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When you think of trout fishing, you might think of Colorado, Utah, and Idaho—places with cold mountain streams. But trout fishing in Iowa? Yes, it’s true. You can go trout fishing in Iowa! Many people don’t know that the Midwest offers excellent trout fishing.
So, if you want to go trout fishing in Iowa, read on to learn more. We list the best trout fishing spots in Iowa, along with trout fishing tips and regulations. We’ve got everything you need to get started, so you can get out there and catch some beautiful trout!
Table of Contents
- Best places for trout fishing in Iowa
- Trout fishing tips
- Iowa Fishing Regulations
- More resources on trout fishing in Iowa
Best places for trout fishing in Iowa
Iowa boasts 75+ trout streams, nineteen stocked community lakes and ponds, and three trout hatcheries!
Trout Streams in Iowa
Dozens of cold-water trout streams in Iowa are in the Driftless Region of Northeast Iowa. This part of Iowa was virtually untouched by the last glaciers. As a result, it has a geography unlike anywhere else in the state.
So, if you’re looking for a beautiful stream fishing experience, go to Northeast Iowa! You can fish for wild and stocked rainbow, brown, and brook trout there.
The Iowa DNR raises and stocks hundreds of thousands of trout annually. And estimates show growing numbers of naturally reproducing trout.
Some streams are easy to get to and are on public land and parks. But others are more remote and on private ground. Streams on private ground can be used for public fishing if they’re marked with public access signs (if you don’t see a sign, it’s not open to the public).
Most popular trout streams
North Bear Creek
This stream is a tributary of the Upper Iowa River – and one of the state’s best and most fished trout streams. It’s in the North Bear Creek Wildlife area in Winneshiek County near Highlandville (18 miles north of Decorah).
This stream is excellent for catching wild brown and rainbow trout and has a fantastic cave! Limited parking is off Cold Water Creek Road near Bluffton (northwest of Decorah).
Bloody Run Creek
This 6.5-mile stream is on public and private land (watch signs!) and has easy access in the Bloody Run County Park section. It’s in Clayton County between Marquette and Spook Cave & Campground.
This stocked stream is a tributary of the Maquoketa River and is a favorite trout fishing stream in Iowa! It’s easy to access and near a campground and nature center near Manchester (between Dubuque and Waterloo).
This popular spring-fed trout stream runs through Backbone State Park! It’s easy to access from the road and parking areas. And the park has lots of other outdoor recreation, along with cabins and campgrounds.
Swiss Valley Creek
This stream has wild browns and stocked rainbows with access from a scenic trail system! It’s just southwest of Dubuque – park at the nearby Swiss Valley Nature Center for easy access.
Iowa’s community lakes and ponds
Even if you can’t make it to Northeast Iowa’s streams, you can still go trout fishing in Iowa! Several community lakes and ponds have trout fishing during the colder months.
The Iowa DNR stocks trout in community ponds fall through spring. Each location is usually stocked twice each season, once in the fall and once in the winter or spring. Below is a list of stocked lakes and ponds. See the Iowa DNR website for the stocking schedule.
|Lake/Pond||Location||Area of Iowa|
|Bacon Creek Lake||Sioux City||Northwest|
|Big Lake||Council Bluffs||West|
|Blue Pit||Mason City||North|
|Moorland Pond||Fort Dodge||North-Central|
|Ada Hayden Lake||Ames||Central|
|Triumph Park West||Waukee||Central|
|Liberty Centre Pond||North Liberty||East|
|Prairie Park Fishery||Cedar Rapids||East|
|Discovery Park Pond||Muscatine||East|
|East Lake Park Pond||Mount Pleasant||Southeast|
|Jefferson Co. Park Pond||Fairfield||Southeast|
|Wilson Lake||Fort Madison||Southeast|
|Ottumwa Park Pond (south)||Ottumwa||Southeast|
|North Prairie Lake||Cedar Falls||Northeast|
Trout hatcheries in Iowa
Three Iowa fish hatcheries spawn trout. We recommend visiting the hatcheries to learn more. Several of them offer group tours and host educational events. Our favorite at Des Moines Outdoors is the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery.
Trout Hatcheries in Iowa:
Big Spring Fish Hatchery
16212 Big Spring Road
Elkader, IA 52043
Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery
2321 Siewers Spring Road
Decorah, IA 52101
Manchester Fish Hatchery (self-guided tours only)
22693 205th Ave.
Manchester, IA 52057
Trout fishing tips
Fly fishing is often associated with trout, but you don’t have to fly fish to catch trout. A regular lightweight rod and reel will do the trick too! Below are a few trout fishing tips to get you started.
- Use small bait, hooks, spinners, flies, or jigs
- Try natural bait, like worms, minnows, crickets, fish eggs, etc.
- Summer is best for fly fishing
- Some anglers swear by marshmallows and corn as bait!
- Allow the bait to float toward the fish
- Fish near cover along banks or downstream from boulders
- Stay quiet and out of the trouts’ sight, and don’t cast a shadow
- See the Iowa DNR website for more tips
Iowa Fishing Regulations
Trout season in Iowa is year-round!
Summer is a great time to fly-fish since insects and minnows are abundant. But during the warmer months, trout fishing is limited to the streams of Northeast Iowa.
Winter brings trout fishing opportunities to other areas of Iowa – in the stocked community lakes and ponds throughout the state.
Iowa Trout License
To fish for trout in Iowa, you need an annual fishing license and pay a Trout Fee. See the Iowa DNR’s webpage for more on Iowa fishing licenses and fees.
Children under 16 are exempt if they are with an adult with a fishing license and a paid trout fee. But they must only catch the daily one-person limit between them. Yet, if children under 16 pay a trout fee, they’re allowed a daily limit of their own.
Iowa Trout Regulations
The one-person daily bag limit is five trout, with a combined possession limit of 10. For more on Iowa trout regulations, see the Iowa DNR website.
There are length limits in two northeast Iowa streams – Spring Branch and Bloody Run Creek.
Also, some Iowa streams are catch-and-release only, and some only allow artificial lures. See the DNR’s website for specific information on trout regulations.
Fishing reports for Iowa
Find out more about fishing conditions in Iowa through the Iowa DNR’s fishing reports. Sign up for the weekly reports to see what types of fish are biting and where. You can also view the latest DNR fishing reports here.
More resources on trout fishing in Iowa
• Iowa DNR Trout
• Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, and Brown Trout
• Trout Fishing in Iowa Facebook page
• Flyfisher’s Guide to Wisconsin and Iowa
• Reading Trout Water
• Trout and Their Food: A Compact Guide for Fly Fishers
• Fly Fishing for Trout: The Next Level
• Where to Fish For Trout Near Des Moines
• Top Things to Do in Decorah, Iowa
• Top 10 Things To Do in Dubuque Iowa
• Top Things To Do in Muscatine, Iowa
• Top Lakes in Iowa: 12 Best Lakes for Recreation and Relaxation
• Ice Fishing in Iowa: Safety, Gear, and the Top Ice Fishing Lakes
• Lakes Near Des Moines, Iowa