Best Catfishing in Iowa

Large catfish resting on a dock.
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Explore the captivating world of catfishing in Iowa, where the state’s diverse lakes and rivers form an enticing playground for anglers of all levels. Casting your line into the tranquil waters, the anticipation builds with each passing moment, promising the excitement of a potential catch. Whether you’re a novice relishing the joy of reeling in your first catfish or a seasoned angler in pursuit of a trophy, Iowa’s catfishing scene offers a dynamic blend of skill development and a profound connection with nature. Navigate through the scenic landscapes of Iowa as you discover top catfishing spots, where every cast becomes a link to the thrilling universe of angling. Uncover the unique charm and challenges that await in this Midwestern haven for fishing enthusiasts.



Mississippi River

Stretching along the eastern boundary of Iowa, the magnificent Mississippi River stands as a premier destination for catfish enthusiasts. Renowned for its sprawling waters and teeming catfish population, this legendary river offers anglers a captivating blend of challenge and reward. The Mississippi River’s diverse fishing environments, including deep channels, sandbars, and backwaters, provide a canvas for anglers to employ a wide array of techniques. Beyond the thrill of the catch, the river treats anglers to breathtaking scenic views, creating an immersive outdoor experience. With numerous access points facilitating convenient exploration, and the potential for trophy-sized catfish, the Mississippi River beckons anglers to embark on unforgettable catfishing journeys.

Reasons to Catfish in the Mississippi River:

  • Abundant Catfish Population: The Mississippi River is renowned for its thriving catfish population, ensuring a high likelihood of successful catfishing ventures.
  • Diverse Fishing Environments: Offering a variety of fishing environments, including deep channels and backwaters, the river allows anglers to employ diverse techniques.
  • Scenic Landscapes: The picturesque surroundings of the Mississippi River add an aesthetic element to catfishing trips, enhancing the overall outdoor experience.
  • Convenient Access Points: Numerous access points along the river make it easy for anglers to find suitable locations for catfishing, contributing to a hassle-free experience.
  • Potential for Trophy Catches: The Mississippi River has a history of producing trophy-sized catfish, offering anglers the chance to reel in impressive catches.

Recommended Gear: Flashlight, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Pliers, Fishing Net, Tackle Box, Large Reel


Des Moines River

Winding its way through both urban landscapes and picturesque natural settings, the Des Moines River offers catfish enthusiasts a unique fusion of nature and city life. Celebrated for its catch diversity, the river is not only home to plentiful catfish but also hosts various other fish species, promising a dynamic and varied fishing experience. Certain sections of the river are family-friendly, providing an ideal environment for anglers of all ages and skill levels to connect with the outdoors. Whether you are drawn to its seasonal fishing opportunities, the relaxing ambiance along its shores, or the calm flow of its waters, the Des Moines River stands ready to cater to diverse angling preferences.

Reasons to Catfish in the Des Moines River:

  • Urban Fishing Experience: Flowing through urban areas, the Des Moines River provides a unique blend of nature and city life, creating an urban fishing experience.
  • Catch Diversity: Besides catfish, the Des Moines River is home to other fish species, offering anglers the opportunity for a varied fishing experience.
  • Family Friendly Locations: Some sections of the river are family-friendly, making it a great destination for anglers of all skill levels and ages.
  • Seasonal Fishing: The river can provide good catfishing throughout the year, with different seasons offering unique challenges and rewards.
  • Relaxing Environment: The calm and serene atmosphere along the Des Moines River makes it an ideal location for anglers seeking a peaceful fishing experience.

Recommended Gear: Baitcasting Reel, Braided Line, Flashlight, Circle Hook, Tackle Box, Fishing Net, Rod


Coralville Reservoir

In the heart of eastern Iowa, Coralville Reservoir emerges as a haven for catfish aficionados seeking a multifaceted fishing experience. Boasting a robust catfish population, the reservoir offers anglers the prospect of success throughout the year. The presence of well-equipped angler amenities, such as boat ramps, fishing docks, and camping areas, enhances the overall fishing experience, ensuring convenience and comfort. Surrounded by scenic landscapes, the reservoir’s location adds an extra layer of visual delight to every catfishing excursion. Accessible shoreline areas beckon both bank and boat anglers, making Coralville Reservoir an inviting destination for those in pursuit of diverse catfishing adventures.

Reasons to Catfish in Coralville Reservoir:

  • Sizeable Catfish Population: Coralville Reservoir is known for its healthy catfish population, providing anglers with good chances of success.
  • Angler Amenities: The reservoir is equipped with amenities such as boat ramps, fishing docks, and camping areas, enhancing the overall fishing experience.
  • Scenic Surroundings: The reservoir’s location offers picturesque views and a tranquil setting for anglers to enjoy while catfishing.
  • Accessible Shoreline: Anglers can find accessible shoreline areas for bank fishing, making it suitable for various fishing preferences.
  • Year Round Fishing: The reservoir offers opportunities for catfishing throughout the year, with different seasons bringing diverse catfish behaviors.

