Affordable, outdoor fun for your entire family is just a short drive - and a fishing pole - away. With convenient shore access and lots of recreational amenities (playgrounds a must!), here are five of Iowa’s family-friendly fishing lakes.
The 2018 fishing forecast is in the spring edition of Iowa Outdoors magazine and lists additional destinations to take anglers of all ages and skill levels fishing - including family-friendly hot spots.
1. Southwest Iowa's Green Valley Lake
Green Valley Lake, north of Creston, was voted one of Iowa’s Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat in 2017 by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Cast for 14- to 18-inch bass, 6- to 8-inch bluegill, 7- to 9-inch crappies, and 12- to 15-inch walleye—some top 20 inches.
Green Valley has four boat ramps, courtesy docks, a fish cleaning station and a ski zone for recreational boating on the 379-acre lake. The surrounding state park offers camping in a popular and recently upgraded campground, cabins, picnic areas, modern restrooms and showers, playground, walking trails and a swimming beach. Rent a pine log cabin, camp, walk lakeside trails, swim, or enjoy a picnic. A bike trail connects the park to the town of Creston.
2. Central Iowa's Lake Ahquabi
Enjoy a fun day of fishing at Lake Ahquabi State Park on the south side of Indianola. A fishing pier, numerous jetties and trails provide great access. Catch bluegill, redear sunfish and crappie late April through early June. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard. Explore the Annett Nature Center, less than one mile north. Attend a fun outdoor event at the Warren County Izaak Walton League clubhouse, across from the main entrance.
3. Northwest Iowa's Black Hawk Lake
Keep kids busy catching lots of largemouth bass at Black Hawk Lake in Lake View, renovated in 2012. Spring and early summer walleye fishing has been great the last two years. Try right off of Ice House Point (part of Black Hawk State Park) for buckets of 8-inch bluegill and 10-inch plus crappies. About half of the shoreline is public, with public restrooms near most public accesses.
Two public campgrounds on either end of the lake make for a perfect family getaway. Check out the playground in Speaker Park, across the street from the lake, featuring a new splash pad scheduled to open by the end of May. Miles of hiking trails are located within walking distance of the lake and a paved bike trail runs over 30 miles to Carroll.
4. Southeast Iowa's Discovery Park Pond
Start a fun day in Muscatine at Discovery Park Pond, close to many outdoor attractions including the Muscatine Arboretum and Fuller Park. Excellent bluegill, largemouth bass and channel cat fishing and a chance to catch a trout stocked each spring and fall. Try a chunk of nightcrawler under a bobber for gills or chicken liver for cats. Catch bass with a variety of lures, from rubber worms to topwaters to Beetle Spins. Try flashy spinners for hungry recently-stocked trout; dough baits, corn or other scented baits work best after trout settle in.
Stroll to Heron Hideaway Pond, with its newly renovated shoreline, located behind the Environmental Discovery Center. The center’s large aquarium features many Iowa fish species.
5. Northeast Iowa's Rudd Lake
Plenty of bass, catfish, and panfish await anglers at Rudd Lake, off Highway 18 east of Rudd. Find bluegill around pallet structures within casting distance of two jetties. Look for largemouth bass around the edges of the cattails and other submersed vegetation. With extremely clear water, early morning and late evening is best for channel catfish (9- to 22-inches). The lake has a hard surface boat ramp, trail, picnic area, playground and a beach. It's also located close to a city campground.
Anyone 16 and older needs an Iowa fishing license; you can buy your license online or from any license retailer.