Iowa Fishing License

Iowa

Iowa presents some of the best fishing opportunities in the Midwest. There are thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs stocked with an abundance of panfish such as bluegill and crappie. Some lakes are famous for catching trout, northern pike, walleye, and muskie. Interior rivers are home to huge catfish and smallmouth bass. Avid anglers are well aware of purchasing an Iowa fishing license before packing their gear to fish. The rules and regulations set up by the Iowa Bay fishing regulations depend on the area where you wish to fish and the species you intend on catching.

Procuring an Iowa fishing license may be done online through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website. Fishing licenses may also be bought in brick and mortar offices of fishing license agents in Iowa.

Fishing rules and regulations are strictly observed and enforced to ensure the legacy of future generations. Since not all fishing sites appear to have the same set of fishing rules and regulations, all anglers are encouraged to read said set of rules and by-laws.

Residents of Iowa are entitled to free annual fishing licenses if their yearly household income is below the federal poverty line set by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Those who are over 65 years old, and those who are permanently disabled do not have to buy an IA fishing license too. Presentation of proof of age, income, and permanent disability benefits is required.

Conscientious anglers help in the conservation and preservation of natural resources. A responsible angler must follow the basic fishing guideline to help lessen the negative impact of the earth's reserves, making sure he does his part in the conservation process. Educating others about the importance of protecting the environment and wildlife is part of the efforts.

Getting an Iowa Fishing License

There are a few ways you can purchase a fishing license. 

  1. Online - To purchase an Iowa fishing license, you have to go to the Go OutDoors Iowa online licensing system. https://gooutdoorsiowa.com/
    1. On the top left corner, there is an option that says, “Purchase Licenses Permits, Tags & Register for LOT.”
    2. From there, you can create or log into your account.
    3. Then follow the instructions listed and add the privileges (licenses, permits, registrations, and tags) of your choice to your shopping cart. 
    4. Complete the checkout process using a Discover, Mastercard, or Visa. (Please note: there will be a $2.50 convenience fee plus a 2.5% purchase price added to your cart total.) 
    5. Once you’ve completed your purchase. Make sure to print your licenses and permits. You will receive a confirmation email after your transaction with an electronic PDF copy of your available licenses. You may also have these licenses mailed to you. 
  2. Go to a local license retailer. There are 700 different retailers to choose from. 
  3. Visit a bait shop in your area to purchase a fishing license 

As an Iowa resident, you can choose a three year, one year, or other short term licenses. You can even get an outdoor combo license to give you the capability to fish and hunt. 

Types of Iowa Fishing License and Costs

We’ve compiled a list of fishing licenses to make it easy for you to read and refer back to:

Resident:

Resident Fishing Licenses

Cost

Purchase Online 

Online Delivery

Point of Sale (POS)

Resident Fishing

$22 

Y

Y

Y

Angler’s Special - 3 Year Fish

$62

Y

Y

Y

Bonus Line - 3rd FishLine

$14

Y

Y

Y

Lifetime Fishing (65 years old & older)

$61.50

Y

Y

Y

Outdoor Combo - Hunting/Fishing/Habitat

$55

Y

Y

Y

Resident Trout Fish Fee

$14.50

Y

Y

Y

Resident 1-Day Fishing

$10.50

Y

Y

Y

Resident 7-Day Fishing

$15.50

Y

Y

Y

Resident Boundary Water Trotline 

$26

Y

Y

Y

Non-Resident:

Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

Cost

Purchase Online

Online Delivery

Point of Sale (POS)

Non-resident Fishing

$48

Y

Y

Y

Bonus Line - 3rd FishLine

$14

Y

Y

Y

Non-resident Trout Fish Fee

$17.50

Y

Y

Y

Non-resident 1 Day Fishing

$12

Y

Y

Y

Non-resident 3 Day Fishing

$20.50

Y

Y

Y

Non-resident 7 Day Fishing

$37.50

Y

Y

Y

Non-resident Boundary Water

$49.50

Y

Y

Y

All individuals looking to fish in Iowa waters, which are the age of 16 and older, are required to have an Iowa fishing license. 

Under 16 License: Both residents and non-residents below the age of 16 can fish without a license but may need to purchase a trout fee if attempting to catch fresh trout. 

Fishing License Exemption: Besides residents and non-residents under the age of 16, other categories do not require a license to fish. Individuals who are deaf and blind as constituted by minor pupils of the State School for the Blind and State School for the deaf are allowed to fish without a license.

Individuals who are receiving supplementary assistance under chapter 29 can fish without a license. These individuals are minor residents of other state institutions under any department of human services and residents of county care.

Military personnel on active duty with the armed forces who are on leave of absence may also fish without a license. These individuals must carry the documented leave papers and a copy of a current earnings statement showing a tax deduction for Iowa income taxes while hunting and fishing. 

Verifying Your Fishing License: Typically, when you’re attempting to fish in any public Iowa waters, you may be requested to show your fishing license or prove your identification for exemption. Conservation or law or enforcement officers are allowed to look at your license. Also, the owner or person in legal control of the land or water you are fishing has the right as well. 

Iowa Fishing License Renewal: To renew your fishing license in Iowa, follow the steps for purchasing one. 

