Iowa Outdoors

Conservation and Recreation NewsIowa Department of Natural Resources

Gone fishing for summer

Summer is all about relaxing with family and friends. Add fishing to your list of summer activities. Plan a day trip or bring along fishing gear on your next weekend getaway or camping trip.

“Fish are still biting, even in the middle of a sticky Iowa summer,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Bureau. Like anglers, fish adjust to the heat, too. “The key is being in the right place, even when the thermometer says it’s too hot to fish.”

The best fishing is early in the morning or later in the evening and after dark. Avoid the brightest, hottest part of the day. Fish might cruise the shoreline early in the morning, but will seek cover in deeper water as the sun starts beating down on the water. “Some of our best fishing is after dark,” reminds Larscheid.

Look for fish in weed beds or structure, near shade during the day. They often are suspended in deeper water, just above the thermocline - a midsummer phenomenon many lakes develop creating two distinct layers. Below the thermocline, often 8 to 10 or 12 feet deep, oxygen is nearly nonexistent. Many fish suspend just above the thermocline, where temperatures and light conditions are tolerable, and where oxygen levels are sufficient.

“When the water heats up, we really see the white bass and wipers come on,” said Larscheid. “Hot weather is also a good time to catch big channel catfish and largemouth bass.”

White bass are active in the summer in the flood control reservoirs (Coralville, Red Rock, Rathbun and Saylorville). Calm days are the best to fish for white bass because the seagulls can see the shad easier and will be feeding on them. Follow the seagulls to spot white bass. Telltale splashes on the water surface are good signs, too, as the shad leap from the water trying to escape.

“Bluegills spawn several times during the summer, so stay shallow, looking for them,” advises Larscheid. Largemouth bass and channel catfish can be found close to shore. Look for bass near cover; stumps, wood structure. “Bass and bluegills will also use vegetation for cover and shade. It also holds a variety of zooplankton and insects which attract baitfish.”

Find a great place to fish close to home on the DNR website fishing.iowadnr.gov along with tips for catching specific fish species this summer.

Summer tips to land Iowa’s big fish

Iowa anglers have lots of opportunities to earn a Master Angler award this summer. The Master Angler program celebrates angler success for catching quality sized fish by awarding a vehicle or boat decal and certificate for each fish that meets program criteria.

Quickly find the best spots to catch qualifying size fish with the electronic map recently added to the Master Angler website (https://programs.iowadnr.gov/masterangler/). Anglers can search for local hotspots by species or location.

A search using the new ranking feature identified these top locations (listed by the number of catches) where qualifying fish have been caught. Try these simple tips from DNR fisheries biologists to catch large bluegill, bass and crappie during the summer heat (early morning and sunset are best).

Bluegills (10 inches to qualify)

· Farm Ponds – look for ponds surrounded by grass; fish the face of the dam or steep shorelines where the weed line is close to shore; drift or cast small jigs (1/32nd ounce) tipped with a 1-inch piece of worm 6 to 8 feet down; get permission from the landowner before entering.

· West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – fish the rock reefs or rocky humps in 20-25 feet of water; jig live bait (small crayfish, Belgium worms, piece of night crawler or leech) with a split shot 8-10 inches above the hook.

· Big Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.

· Twelve Mile Creek Lake, Union County – fish the rock piles or cedar tree brush piles along the roadbed; try also along the weed line.

· East Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.

Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

· Farm Ponds – use top water lures at the edge of aquatic plants early and late in the day when the air is still; switch to a spinner bait or plastic worm later in the morning or late afternoon next to the weed line or around brush piles; get permission from the landowner before entering.

· West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.

· Big Creek Lake, Polk County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.

· Lake Anita, Cass County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.

· Badger Creek Lake, Madison County – fish the cedar tree brush piles near the fishing jetties or along the dam.

Black Crappie (14 inches to qualify)

· Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering.

· Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast larger chartreuse twister tails and slowly drop down the bank.

· Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish.

· Crawford Creek Impoundment, Ida County – drift fish 1/16 ounce chartreuse jigs tipped with a small minnow; try also fishing around the brush piles.

· Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles.

White Crappie (14 inches to qualify)

· Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering.

· Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish.

· Saylorville Reservoir, Polk County –focus on areas where the shoreline is protected with rip-rap.

· Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles

· Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County – look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast chartreuse twister tails and slowly drop down the bank.

The Master Angler program has three award levels: anglers who submit one qualifying fish earn a Master Angler award; those submitting five different fish species earn a Silver Master Angler award; and anyone submitting 10 different qualifying fish will earn Gold Master Angler status.

Master anglers can track the number of species they have submitted and see where they “rank” among fellow master anglers. The new species specialist award lets a master angler track his/her progress towards catching five of each eligible species.

A list of the 41 different fish species eligible for Master Angler awards, complete rules and registration form can be found in the Iowa Fishing Regulations or online at fishing.iowadnr.gov.

Hunter education classes offered across Iowa in August

Hunters who need to satisfy the hunter education requirement can search for and sign up for a course at www.iowadnr.gov/huntered.

Prospective students can see which courses or field days are near them; how many seats are available for the class or if the class is full and a waiting list is available. There is also a map showing the location along with the instructor’s name, a course overview and any special instructions.

Iowa law requires all hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 to satisfactorily complete a hunter education course in order to purchase a license. Children as young as 11 may enroll in the course, but their certificate of completion will not become valid until their 12th birthday.

Each year, around 12,000 students complete hunter education in Iowa.

Online Only Course Option for Adults

The online only course for adults is designed for Iowa residents 18 years of age or older that have prior hunting and/or firearms handling experience.

The course covers the same material as the classroom course, allowing the student to complete the entire course, including the final test, in an online setting. Certification is received at the successful completion of the online course.