to small, North Cedar Creek for quiet fishing among mature forests. Use a smaller pole under dense tree cover. Deep holes and fast moving runs hold stocked catchable rainbow and brook trout in the lower end and wild brook and brown trout upstream. 

CLINTON COUNTY—Find Hagenson Pond off highway 67 south of Camanche. Usually not a lot of angler activity. Keep kids busy with good numbers of 12- to 15-inch bass and 6.5-inch bluegill, along with catfish. 

DALLAS—Escape to Beaver Lake in rural Dallas County. Boaters find good panfishing at this small lake full of timber. Abundant crappies, mostly 7- to 9-inches, with some 10- to 11-inchers. Bluegill numbers are strong, with 7- to 9-inch fish. 

EMMET—Ingham Lake has good walleye and yellow perch numbers. Part of a large natural lake complex, there’s plenty of water to explore.

JACKSON—This section of the Maquoketa River is less crowded than popular upstream segments. Recent river surveys show a great population of big channel catfish. Use cut bait or crawlers in wood habitat. Best accessed with small boat or kayak. 

LEE COUNTY—It takes a hike to get to White Oak Lake in Shimek State Forest near Ft. Madison. Catch 8- to 9-inch bluegill and 9- to 10-inch redears. Fish off the dam, or float a bellyboat to inaccessible shores. Drive to Shagbark Lake for 9-inch bluegill and a shore trail. Enjoy massive white pines throughout the forest. Campground and hiking, too.

MARSHALL—Find superb largemouth bass, bluegill and channel cat fishing at Green Castle Recreation Area. Several jetties for easy access. Great place to fish from a canoe or kayak as motorized boats are not allowed. Picnic areas, hiking trails and universally-accessible facilities. 

PAGE COUNTY—Once a limestone quarry, Ross Area Pits County Park features deep, clear-blue water surrounded by trees. Catch bluegill exceeding 8.5 inches and 10- to 12-inch bass among sunken boats. 

Palo Alto—New populations of yellow bass at Five Island Lake and Lost Island Lake will keep you busy from boat or shore. Both lakes have a diverse fishery.

POTTAWATTAMIE— Farm Creek/Young’s Pond, built 15 years ago between Griswold and Carson, is in its prime. Look for spawning bluegills and crappies along the dam in spring. Launch a small boat from the ramp in summer to fish over the old creek channel for suspended fish.

WORTH—Fabulous bluegill fishing at Silver Lake with lots of 8- to 10-inch fish. Abundant 15- to 17-inch largemouth bass after renovations in 2013. Two jetties and a concrete ramp provide easy access. Spend the night at the county park on the north shore. 


We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazineUnique fishing experiences

BENTON COUNTY— Shoreside campsites at Hannen Lake, southwest of Blairstown, let you fish right outside your camper. A beautiful rental cabin sits right next to the water. Kids will revel in catching and releasing 8- to 12-inch bass (15-inch minimum). Excellent shore access. 

DICKINSON— As Iowa’s largest natural lake, something is always biting at Big Spirit Lake. Renown for great walleye fishing, don’t overlook dozens of other species, too. 

Guthrie— Float or wade a section of the Middle Raccoon River for lots of 10-inch smallmouth with an occasional one over 14-inches. Use lead head jigs tipped with a half a crawler in pools, around rocks or below riffles. A catch-and-release only regulation protects the population from Lennon Mills dam down to the Redfield dam. 

HANCOCK—West Branch Iowa River. Hike for pike along the wildlife area where East Twin Lake flows into the river. Use lures, jigs and minnows or spoons. Good spring and fall pike fishing when water flows from the lake. 

JACKSON— Full of self-sustaining wild browns, South Fork Mill Creek is great for adventurous or experienced trout anglers. Use spinners, jigs and live bait for 8- to 13-inch trout. This small stream in Big Mill Wildlife Management Area is almost entirely on public property.

