Explore some of the most beautiful trout streams in the Upper Midwest, here in Iowa. A true angler’s paradise, hundreds of miles of cold water trout streams meander through Northeast Iowa. Some streams are easily accessible in parks, and others are in wild and remote natural places. Catch wild and stocked Rainbow, Brown and Brook trout.
Plenty of opportunities await trout anglers in Iowa:
50 catchable-stocked rainbow and brook trout fisheries on publicly-accessible streams
9 special trout fisheries with restrictive regulations
17 community trout fisheries
Over 50 wild, self-sustaining trout fisheries throughout northeast Iowa
Schedule time during your next trip to northeast Iowa to visit one of Iowa’s three trout hatcheries – Manchester, Decorah, or Big Springs. The grounds to each facility are open to the public year round from sunrise to sunset.
Find your favorite trout stream and when it will be stocked with the Trout Stream Stocking Calendar at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Trout-Fishing or call 563-927-5736 for current trout stream or urban stocking information.
The past 20 years, northeast Iowa has seen a dramatic increase in the miles of stream that support populations of trout fully sustained through natural reproduction. Over 75 streams now have some level of natural reproduction and provide an excellent opportunity for anglers to pursue wild trout. These increases occurred as watersheds were improved, in-stream habitat was installed, improved trout genetics were used, and Iowa had an extended period of above average annual rainfall.
Iowa’s put-and-grow streams are stocked with fingerling brown trout. These streams are entirely on private property – you need permission from the landowner to fish them. Fingerling trout are also stocked into streams open to public fishing.
Brook Trout from South Pine Creek are the only know population of native Iowa Brook Trout. In 1995, Iowa DNR staff started to spawn trout from South Pine Creek to restore populations in other NE Iowa cold water streams.
Adult Brown Trout from French Creek are spawned and their offspring stocked as fingerlings into cold water streams with suitable water temperatures and habitat conditions. Several populations of naturally reproducing Brown Trout have been established in northeast Iowa streams using this stocking approach.
Fisheries staff play an active role in trout stream projects to improve and maintain quality water and habitat that benefit both trout and trout anglers. They have worked with 18 landowners to protect over 10 miles of streams in Northeast Iowa with Angler Conservation Easements.
Successful water quality improvement projects are led by groups and communities that partner with the DNR to create and implement long-term plans to improve the land and water. Using conservation practices on the land upstream is key to help stop sediment, nutrients and bacteria from entering into the stream.
Several projects are currently ongoing in Northeast Iowa. The longest running project was implemented in 2000 on the Upper Iowa River. It continues to secure funding for additional tributaries within its watershed and on the immediate corridor.
Watershed improvement projects have helped many trout streams by changing the way water flows through them. Bank stabilization projects occur on public and private owned properties. Cut banks are stabilized by bank shaping, armoring with rock, seeding, willow stake planting and cedar tree or root-wad revetments.
Landowners who want to improve the habitat in their trout streams should contact the Decorah or Manchester fish management biologist for help with project plans and potential funding sources.
Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must pay the Trout Fee to fish for or possess trout. Exception: Children under 16 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 (5) trout. Children under 16 can buy their own trout privilege, which allows them to fish without a properly licensed adult and keep their own daily limit (5).
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.
Annual Fishing License*
Info and photo credits to Iowa DNR
For more info and trout stream locations, go to https://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing/Where-to-Fish/Trout-Streams