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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.
Visit one of Iowa's trout hatcheries during your next trip to northeast Iowa - Manchester, Decorah, or Big Spring. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.
2022 Trout Stream Stocking Calendar [PDF]
The Iowa DNR stocks more than 300,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout in 50 Northeast Iowa streams each year 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 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.
Trout streams will receive both announced and unannounced stockings. There has been no change to the frequency of stockings or the number of fish stocked at any of our trout streams. Moving to unannounced stockings has given DNR fisheries staff more flexibility in completing the stockings and improving efficiency. This has allowed for improved stream access (mowing) and hatchery maintenance, completing projects around the hatchery and planning for stream improvement projects that they otherwise didn't have the time to complete. Almost all of the streams in Northeast Iowa have natural reproduction of brown trout and several have natural reproduction of brook trout. Streams with brown trout reproduction have populations that range from 500 to 2,000 fish per mile that rival driftless streams in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
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 pay their own Trout Fee, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).
Annual Fishing License: Resident - $22, Nonresident - $48; Trout Fee: 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.
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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:
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 20 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.
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 trout in community ponds and lakes during the winter.
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.
Put-and-Grow Wild Trout Streams
During the past 25 years, Northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. More than 50 streams have public access and wild reproducing populations of brook or brown 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.
In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started to spawn wild trout from South Pine Creek or French 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.
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. 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 the Bellevue Fishing Station along the Mississippi River. These ponds offer a safe and easy spot for families with young or beginner 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, but don't forget the night crawlers! On most years, the Bellevue Kids Pond is not fishable from late spring though the summer months due to excessive aquatic vegetation.
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.
Big Spring Fish Hatchery
Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery
Manchester Fish Hatchery
Catch and release fishTie your own soft hackle fly
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