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Fall is a great time to catch fish in Iowa’s rivers. A unique angling challenge is hidden around every bend.
“You are never far from one of Iowa’s many rivers,” said Greg Gelwicks, Iowa DNR interior rivers research biologist. “Fall is a great time to give them a try.”
Fish become more active and hungry when the stream temperature drops. “Look for actively feeding fish where riffles enter pools or rocky areas,” Gelwicks said. “They sit there out of the current and wait for food to come by.”
Many fish in Iowa’s rivers search out deep pools with very little current to spend the winter. Fish start to move to overwintering areas in October, and most fish will arrive by November.
Fish may move to deep water earlier than normal this fall with low water levels in many of Iowa rivers. “Anglers willing to brave chilly temperatures can be rewarded if they also seek out these areas,” Gelwicks said.
Channel catfish will move to the deepest holes they can find in larger streams, often with depths greater than 15 feet, if available. Walleyes can be found in these same pools, but will also use slightly shallower areas with little current. Look for smallmouth bass in deep holes with boulders or woody structure.
When fish first move to wintering holes, deep running crankbaits and jigs with plastics work well. As water temperatures drop, switch to a jig and minnow fished slowly for best results. Try the upper Wapsipinicon River (Buchanan and Linn counties) or upper Cedar River (Black Hawk and Bremer counties) for smallmouth bass. The Shell Rock River (Butler and Bremer counties) or upper Cedar River (Black Hawk or Bremer counties) are a great choice for walleye.
An extensive list of Iowa’s rivers, with information on access points and native species, is available on the DNR website at www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Where-to-Fish/Interior-Rivers.