These are the basic regulations you have to take into account before you take your fishing gear and start fishing on the lakes and rivers of Iowa.


Fishing license

Residents and non-residents can obtain a fishing and hunting licenses from the Department of Natural resources in Iowa. Full-time students, persons under 18 with resident parents and members of the armed forces may qualify as residents, but it’s important to note that you have to reside in the state of Iowa for 90 consecutive days immediately before you purchase or apply for a license.

If you’re under 16 years of age, a part of military personnel, a patient of some substance abuse facility or a landowner, you only need a license don’t need a license under certain circumstances.


Equipment and practices

If you want to catch your own bait using minnow traps, these must not exceed 3 feet in length, while minnow dip nets can’t be wider than 4 feet in diameter. Cast nets have a 10 feet diameter limit, and minnow seines should be up to 20 feet.

When you use hook and line, make sure you only use two lines and two hooks on each of them, because that is the limit on state waters. The same limit applies for flies when you’re fly-fishing or spoons and artificial bait when you’re trolling. However, you can use single, double or treble hooks.

If you’re ice fishing in Iowa, the limit is one tip-up and a line or two tip-ups and no line. But you can buy a third line fishing permit to increase your limit. Also, fishing on the Mississippi, Missouri and Big Sioux rivers gives you the right to use three tip-ups.

Culling is strictly prohibited when fishing in the state of Iowa. Once you’ve reached the daily bag limit for a certain fish, the rest of your catch from that species must be released.


Seasons and limits

The season is always open for all fish species except, of course, threatened and endangered species. There are only a few exceptions when it comes to fishing season.

You can only catch Muskellunge and its hybrids from May the 21st through November the 30th when you’re fishing on West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Spirit Lakes or on the boundary lakes between Iowa and Minnesota. On the same three lakes named above, the walleye, sauger and saugeye season is from May the 6th through February the 14th.

From March the 1st through April the 15th you can enjoy the open season for paddlefish on the Mississippi, Missouri and Big Sioux rivers. Fishing for shovelnose sturgeon is allowed, but you can’t harvest it on the Big Sioux River.

Daily bags vary depending on the type of water and fish species. The daily limit is set to 3 for black bass (5 on boundary rivers) and northern pike, 25 for bluegill and crappie, 8 for catfish, 1 for muskellunge, 10 for shovelnose sturgeon and 5 for trout.

Length limits that allow you to harvest the landed fish are as follows. Black bass has to be 15 inches long on inland waters and 12 inches long on streams and rivers. Muskellunge should be 40 inches in length no matter where you catch it. Paddlefish caught on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers has a maximum length limit. If it’s more than 33 inches or fits in a 34-45 inches slot respectively, it must be released immediately.

Yellow perch, yellow bass, white bass, rock bass and their hybrids have no possession limit except for the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, where you can harvest 25 bass and 25 yellow perch respectively.

These are general regulations, but inland waters, streams, boundary rivers and lakes have plenty of additional or modified limits. When you go fishing, make sure you are aware of the specific site regulations.



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