Written by Michael Chilton
Fishing for trout in Iowa is one of the state’s most enjoyable activities and best kept secrets. It’s incredible the number of times I’m asked, “There are trout in Iowa?” Yes, and the fishing is pretty good. Brook trout, technically a member of the char family, are native to Iowa waters. There’s one stream in our state where brook trout have never been stocked, but are still abundant and reproducing naturally. Eggs are taken from the trout in this stream to be raised and stocked in other streams. Over 40 Iowa trout streams have natural reproduction occurring, primarily among brown trout. Most of these streams are supplemented with stocked trout. The Iowa DNR stocks fingerling brown and brook trout, and catchable sized rainbow and brook trout for the enjoyment of anglers.
Iowa trout fishing occurs in the northeast corner of the state, a place known as The Driftless Area, Iowa’s Little Switzerland, and The Coulee Region. This unique geological area was skipped over in the last glacial period, so it lacks glacial drift (sediment) from the last glaciation. As a result, the landscape is in stark contrast to the rest of the region. Large limestone bluffs, and beautiful valleys mark the area. This portion of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin contains the largest concentration of limestone spring creeks anywhere in the world! Trout love these little creeks that receive a constant influx of cold water that is amazingly consistent in temperature throughout the year.
Trout streams in Iowa range from tiny to small. Some are as wide as a sidewalk, and can easily be hopped over. Others can be around 60 feet wide in portions. Waters are generally slower moving. The small size means they can easily blowout after a rain event, but the spring water sources help clear them up.
Brook Trout– 7lbs, 19.75″, Fountain Springs
Brown Trout– 15lbs 6oz, 29″, North Prairie Lake
Rainbow Trout– 19lbs 8oz, 35″, French Creek
TROUT FEE: Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee ($12.50 for residents or $15 for non-residents) to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Iowa residents and nonresidents under 16 years old 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 trout. Children under 16 have the option to purchase their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).
SEASON: All waters – Continuous
LENGTH LIMITS: None, except a 14-inch minimum length limit applies to all trout in Spring Branch Creek (Delaware Co.), from the spring source to County Hwy. D5X as posted, and on brown trout only in portions of Bloody Run Creek (Clayton Co.) where posted.
DAILY BAG & POSSESSION: All waters – Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10.
CATCH & RELEASE ONLY: All trout caught from the posted portion of Hewett and Ensign creeks (Clayton); McLoud Run (Linn), South Pine Creek (Winneshiek); and Waterloo Creek (Allamakee);
and brown trout caught from French Creek (Allamakee) must be released alive immediately.
SPECIAL RESTRICTIONS: Artificial Lure Only: Fishing in the posted areas of Bloody Run Creek, Ensign Creek, French Creek, Hewett Creek, McLoud Run, South Pine Creek, Spring Branch Creek and Waterloo Creek must be by artificial lure only. 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.
Trout Map1 (Google Maps)
Trout Map2 (DNR)
Here is a list of Iowa trout streams along with GPS coordinates. This list is published on the annual Iowa Trout Map brochure. Streams denoted with (P&G) are put and grow streams that are on private land and receive stockings of fingerling trout, or have naturally reproducing populations. You must receive landowner permission to fish them. Click the stream name to locate it on google maps, then find the landowner on this site: Beacon.
|Allamakee||Clear Creek (north)||43.4584227479512||-91.4183694537955|
|Allamakee||Clear Creek (north)||43.4744026140256||-91.4119460192909|
|Allamakee||Clear Creek (Lansing)||43.3592373142821||-91.2315598179154|
|Allamakee||Clear Creek (Lansing)||43.3590603569199||-91.2397957062539|
|Allamakee||Clear Creek (Lansing)||43.3606906041732||-91.2584305247422|
|Allamakee||Little Paint Creek||43.1633739323163||-91.2331999191846|
|Allamakee||Little Paint Creek||43.1907228731333||-91.2390006334903|
|Allamakee||West Fork French Creek||43.371256078265||-91.3943779718604|
|Allamakee||Teeple Creek (P&G)||43.2202732749879||-91.5089838109723|
|Allamakee||Williams Creek (P&G)||43.1425627864716||-91.4517687839746|
|Allamakee||Yellow River (P&G)||43.1386430589003||-91.3992483490675|
|Clayton||Sny Magill Creek||42.965731417662||-91.2142875371216|
|Clayton||South Cedar Creek||42.8283714250302||-91.245030644207|
|Clayton||Ensign Hollow Creek||42.7556130829327||-91.5641705795744|
