It’s the annual free fishing weekend across Iowa. Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the goal of the weekend is simple.
“It’s a way to try to entice people into fishing, if they don’t want to invest the 19-dollars in a fishing license. It’s an opportunity to go out with neighbors and friends and get their kids out, enjoy a day on the water and hopefully have some success,” Larscheid says. “And hopefully it’ll excite them enough to invest in that license so that they can enjoy a lifetime pursuit of fishing.”
He says fishing is unique compared to many other pursuits, as you can be successful at any age. “Fishing is a great equalizer, and right now the fishing is really good in Iowa,” Larscheid says. He says they time the free weekend to coincide with the spawning of crappies and bluegills as they are close to shore and easy to catch.
Iowa’s wet spring means rivers and lakes that were low last year are running high this year. Larscheid says people fishing should use caution. “There is concern with the flooding, a lot of the rivers are out of their banks, and that’s going to be problematic to fishing rivers. A lot of the ponds and smaller lakes with smaller watersheds are still in very good shape and offer really good fishing opportunities,” Larscheid says.
If you’ve never baited a hook or wet a line before, the DNR has lots of advice available. “On our website, www.iowadnr.gov, go to the fishing link,” Larscheid advises, “we’ve have videos on how to catch fish, how to catch crappies right now, how to catch bluegills right now, what tackle to use. And even hot to clean fish…Where the hot sites are, where to go fishing.”
While you can fish without a license, you still have to follow other state regulations on the size of fish and the number you can legally possess. Those rules are also available on the DNR website.