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Learn About Iowa Fishing Laws and Regulations

There are many fishing regulations in Iowa that you must follow when you are fishing. These fishing laws are set in place to help keep everyone safe and protect wildlife populations. 

There are regulations regarding daily bag limits, fish size limits, fishing seasons, restricted species and more. It is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the angler laws in the state before you go fishing. Not abiding by the rules can result in serious penalties.

Find Your Section:

  • Fishing License Laws in Iowa 
  • Iowa Fishing Seasons 
  • Legal Fish Sizes in Iowa 
  • Fish Bag Limits in Iowa 
  • Fishing Gear Laws in Iowa 
  • Regulations for Different Fishing Methods in Iowa 
  • Federal Fishing Regulations

Fishing License Laws in Iowa

Iowa fishing license laws state that everyone 16 years of age and older must purchase and carry a valid fishing license. These fishing licenses are required for both residents and nonresidents and are required on both public and private waters in the state. 

Fishermen can complete the Iowa fishing license application process through the Department of Natural Resources either online or in person at an approved retailer. Fishing without a valid license will result in serious consequences and fines. 

Iowa Fishing Seasons

There are fishing laws that cover the appropriate fishing seasons and bag limits set in place for many different types of fish found in the state. In general, most game fish can be caught at any time during the year at any body of water. However, there are a few bodies of water that have different open seasons for certain species of fish. 

Furthermore, certain species of fish, frogs, turtles, mussels and salamanders are considered threatened and endangered. This means that you cannot take, possess, transport, import, export, process, sell, buy or receive shipment for any of those specified creatures. 

Legal Fish Sizes in Iowa

There are also regulations regarding the legal fish size of certain species of fish as well. These fishing regulations help to protect important predator species such as bass, walleye and trout from overharvest. The length limits are also used to ensure that there are larger size quality fish available to catch. A few examples of fish size limits in Iowa include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Brook, brown and rainbow trout have a length limit of 14 inches in Spring Branch Creek.
  • Black bass have a length limit of 18 inches at lakes Hooper, Big Creek, Yellow Banks and more.  

Fish Bag Limits in Iowa

Bag limits are another type of regulation that must be followed by all fishermen. A bag limit specifies how many fish you may catch in one day. “Daily bag limit” or “possession limit” is the number of fish that you can take or hold in one day. Fish that are immediately released unharmed are not considered part of either limit. Once you reach the daily bag limit for a species you can still fish for that species, but you must immediately release all fish caught. 

This restriction is set in place to help prevent overfishing of certain populations of fish in specific locations. If too many fish in one species are caught, then it can negatively affect the ability for that species to survive and reproduce. However, certain types of fishing licenses, such as commercial permits have different limits. 

Fishing Gear Laws in Iowa

Certain fishing gear laws are also set in place in the state as well. These fishing laws mandate the type of equipment that can and cannot be used at specific bodies of water. A few examples of these fishing restrictions include the following:

  • Trotlines
  • Hooks 

Regulations for Different Fishing Methods in Iowa

Iowa rules and regulations for fishing also determine what fishing methods are legal in Iowa. Generally, bow fishing, spearing and snagging is legal for many types of fish and in most areas. However, there are many different areas in the state where bow fishing, spearing and snagging are not permitted. Therefore, you must ensure that you are completely aware of whether that fishing practice is allowed at the body of water you choose before you begin. 

Federal Fishing Regulations

Because Iowa is a landlocked state, all the fishing regulations are mandated by state laws and not federal laws. Federal regulations are only applicable to states that border ocean bodies of water.