|Clayton||Mossey Glen Creek||42.7074303383816||-91.4251543511891|
|Clayton||Bear Creek (Clayton)||42.6745462297707||-91.3984177593825|
|Clayton||Miners Creek (Lower) (P&G)||42.7833848790062||-91.1177070052417|
|Clayton||Miners Creek (Upper) (P&G)||42.7998937844168||-91.1394516436366|
|Clayton||North Cedar Creek||42.9649663785576||-91.2279241217351|
|Clayton||North Cedar Creek||42.9439785611732||-91.2416613251715|
|Clayton||North Cedar Creek||42.9565143089314||-91.2294576175829|
|Delaware||Little Turkey River (P&G)||42.6297108718719||-91.1580339141435|
|Delaware||Spring Branch Creek||42.4613157914367||-91.4021815349139|
|Delaware||Twin Bridges Creek||42.6299260195277||-91.2892287265929|
|Delaware||Grimes Hollow (P&G)||42.6430697838695||-91.1636923908078|
|Delaware||Little Turkey River (P&G)||42.6179876520259||-91.1675446934458|
|Delaware||Spring Falls (P&G)||42.6310019498468||-91.2686545289637|
|Dubuque||Swiss Valley Creek (Upper)||42.4163692651013||-90.7627989044866|
|Dubuque||Swiss Valley Creek (Lower)||42.430145100511||-90.7403188061765|
|Dubuque||White Pine Hollow Creek||42.6284483454692||-91.1203010620754|
|Dubuque||North Fork Maquoketa River||42.4702649633327||-90.9725289243041|
|Fayette||Bear Creek (Fayette)||42.8049285352882||-91.6941659772313|
|Fayette||Brush Creek (Fayette)||42.7806740729388||-91.6871502933386|
|Jackson||Big Mill Creek||42.2692021589605||-90.5176977455169|
|Jackson||South Fork Big Mill Creek||42.2655984301404||-90.5217313776015|
|Jackson||Little Mill Creek||42.247972533659||-90.4766542903846|
|Jackson||Brush Creek (Jackson)||42.2030968952276||-90.5719701878794|
|Jackson||Brush Creek (Jackson)||42.1765502079761||-90.5768164098175|
|Jackson||Ozark Springs (P&G)||42.2118517564148||-90.8722390129391|
|Jackson||Tete des Morts Creek (P&G)||42.3747466916061||-90.6174968515661|
|Jackson||Tete des Morts Tributary (P&G)||42.3420854178679||-90.6301521780627|
|Mitchell||Burr Oak Creek (P&G)||43.3292131504578||-92.7408593988868|
|Winneshiek||South Bear Creek||43.443067272143||-91.6355962197135|
|Winneshiek||South Bear Creek||43.4426121993003||-91.6749147577135|
|Winneshiek||North Bear Creek||43.4729457776271||-91.63454863377|
|Winneshiek||South Pine Creek||43.3770596043149||-91.6672625694953|
|Winneshiek||West Canoe Creek||43.403119468906||-91.8095508777291|
|Winneshiek||East Pine Creek (P&G)||43.4648362539678||-91.8971918533525|
|Winneshiek||Pine Creek (P&G)||43.4567245319893||-91.9273115700419|
|Winneshiek||Casey Springs (P&G)||43.3606059394407||-91.8696433474472|
|Winneshiek||Middle Bear Creek (P&G)||43.4807380984658||-91.665049061475|
|Winneshiek||North Canoe Creek||43.4049531858234||-91.770533011817|
|Winneshiek||Tenmile Creek (P&G)||43.3332257624573||-91.8739555667169|
Complete Guide to Iowa Trout Streams by Jene Hughes-Don’t go trout fishing in Iowa without it.
Flyfisher’s Guide to Wisconsin and Iowa-Not as much stream information as the Hughes book, but contains more details about nearby towns and logistical planning.
BioNet-Don’t click on this unless you have several free hours because you’ll be consumed by all the data compiled by University of Iowa researchers.
Trout Mapping Project-Iowa trout streams in google maps.
Driftless Trout Anglers-One of my favorite trout fishing forums.
Iowa Sportsman-The trout fishing forum isn’t as active as DTA, but some useful and entertaining posts pop up here.
Stream Fishing in Iowa– Not a super active forum, but very good content. You need to become a member to see the trout fishing section.
If you’re new to trout fishing or fly fishing, give one of these guides a call. They can teach you a lot in a day on the water.
WHERE TO STAY
Sportsmen Motel– Dorchester
My favorite place to stay when I’m trout fishing. $40 a night for a clean room is ridiculous. No, it’s not fancy, but you’re here to fish. It might take a little while for the hot water to get to your room, and don’t expect too much conversation from Jack, the owner.
Hotel Winneshiek– Decorah
The Winneshiek is great, and it’s set in the beautiful town of Decorah. It’s the most expensive option, and the one I choose when bringing my wife along. The hotel restaurant is worth checking out, and there are many other excellent places to eat in town.
Bear Creek Cabins– Highlandville
The proprietors operate several cabins right along South Bear Creek. Check out their reduced winter rates.
Elkader Inn– Elkader
Another unassuming, very tidy and clean little motel for a good rate.
Stoney Creek Inn– Waukon
MEDIA and PRESS
Trout UnlimitedNorth Bear (Des Moines)
Spring Creeks (Iowa City)
Driftless Area Restoration Effort
Jeffery Skeate (Author)
Clear Creek Fishing (Fishing Luggage)
High Horse Floatant (Fly Floatant)