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Outside Iowa: Working the interior Iowa rivers

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The oppressive heat continues with nearly no end in sight, other than August is the last month of summer.  That keeps me hanging on as September typically ushers in that first cool down of the fall and just ignites my autumn dreams. 

But, we still have some sultry summer days ahead of us.  The fishing has certainly slowed down, if not stopped in some bodies of water due to the lack of moisture and heat.

When these kinds of conditions persist, one has to consider the health of the fish before even casting a line. 

When a fish exerts all his energy during the hand-line-mouth battle, they stand a higher chance of delayed mortality, meaning they will swim off only to perish later. 

This doesn’t happen often, as most anglers are adept at quality fishing handing and catch and release tactics.  But it can happen.

The hot conditions are taking a toll on Iowa’s lake fisheries, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop fishing completely. 

Iowa’s interior river systems are easily the most overlooked fisheries in the state.  Fish of nearly all species can be found in rivers and an angry river fish certainly fights harder than a lake-confined cousin.

From East to West, there are tons of rivers to consider.  When the weather is this hot and dry, the lakes will begin to experience lower oxygen levels, which could negatively impact the fishery, and will certainly reduce fish activity. 

Conversely, a river experiences a constant influx of fresh water therefore the fish don’t become as inactive due to the heat.

The water temps will be similar to those on the lakes, but because oxygen is abundant the fish tolerate being caught and handled much better than they would if they were pulled from a lake.  By no means am I saying you can become lax on your handing and C&R tactics, but they are a bit more robust out of flowing water.

Whether you are chasing pike, large or smallmouth bass, gills, crappies, catfish, walleye, even the occasional muskie, or any species of rough fish, you will find them all in nearly every interior river in the state of Iowa.  Fishing a river and understanding how the current reacts to obstructions is a topic that has been covered in many books, videos, and articles, but I can say that current breaks are where you need to start your search.

In eastern Iowa you will need to consider the Cedar, Wapsi, and the Iowa.  In central Iowa, the Des Moines, Skunk, and Raccoon rivers are tops.  Western Iowa has the Nishnabotna, Little Sioux and Big Sioux and Nodaway.  There are many other smaller streams (or ‘cricks’ as I like to call them) that will offer tremendous fishing opportunities as well, but those are a few rivers I have personal experience on and can attest to the quality fishery that exists here.

The very best way to get to know these systems is to simply put the boat in or go ‘stompin’ and scout out the best looking holes.  Take a rod or two, a small backpack for gear and water and get out there and have a ball.  These are not big fisheries, but the fishing that certainly exists here is worth every effort.  The fishing can get so good, especially this time of year, you won’t want to tell your buddies about how many fish you catch on an afternoon outing – otherwise you might be taking them with you!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll help in any way I can!  tha481@gmail.com

Live It Up!

Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit www.outsideiowa.com