Recommended Gear: Flashlight, Dry Bag, Rod Holder, Cooler, Fillet Knife, Sunglasses, Sunscreen 


Red Rock Reservoir

The reservoir’s expansive waters hold promise for an array of catfish, providing anglers with the excitement of targeting different types of these formidable aquatic denizens. Beyond its diverse aquatic residents, Red Rock Reservoir captivates with its scenic beauty, creating a visually stunning backdrop for catfishing expeditions. Boating opportunities on its expansive surface cater to anglers who enjoy the freedom of catfishing from boats, adding an extra layer of exploration to the experience. With multiple access points enhancing accessibility and camping facilities for extended stays, Red Rock Reservoir beckons catfish enthusiasts to delve into its waters and uncover the myriad treasures it holds.

Reasons to Catfish in Red Rock Reservoir:

  • Diverse Catfish Species: Red Rock Reservoir is home to various catfish species, providing anglers with the chance to target different types of catfish.
  • Scenic Beauty: The reservoir is surrounded by scenic landscapes, offering a visually appealing backdrop for catfishing trips.
  • Boating Opportunities: With its expansive size, Red Rock Reservoir provides opportunities for anglers who enjoy catfishing from boats.
  • Convenient Access Points: Multiple access points around the reservoir make it easy for anglers to explore different areas, increasing the chances of successful catfishing.
  • Camping Facilities: Red Rock Reservoir offers camping, with excellent facilities, allowing anglers to extend their catfishing trips and fully immerse themselves in the outdoor experience.

Recommended Gear: First Aid Kit, Pliers, Paddle, Fishing Net, Circle Hooks, Live Bait, Fillet Knife 


Saylorville Lake

Saylorville Lake emerges as a noteworthy destination for catfish enthusiasts, distinguished by its reputation as a hotspot for channel catfish. The lake’s inviting waters and convenient access points make it an appealing location for anglers eager to engage with the thrill of catfishing. Saylorville Lake extends a warm welcome to those seeking a family-friendly environment, where the facilities and surroundings cater to anglers of all ages and skill levels. Occasional fishing events add a communal touch, fostering camaraderie among catfish enthusiasts. With scenic views enhancing the overall ambiance, Saylorville Lake invites catfish anglers to immerse themselves in a captivating blend of natural beauty and angling excitement.

Reasons to Catfish in Saylorville Lake:

  • Channel Catfish Hotspot: Saylorville Lake is known for its channel catfish population, attracting anglers seeking to catch this popular species.
  • Convenient Access: The lake has multiple access points, making it easy for anglers to launch boats or find suitable shoreline spots.
  • Fishing Events: Saylorville Lake hosts various fishing events, providing a sense of community and camaraderie among catfish anglers.
  • Family Friendly Environment: The lake’s facilities and surroundings make it suitable for family outings, combining catfishing with a pleasant recreational experience.
  • Scenic Views: Saylorville Lake offers scenic views, adding to the overall enjoyment of catfishing trips.

Recommended Gear: Rod Holder, Bucket Seat, Cooler, Lip Gripper, Scale, Tackle Box, Sunglasses 


Big Creek Lake

Deep in the heart of the Hawkeye State, Big Creek Lake stands as a reliable ally for catfish enthusiasts. Known for its consistency in catfish action, this lake promises anglers a haven where the pursuit of these formidable species is met with regular success. Family-friendly facilities and designated picnic areas create an atmosphere where anglers of all ages can revel in the joy of fishing amid the natural beauty that surrounds Big Creek Lake. With accessible shorelines accommodating both boat and bank anglers, this lake beckons as a versatile destination for those seeking both relaxation and excitement in their catfishing ventures.

Reasons to Catfish in Big Creek Lake:

  • Consistent Catfish Action: Big Creek Lake offers consistent catfishing action, making it a reliable destination for anglers looking to catch catfish regularly.
  • Family Friendly Facilities: The lake is equipped with family-friendly facilities, making it suitable for anglers of all ages and skill levels.
  • Picnic Areas: Big Creek Lake has designated picnic areas, allowing anglers to enjoy a day of catfishing along with a family picnic.
  • Variety of Catfish Species: In addition to channel catfish, anglers may encounter other catfish species, enhancing the diversity of the fishing experience.
  • Accessible Shorelines: The lake provides easily accessible shoreline areas, catering to both boat and bank anglers.

Recommended Gear: Sunscreen, Pliers, Insect Repellent, Fishing Backpack, Scale, Fishing Line, Waterproof Phone Case


Cedar River

Flowing through the heart of northeastern Iowa, the Cedar River emerges as a picturesque haven for catfish enthusiasts. Known for its beautiful scenery, this river sets the stage for a serene and enjoyable catfishing experience. Beyond its tranquil ambiance, the Cedar River is celebrated for its diverse aquatic inhabitants, including catfish, walleye, and northern pike, offering anglers the opportunity to diversify their catch. Easily accessible fishing spots along the river’s banks cater to those who prefer the simplicity of shore fishing. The Cedar River stands as an embodiment of natural beauty and varied fishing opportunities, beckoning anglers to explore its waters and discover the unique charm it holds.