Iowa Fish Size and Limits 

For all Inland waters and Interior Streams and River Impoundments, there is a daily bag limit of 3 and a possession limit of 6. For new anglers, a bag limit refers to the number of species they may kill or keep. A possession limit is the total number of fish from all days of fishing that a person is allowed to possess at a given time. 

In regards to length limits, the length will vary depending on the lake you visit. 

  1. 15-inch minimum: Publics Lakes including Coralville, Rathbun, Saylorville and Red Rock Reservoirs
  2. 16-inch minimum: Swan Lake (Carroll)
  3. 18-inch minimum:
    • Ada Hayden (Story)
    • Ahquabi
    • Hooper (Warren)
    • Big Creek
    • Thomas Mitchell
    • Yellow Banks (Polk)
    • Casey (Tama)
    • Cold Springs (Cass)
    • Green Valley (Union)
    • Hendricks (Howard)
    • Krumm (Jasper)
    • Little Wall (Hamilton)
    • Lost Grove (Scott)
    • Mill Creek (O’Brien)
    • Pleasant Creek (Linn)
    • Smith (Kossuth)
    • South Prairie (Black Hawk)

Catch and Release Rules: Catch and Release only at lakes Brown (Jackson) and Wapello (Davis). All 12 to 16-inch fish must be released at Lake Hawthorn (Mahaska). And all 12 to 18-inch fish must be released at Lake Sugema (Van Buren). 

Regulations for Specific Fish:

Species

Season

Length Limits

Daily Bag and Possession Limits

Blue Gill, Crappie, Pumpkin Seed

No Closed Season

None

Inland waters - 25 daily for bluegill and 25 daily for crappie

Catfish

No Closed Season

None

Inland Lakes - Catfish combined daily at eight and possession 30, no limit for bullheads

Inland Streams - Catfish combined daily 15 and combined possession at 30.

Frogs (not including endangered crawfish frog)

No Closed Season

None

All frogs except bullfrogs and crawfish frogs combined daily of 48 and possession of 96. Bullfrogs daily and possession are 12.

Muskellunge (including hybrids)

Open Season on West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Spirit Lakes (Dickinson County) and on Iowa-Minnesota boundary lakes from May 21-Nov30 annually

40 inches minimum

Daily and possession of 1 

Mussels (except endangered mussels such as Zebra mussel)

No closed season, but only allowed to take mussels during sunrise to sunset hours

None

Missouri and Big Sioux River - only dead shells harvested. The possession limit is 24 whole mussels or 48 shell halves. 

Northern Pike

No closed season

None

Daily of 3 and possession of 6 on Inland Waters. For Boundary rivers, daily of 5 and possession of 10 on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Daily of 6 and possession of 12 on Big Sioux River. 

Paddlefish

Mississippi River is open from Mar 1 through April 15. Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers are from Feb 4 through April 30. 

Mississippi River is a 33-inch maximum. Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers have a 35-45 inch slot limit. If the limit exceeds, you must release it. 

Daily of 2 and possession of 6. Can take 1 paddlefish with each paddlefish tag 

Shovelnose Sturgeon

No closed season

none

None except for the Missouri River. Missouri River has a daily bag limit of 10 and a possession limit of 20. 

Trout (Brook, Brown and Rainbow) 

No closed season

None

Combined daily of 5 and possession of 10

Turtles (common snapping, spiny softshell, smooth softshell and painted

No closed season

None

Daily of 4 for common snapping, 1 spiny softshell or smooth softshell, 1 painted and possession of a maximum of 100 pounds of live turtles or 50 pounds of dressed turtles. The daily catch may not exceed the possession limit. 

Walleye, Sauger & Saugeye

Continuous except for West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Spirit Lake (Dickinson). Open season for these three lakes is from May 2nd, 2020, through Feb 14, 2021. 

None

Combined daily of 5 and combined possession of 10. 

Yellow Bass, White Bass, Rock Bass & Hybrid (Wiper)

No closed season

None

None except for the Mississippi River and connected backwaters, which is a daily bag limit of 25 and a possession limit of 50 for white and yellow bass combined and Rock bass. 

Yellow Perch

No closed season

None

Daily of 25 and possession of 50. There is no daily or possession limit on the Missouri River. 

Best Fishing Spots in Iowa 

For the best fishing spots, we’ve compiled a few spots that will help in your search.

For families and group trips, we recommend heading to the Black Hawk Lake in Lake View. This lake was renovated in 2012 and is great for fishing for all ages. If you fish on the Ice House Point, you may find 8 to 10-inch bluegills and crappies. You’ll also find tons of largemouth bass, catfish and muskies. This location also is public with numerous trails and parks for family fun.

If you’re more experienced and looking to catch the coveted trophy fish, then Clear Lake in Northern Central Iowa is an ideal fit. This lake is ideal for shore and boat angling with some of the best walleye fisheries. You can catch 14 to 20-inch walleye that are 8 lbs or more. You can also find yellow bass, yellow perch, and crappie. This location has a handy fish cleaning facility so that you can perform maintenance on your fishing gear.

You may also go to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Website, where they include a Fishing Atlas that shows you every public fishing spot you can fish in Iowa! The spots are broken into counties for you to find with ease. https://programs.iowadnr.gov/maps/fishingatlas/default.html