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Ice Fishing Lakes In Iowa

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Guide to favorite fish species at top ice fishing lakes in the state.

By AA-Fishing Staff Writers

Ice fishing

The best ice fishing lakes in IA include Big Creek Lake, the Mississippi River and Clear Lake. The most popular species through the ice, across the state, include crappie, bluegill and perch. The purpose of this page is to share basic information about the best ice fishing lakes in the state, plus the species found in each lake. See a list of lakes and species below.

Ice fishing is as basic as fishing gets. During winter, it is popular here in the state. Aside from the tools one uses to create a hole in the ice, all other gear is very basic. A simple rod, reel, line and hook or lure is all you need. Lures, live bait and prepared bait are options, depending on the fish species in the lake or pond.

Iowa offers excellent ice fishing opportunities during the winter months when many of its lakes freeze over, providing anglers with a unique fishing experience. Ice fishing in Iowa primarily targets a variety of fish species, including yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, walleye, northern pike, and largemouth bass.

Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques Video

Yellow perch are a popular target for ice anglers in Iowa. These fish often gather in schools near the bottom of the lake, and anglers use small jigs tipped with live bait or small minnows to entice bites. Perch provide both fun and tasty catches, making them a favorite among ice fishing enthusiasts.

Bluegill and crappie are also commonly targeted during ice fishing season. These panfish can be found near submerged structures or suspended in the water column. Anglers use small jigs, ice flies, or live bait to tempt these fish into biting. Both bluegill and crappie offer good action and make for excellent table fare.

Walleye, northern pike, and largemouth bass are more challenging species to target through the ice but can provide rewarding catches. Anglers use various techniques such as jigging with spoons or tip-ups with live bait to entice these larger predator fish. These species often require a bit more patience and strategy, but landing a trophy-sized walleye or pike can be a memorable ice fishing experience.

When participating in ice fishing, safety is of utmost importance. Before venturing onto the ice, it's crucial to check the thickness and quality of the ice to ensure it's safe for fishing. It is generally recommended to have a minimum ice thickness of 4 inches for ice fishing. It's also essential to dress warmly in layers and wear appropriate footwear to stay comfortable and prevent hypothermia. Carrying safety equipment such as ice picks, a rope, and a life jacket is highly recommended in case of an emergency.

It's important to remember that ice conditions can change rapidly, and caution should always be exercised. Avoid areas with flowing water, such as inlets and outlets, as the ice can be thinner and unstable. Ice fishing with a buddy is also advisable for added safety and assistance if needed.

Iowa's ice fishing season provides a unique opportunity for anglers to enjoy fishing in a serene winter landscape. With the right gear, knowledge of fish behavior, and adherence to safety precautions, ice fishing in Iowa can be a thrilling and rewarding experience for both seasoned anglers and those new to the sport.

Fishing Boats For Rent In Iowa

Top Ice Fishing Lakes & Species

There are numerous places to go ice fishing in the state. Here are a list of some of the proven, best destinations.

Big Creek Lake

Black crappie Walleye Bluegill Yellow Perch

Big Spirit Lake

Black crappie Walleye Bluegill Yellow Perch

Black Hawk Lake

Walleye Bluegill Yellow Perch

Brushy Creek Lake

Black crappie Walleye Bluegill Yellow Perch

Clear Lake

Walleye Yellow Bass

East Okoboji Lake

Black crappie Walleye Bluegill

Lost Island Lake

Black crappie Bluegill Yellow Bass Yellow Perch

Mississippi River

Black crappie Bluegill Yellow Perch

Storm Lake

Walleye Yellow Perch

Twelve Mile Lake

Black crappie Bluegill Yellow Bass

West Okoboji Lake

Black crappie Walleye Bluegill

Click the images for species details.

This is a great way to get the kids to go outdoors in winter, connect with nature and learn to fish. The first consideration when attempting to go ice fishing, is safety. Make sure the ice is safe, and that you are prepared should an accident occur. Dress to stay warm - it's better to remove extra jackets than be cold and miserable. Be aware that the ice can be slippery, and falls can be dangerous.

Click here for ice fishing basics, including details on finding the best place to fish, tips for cutting a hole, basic tackle, bait, lures, depths to fish, safety, shanty's, tents and huts.

Best ice fishing method for crappie, bluegill, perch and sunfish

Horizontal jigs and spoon-type baits are the go-to baits for crappie, either tipped with a minnow, wax worm or prepared baits often triggers more bites. Jigs work better close to the bottom, spoons tend to work better higher in the water column. If options allow, 15 to 30 feet is the most common depth. Adjust as necessary. See additional info on ice fishing for crappie, perch and sunfish.

Best ice fishing method for walleye

Four basic lures are all you need. Ice jigs are minnow shaped with a tail that causes them to fall in a circular patter. Drop them to the desired depth (often to the bottom), then lift the bait a few feet to let it fall on slack line. Spoons: Metal slabs in chrome or a wide array of colors are used to jig up-and-down mimicking a dying baitfish. Lipless crankbaits: Fish like a spoon. Jigs: Use slightly larger jigs than for crappie, preferably with a flashing blade attached. Tip with live bait and let it sit, up a ways from the bottom typically 1 to 3 feet. A general tip is to always keep your bait off the bottom, one to 5 feet is an ideal place to start. Additional information about ice fishing for walleye.

Best ice fishing method for bass

Bass are often found closer to the shoreline than schooling fish. Fish the same as other species, using a bit larger baits and slightly heavier line. Be prepared to battle using your drag if you hook a big one. Additional information about ice fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Click here for a Iowa Fishing License.

Iowa Map


States with notable ice fishing.

AZ Ice Fishing CA Ice Fishing CO Ice Fishing CT Ice Fishing IA Ice Fishing ID Ice Fishing IL Ice Fishing IN Ice Fishing
KS Ice Fishing MA Ice Fishing MD Ice Fishing ME Ice Fishing MI Ice Fishing MN Ice Fishing MT Ice Fishing ND Ice Fishing
NE Ice Fishing NH Ice Fishing NJ Ice Fishing NM Ice Fishing NV Ice Fishing NY Ice Fishing OH Ice Fishing OR Ice Fishing
PA Ice Fishing RI Ice Fishing SD Ice Fishing UT Ice Fishing VT Ice Fishing WA Ice Fishing WI Ice Fishing WY Ice Fishing