LINN—Enjoy a quiet afternoon at Palisades-Kepler State Park fishing a scenic stretch of the Cedar River with limestone bluffs and huge sand bars. Excellent white bass, walleye and northern pike fishing below the old lowhead dam. Shovelnose sturgeon and channel catfish action picks up late spring and summer. A popular area for kayakers to begin their journey down the river. Hiking trails, camping, rock climbing, playground and boat ramp.

MADISON COUNTY—Stand atop a natural limestone ridge at historic Pammel State Park to watch the Middle River flow in four directions. Excellent channel and flathead catfishing, especially below the ford. Spend a night in a Yurt style cabin. Search for geocaches along the Backbone and Lodge trails. 

MITCHELL—Explore Iowa’s western-most trout stream, Turtle Creek, just north of St. Ansgar, and its two miles of public fishing. Stocked with rainbow and brookies weekly from April through October, it also boasts wild browns. 

POLK—Adventurous anglers find rewards in the Des Moines River and Raccoon rivers in the spring and early summer when game fish migrate upstream looking for spawning habitat. Catch a diverse mix of walleye, white bass, hybrid striped bass and flathead and channel catfish below riffles/low-head dams and deep water pools. The Scott Avenue and Center Street dams in downtown Des Moines are popular fishing spots.

SKUNK RIVER—Find flathead and channel catfish near downed logs, brush piles or creek mouths. Use live green sunfish under a large bobber to entice the biggest cats. Good freshwater drum in many stretches excite new anglers. Try nightcrawler rigs or small jigs. Immediately put drum on ice to preserve freshness for a tasty treat. 

Up for a challenge

ALLAMAKEE—Unstocked French Creek is a paradise for avid anglers to test their skills. Gin clear water and wary, wild brook and brown trout make for challenging fishing. Its plentiful public areas are artificial-lure-only and brown trout is catch-and-release only. 

APPANOOSE—Best fished by boat, Rathbun Lake is known for large walleyes with 17- to 25- inch fish most common. When other walleye fisheries slow down, find the bite here in the warm weeks of June to August. 

CERRO GORDO—If hooking a trophy muskie is on your bucket list—come to Clear Lake for 40- to 50-inch fish. Be ready for a workout with these large predators—it takes many casts with good sized baits. 

CLAYTON—Full of habitat and lined by vegetation, Hewett Creek at Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area has lots of wild brown trout. Only artificial lures can be used and all trout must be immediately released. 

CRAWFORD—Nab challenging monster-sized bluegill (9.5-inch-plus) at Yellow Smoke Park Lake. The water is extremely clear and the fish are wary to bite. Redear sunfish over 12 inches are hard to come by. Largemouths provide a lot of catch-and-release action (10- to 14-inch fish) with the chance to hook a lunker. 

DICKINSON—West Okoboji Lake has held the state record for smallmouth bass since 1990. Great destination for anglers looking for big bass.

LINN—Excellent chance to catch the elusive muskie at Pleasant Creek Lake. Many 35- to 42-inch muskies with some real monsters up to 50-inches. There is a 40-inch minimum length limit on muskie. 

POTTAWATTAMIE—Cast for walleye and wiper (a cross between a female striped bass and male white bass)at Lake Manawa. Fingerlings stocked each year produce trophy sized (24-inch-plus) fish. Action starts soon after ice out, continues into spring and heats up again in the fall. Explore the new depths and drop-offs added in 2016. 

WAPELLO—Des Moines River sturgeon fight in the spring. Bounce a crawler and slip sinker off the bottom. Excellent channel and flathead catfishing, especially below the hydropower dam. Also great fishing for walleye, white bass and hybrid striped bass. 


