A recent survey indicates at least a third of Iowans have gone fishing and the number of fishing tournaments is growing. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued permits to 617 tournaments last year.
“By far the most popular fish in tournaments are bass and bass consistently rank in the top two or three fish and usually the first fish in which anglers in Iowa go after,” says Joe Larscheid, the fisheries bureau chief in the Department of Natural Resources.
Tournaments aren’t about catching fish to EAT, however. Nearly all tournaments are “catch and release” events.
“We have to make sure they have adequate ‘live wells’ which keep the fish alive while they’re in the tournament and they have good release procedures to ensure that the fish survive.”
Releasing the fish back into the wild makes sure a body of water isn’t depleted of fish by a tournament.
“These tend to be very good anglers and they can catch a lot of fish very quickly,” Larscheid says. “The fish go back into the water and it creates a lot of excitement for other anglers to see all these big fish that are caught and subsequently re-released back into the water.”
Larscheid says fishing is part of the state’s tourism industry.
“We get celebrities that participate in these tournaments and TV coverage — and things like that — that kind of highlight Iowa’s fisheries,” Larscheid says.
Last year, the state’s fisheries stocked 160 million fish in Iowa waters. Most were walleyes and trout, which Larscheid says don’t reproduce well in Iowa waters.
There were six fishing tournaments in Iowa this past weekend. Today, the Hawkeye Bass Anglers Club will hold its tournament on Badger Creek Lake near Van Meter. On Saturday, there are at least 17 fishing events scheduled in Iowa, including an all-night catfish tournament on the Little Sioux River at Correctionville. Find out more information about Iowa fishing tournaments here.
A national survey was conducted six years ago to gauge how many Americans are regularly hunting, fishing and boating. It found 23 percent of Iowans had gone fishing in a boat and even more — 36 percent — cast fishing lines from the shore of a lake or river.