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Driving around northeast Iowa last weekend it was apparent that trout fishing remains a popular fall activity when every parking spot at North and South Bear Creek and Waterloo Creek was filled.
“That was good to see,” said Mike Steuck, fisheries supervisor for interior streams with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Interest in trout fishing usually peaks from April through October, which is the stocking season when the Iowa DNR stocks roughly 325,000 catchable sized trout each year. But many of those fish will remain in the stream through the winter providing an experience of fishing for more wild fish, with possibly fewer competing anglers.
In addition to the hold-over stocked fish, Iowa has more than 40 trout streams with consistently naturally reproducing brown trout and another 30 streams where natural reproduction is occurring, but not consistently. These streams have a lot of wild fish available for anglers to test their skills.
“It’s a busy place this time of year,” he said. “We have quite a bit of public ground and public streams so you can always find a place to fish.”
Iowa’s trout season is open all year. Iowa’s trout streams are too.
Even during the coldest of cold spells, the streams are not likely to freeze over for very long due to a steady flow of spring fed water around 50 degrees.
The spring fed streams also have occasional insect hatches on warm afternoons during the winter, which is good news to anglers using dry flies.
“Most common hatches in the winter are midges and they are really small so dry flies will need to be size 24 or smaller,” Steuck said. When midges are not hatching, he suggests sticking with nymphs.
“Of course if you don’t have the patience for fly fishing, you can always use minnows, spinners, jigs, and the plain hook with a night crawler,” he said. Black or brown jigs that imitate beetles and scuds, minnow imitations, small raps, and rooster tails and panther martens, too.
Fall offers an opportunity to catch some larger brown trout that spawn in shallow rocky areas in the fall.
“Be careful where you’re stepping, to avoid disturbing the redds,” he said. Redds are a cleared area in the gravel, usually with a bit more current in it to keep the nest clean.
While much trout fishing attention in the fall and winter focuses on the events surrounding the stocking in ponds and small lakes around the state, plenty of good fishing remains in trout country, Steuck said.“We have a lot of fish remaining in our streams and plenty of opportunities to catch them,” he said.