Whether you’re planning on hitting the channel cats or spring fishing in Iowa for yellow bass, these are the top places you definitely won’t want to miss.
Ice-out varies from north to south across the state, but whenever the ice goes off Coralville, Saylorville or other lakes with a gizzard shad forage base, channel catfish go on a feeding binge. Winter-killed shad drift with the wind to shallow south-facing bays, and swarms of channel cats feed in as little as 2 feet of water for several weeks after ice disappears.
Lake Geode, in Henry County in far southeast Iowa, is a good example of a small lake with shallow bays that warm quickly and attract largemouth bass on late-winter days that feel more like mid-spring. Work a plastic worm or jig-and-pig slowly over a dark-bottomed, south-facing shoreline to tempt bass sunbathing in the shallows.
Boats cluster below dams on the Mississippi River even on blustery, raw days. The pre-spawn run of walleyes is good reason to endure nasty weather.
Fishing for yellow bass near The Island at Clear Lake is an early spring tradition in north-central Iowa. Wade, or cast from a boat or shore to catch the feisty, delectable panfish on small jigs tipped with minnows
White bass make spawning runs on Iowa’s major rivers in April. There is often a window of opportunity between ice-out/snowmelt and spring rains when rivers run relatively low and clear. Those are prime times to fish below the Scott Street Dam in Des Moines or the Power Dam in Iowa City to catch a stringer of whites on white twistertail jigs.
Years ago anglers stood shoulder to shoulder along the North Grade at Big Spirit Lake to catch bullheads each spring. Improvements in water quality have favored game fish and decreased the population of bullheads in Big Spirit — but there is still a good population of yellow-bellies, and their average size is “huge.”
“We have the highest densities of crappies in (Lake Rathbun) I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve been the management biologist here,” said Mark Flammang. “The 2008 and 2010 floods produced monstrous year-classes. It takes five years for most crappies to reach 10 inches in Rathbun. Do the math, and you find out that 2014 should shape up to be a pretty darned good year for crappies at Rathbun.”
Bluegills spawn in mid- to late May across Iowa, and Hawthorn Lake in Mahaska County is coming off a restoration that has a huge year-class of 8-inch and larger fish available to anglers. Fish the road grade, the shallows on either end of the dam, or the arm opposite the dam for spawning bluegills.
Largemouth bass are flourishing in Humeston Reservoir. The 40-acre lake north of Humeston in south-central Iowa is Flammang’s “sleeper” lake when he wants to tangle with not only lots of bass, but lots of big bass.
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