One of Iowa’s best kept secrets is excellent fall fishing. Many Iowa anglers love to fish this time of year simply because it’s a relaxing time to enjoy being on the water, with smaller crowds and picturesque views. But just as importantly, cooler temperatures trigger fish to actively search for food, and that means a lot more action on Iowa lakes and streams. Here are five top picks for fall fishing destinations in Iowa:
1. NW Iowa – West Okoboji in Dickinson County
West Okoboji Lake, a popular tourist destination during the summer, becomes an angler’s paradise in the fall. Catching a fish is truly a bonus while visiting this beautiful lake. It offers great opportunities for panfish, walleyes, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and muskie. Take advantage of incredible aquatic vegetation lines, many rock reefs, points, and drop offs. Others to consider: Silver Lake in Dickinson County and Storm Lake in Buena Vista County both for fall walleye fishing.
2. SW Iowa -- Little River Lake near Leon
Just an hour south of Des Moines, Little River Lake is a gem for fall fishing. The lake was recently renovated and is now in its third year for producing healthy populations of walleye, bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. The lake has a small campground along its shore and is on the outskirts of Leon for easy accessibility to convenience stores and restaurants.
Others to Consider: Twelve Mile Lake and Green Valley Lake near Creston both for crappie and bluegill.
3. NE Iowa – Decorah
Check out Trout Run trail near Decorah for several easy-access fishing spots. Start in Decorah at the Bow String Bridge Park along Highway 9 and cast your way all the way to the trout hatchery. Bring the kids and take a walking tour to view the thousands of trout raised here for stocking in area streams. Various trout streams, campgrounds, small shops, eateries, bike trails and the State Trout Hatchery are all located within a short distance.
Others to Consider: The DNR stocks trout in 50 trout in NE Iowa in September and October. See the stocking calendar for locations.
4. SE Iowa – Mississippi River F
all is a tremendous time for fishing along the entire 312 miles of the Mississippi River. Although most Mississippi River sites require a boat, the diversity of fish make the trip worthwhile. A couple of perennial fall favorites are south of Muscatine near Lock and Dam 17 for a secluded place to fish for walleye, or Sylvan Slough at Lock and Dam 15 near Davenport. Boat ramps are available near the Lock and Dams at all these urban locations.
Others to Consider: Lake Belva Deer in Keokuk County for crappie, blue gill and bass, and Lost Grove Lake in Scott County, a newly renovated lake that has been aggressively stocked for the last two years.
5. Central Iowa – Banner Lake South, Summerset State Park
Trout fishing is not just for travelers to northeast Iowa; Banner Lake South in Summerset State Park north of Indianola is an established location for cold-weather trout stocking. The DNR stocks trout in about 18 urban lakes across Iowa during the fall and winter months as a way to introduce visitors to this enjoyable fish to catch. Banner Lake South is admired for its clear water and is located on 65/69 between Des Moines and Indianola.
Others to Consider: For seventeen additional locations for cold-weather lake trout stockings across Iowa, see the DNR stocking information.
For a complete listing of places to fall fish in Iowa including lake maps, directions and amenities, visit the DNR Places to Fish web page. A 2014 fishing license is valid through Jan. 10, 2015, and is a bargain for your leisure time at $19.00 for resident, $41.00 for nonresidents. Otherwise, seven-day and one-day licenses are also available. Licenses can be purchased online at www.iowadnr.gov, or at any one of the 900-plus license vendors in the state.
JULIE T. Iowa Department of Natural Resources 502 E. 9th Street | Des Moines, IA 50319