Mississippi River

DUBUQUE—The great Mississippi River is the go-to spot, known here for great bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, freshwater drum, sauger and walleye. Shore fishing is limited, so most fishing is by boat. Action peaks for sauger and walleye in the tailwaters of Lock and Dam 11 in March and early April. Use heavy river jigs or pull three-way rigs tipped with minnows. The Massey Park Boat Ramp south of Dubuque has easy access to some of the best side-channel and wing dam water. Good backwater habitat is near Mud Lake Park Boat Ramp in north Dubuque. Use a slip bobber rig near brush or rock habitat tipped with nightcrawlers for bluegill and bass, or minnows for crappie and bass. After fishing, find local eateries in Iowa’s oldest city and visit the Mississippi River Museum. 

JACKSON—Lots of public access to popular areas on Mississippi River pools 12 and 13 for spring walleye and sauger, and summer bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill and drum. Easy boat access below dam at Bellevue—a pretty rivertown with blufftop camping and vistas at Bellevue State Park south of town. A small hook tipped with a nightcrawler and weighted with a sinker or split-shot will catch most species. Good shore access below the dam, near the DNR fisheries station, Pleasant Creek, Green Island and Spruce Creek County Park. 

We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazineBest with boat, kayak or canoe

BUCHANAN—Kayaks and canoes are best for rock riffles in this stretch of Wapsipinicon River. Good channel catfish, northern pike, smallmouth and walleye fishing. 

CASS—Have lots of summer fun drift fishing at Lake Anita State Park for bluegills up to 9.5 inches and 9-inch crappie. Hang a 1/32nd- ounce jig tipped with worm over the side, let out 30 feet of line and drift with the wind. You need a boat, kayak or canoe to get after mid-lake suspended fish.

CLARKE—Troll the dam or points at West Lake Osceola for feisty 14- to 20-inch wipers. Catch largemouth, some exceeding 19 inches, along creek channels or points.

DICKINSON and CLAY—Little Sioux River—Easy walleye and catfishing with plenty of access along the Little Sioux River through Dickinson and Clay Counties. 

FAYETTE—Below Fayette, the Volga River flows through Volga Lake State Park making tight turns around moss and fern covered limestone bluffs, springs and seeps. Catch smallmouth, rock bass, suckers and a few trout. Many entry points provide easy access for canoe or kayak fishing. Water often gets too low for floating mid-July to September. 

HARDIN—This stretch of the Iowa River is an excellent half-day outing. Float past dense forested hills and limestone cliffs for smallmouth, walleye, pike and catfish. Put in at Alden Canoe Access and float to Iowa Falls. 

HUMBOLDT—West Fork Des Moines River. Great public access at the Rutland dam through Humboldt city parks down to Frank Gotch County Park (good shore casting) for walleye, smallmouth and channel cats. 

LINN COUNTY—Paddle secluded back areas of Pinicon Ridge Park west of Central City. Cast for smallmouth, walleye and northern in the Wapsipinicon River. Climb the observation tower for valley view, or tour the 5-acre Alexander Wildlife Area. Hiking trails, camping, playground and boat ramp. 

MONONA—Escape to Oldham Lake outside Soldier for peaceful fishing. Good numbers of 8- to 10-inch crappie and nice bluegill (7.5 to 8 inches). Little public access, so use a small boat, float tube, canoe or kayak. 

WASHINGTON—Crawford Pond’s small, gravel ramp is perfect for launching canoes, kayaks and small boats. Look for large bluegills and redear sunfish suspended near submerged brush piles and pallet structures. Come spawning time, find slab 9-inch redears along the east shoreline next to the white pines. Keep bait small and slow your bait action to encourage these wary fish to strike.

WEBSTER—Explore Brushy Creek’s abundant habitat. Fish areas where multiple habitats meet such as a weed line running into standing timber next to a rocky point. Home to large walleye, monster cats and 40-inch muskie.


We have 10 categories of recommended angling fun—everything from beginner to challenging, best with a boat, off the beaten path, master angler worthy and best for the whole family. | 2018 Fishing Forecast from Iowa Outdoors magazine