Reasons to Catfish in the Cedar River:

  • Beautiful Scenery: The Cedar River flows through picturesque landscapes, creating a serene and enjoyable environment for catfishing.
  • Walleye and Northern Pike: In addition to catfish, the Cedar River is known for walleye and northern pike, offering variety for anglers looking to target multiple species.
  • Accessible Fishing Spots: The river has easily accessible spots for bank fishing, providing options for anglers who prefer fishing from the shore.
  • Fishing Challenges: The Cedar River presents varying water conditions, adding an element of challenge for anglers seeking diverse fishing experiences.
  • Tranquil Settings: Certain sections of the river offer peaceful and less crowded settings, providing a quiet escape for anglers seeking solitude.

Recommended Gear: Cooler, Fillet Knife, Sunglasses, Bucket Seat, Live Bait, Sunscreen, Fishing Gloves


Clear Lake

Celebrated for its abundance of channel catfish, this lake provides anglers with consistent opportunities to reel in these sought-after species. Beyond its catfishing prowess, Clear Lake stands out as a hub of recreational activities, offering a diverse range of pursuits that complement the thrill of angling. The lake’s versatility extends into the winter months, where ice fishing opportunities emerge, creating a year-round catfishing haven that caters to both seasoned anglers and those new to the sport.

Reasons to Catfish in Clear Lake:

  • Channel Catfish Abundance: Clear Lake has a healthy population of channel catfish, providing consistent opportunities for anglers to catch this species.
  • Recreational Activities: The lake offers various recreational activities, making it an attractive destination for anglers looking to combine catfishing with other outdoor pursuits.
  • Ice Fishing in Winter: During winter, Clear Lake provides opportunities for ice fishing, extending the catfishing season for enthusiasts.
  • Boating Options: Clear Lake accommodates boating activities, allowing anglers to explore different parts of the lake for catfishing.
  • Community Events: The lake hosts community events and fishing tournaments, fostering a sense of camaraderie among catfish anglers.

Recommended Gear: Flashlight, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Pliers, Fishing Net, Tackle Box, Large Reel


Lake Macbride

Tucked away in east-central Iowa, Lake Macbride emerges as a tranquil haven for catfish enthusiasts. Surrounded by wooded landscapes, this lake creates a peaceful setting, inviting anglers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty that envelops the area. Beyond its reputation for catfish, Lake Macbride is known for muskie and bass fishing, providing a variety of angling opportunities for those seeking diverse catches. Nature trails winding around the lake enhance the overall experience, allowing anglers to combine their fishing adventures with serene walks in the midst of the lake’s scenic surroundings.

Reasons to Catfish in Lake Macbride:

  • Scenic Wooded Surroundings: Lake Macbride is surrounded by wooded areas, offering a peaceful and scenic setting for catfishing.
  • Muskie and Bass Fishing: In addition to catfish, the lake is known for muskie and bass, providing diverse fishing opportunities for anglers.
  • Nature Trails: Anglers can enjoy nature trails around the lake, making it an ideal location for those who appreciate combining fishing with hiking.
  • Water Activities: Lake Macbride supports various water activities, allowing anglers to engage in water sports before or after a catfishing session.
  • Quiet Fishing Spots: There are secluded areas around the lake, providing anglers with quiet fishing spots away from busier areas.

Recommended Gear: Baitcasting Reel, Braided Line, Flashlight, Circle Hook, Tackle Box, Fishing Net, Rod


Brushy Creek Lake

Brushy Creek Lake stands as a haven for catfish enthusiasts, offering a unique blend of submerged structures, birdwatching opportunities, and camping facilities. Its submerged timber and rocks create habitats that attract catfish, promising an environment conducive to successful fishing. Beyond catfishing, Brushy Creek Lake stands out as a paradise for birdwatchers, providing a delightful experience for those who appreciate diverse wildlife. With camping facilities, the lake invites anglers to extend their fishing trips, immersing themselves in the natural beauty that surrounds this scenic location. Boasting a variety of fish species, seasonal beauty, and a backdrop of tranquility, Brushy Creek Lake presents itself as an inviting destination for all fishermen.

Reasons to Catfish in Brushy Creek Lake:

  • Submerged Structures: Brushy Creek Lake features submerged timber and rocks, providing habitats that attract catfish and increase the likelihood of successful fishing.
  • Bird Watching: The lake is a haven for birdwatchers, allowing anglers to enjoy the natural surroundings and diverse wildlife.
  • Camping Facilities: Brushy Creek Lake has camping facilities, making it suitable for anglers interested in extended fishing trips.
  • Fishing Variety: In addition to catfish, the lake offers opportunities to catch other fish species, adding variety to the angling experience.
  • Seasonal Beauty: The changing seasons bring unique beauty to Brushy Creek Lake, offering anglers a different and visually appealing backdrop throughout the year.

Recommended Gear: Flashlight, Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Pliers, Fishing Net, Tackle Box, Large Reel

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