Responsible Angling: Ensuring a Sustainable Future

Angling is not just a pastime; it's a responsibility. When you're out enjoying the water, remember to accommodate anglers with special needs at universally accessible facilities. Your consideration ensures everyone can participate in this enriching activity.

Littering directly impacts the aquatic ecosystem. Always clean up after yourself, and go a step further by picking up any trash you encounter. Small actions contribute to a cleaner environment. Moreover, adopt recycling habits for fishing line and bait containers. These materials can harm wildlife if left unmanaged.

Pollutants like gas, oil, and other substances have no place in our waterways. They pose serious threats to aquatic life and water quality. Be vigilant and prevent any spillage on land or into the water. On the same note, be aware of the threat posed by invasive species. Your gear could carry invasive plants or animals to new environments, wreaking havoc on local ecosystems. Take precautions to clean your equipment thoroughly after each use.

Your vigilance is essential in maintaining the integrity of our waterways. If you witness any fishing or boating violations, report them immediately at 1-800-532-2020. Adherence to fishing regulations ensures the sustainability of fish populations for future generations.

Courtesy and respect are the hallmarks of a responsible angler. Extend this attitude to fellow anglers and boaters. Remember, the waterways are a shared resource, and your conduct sets an example for others.

Lastly, consider your choice of tackle. Sinkers are now available in alternative materials like steel, tin, bismuth, and tungsten. These materials are less harmful than traditional lead tackle and are preferred by environmentally conscious anglers.

Fishing License & Permit

License Necessity: In Iowa, all residents and nonresidents aged 16 and older must have a valid fishing license to catch fish, mussels, turtles, frogs, and bait as per state regulations. Remember, buying or selling these species is not permitted under a sport fishing license.

License Exemptions

Several groups are exempt from holding a fishing license in Iowa:

  1. Youth: Individuals under 16 years, regardless of residency.
  2. State School for the Deaf and Similar Institutions: Minors enrolled in the state school for the deaf or other qualifying state institutions under the Department of Human Services.
  3. Substance Abuse Facility Patients: Patients of substance abuse facilities, accompanied by an employee, with a permit issued to the facility by the DNR. Supervising persons can also fish without a license.
  4. Active Duty Armed Forces: Members on authorized leave from duty outside Iowa, proving residency through leave papers and an earnings statement showing Iowa tax deductions or voter registration.
  5. Landowners and Tenants: Those fishing on their own land, along with their children under 18.

Note: Always refer to the current year's regulations booklet for any updates or changes in the rules. Compliance ensures both the sustainability of fish populations and the enjoyment of fishing for years to come.

Procedure for Purchasing a Fishing License in Iowa

Mandatory Social Security Collection

Under section 252J.8 of the Iowa Code and 42 U.S. Code 666(a)(13), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is mandated to collect social security numbers from individuals applying for hunting, fishing, or other recreational licenses. This collection serves as a principal means to:

  1. Verify Eligibility: Your social security number is used to ascertain your eligibility for licenses.
  2. Support Enforcement: It's crucial for enforcement agencies to establish, modify, and enforce child support and tax obligations.

Privacy Assurance: It's important to note that your social security number will not be displayed on your hunting or fishing license, ensuring a level of privacy.

Logan’s Law: A Tribute to Logan Luft

Enacted in 2019 and named after Logan Luft, Logan's Law allows individuals to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors while purchasing their Iowa fishing and hunting licenses. This initiative aligns with the options provided during driver's license registration or renewal, making it convenient for those committed to helping others through organ donation.

Registration Simplicity: Just like when renewing your driver's license, the process is integrated into the license purchasing procedure, making it easy and efficient to opt into organ donation.

Eligibility for Resident Fishing Licenses in Iowa

Addressing Nonresident Misrepresentation

Iowa has implemented specific measures to curb the misuse of resident licenses by nonresidents. If you have previously obtained a license as a nonresident but now qualify for resident status:

  • Verification Required: You must verify your eligibility through a form available at the Iowa DNR's website. This cannot be done at the point of sale or over the phone.
  • Previous Records: The electronic system will recognize individuals who have previously purchased nonresident licenses, necessitating the completion of the verification process.

Qualifying as a Resident

To be eligible for a resident license, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Domicile in Iowa: You must have maintained Iowa as your principal residence for at least 90 consecutive days prior to application, holding valid Iowa identification. Factors like employment, mailing address, utility records, real estate ownership, vehicle registration, and tax records are considered.

  2. Full-Time Student Status: If you're a full-time student at an accredited Iowa institution or under 25 and attending school out-of-state with a parent or guardian residing in Iowa, you qualify.

  3. Resident Students: Specific licenses are available to students meeting the criteria under full-time student status.

  4. Children of Iowa Residents: Nonresident individuals under 18 with a parent who is a legal Iowa resident are eligible.

  5. Armed Forces Members: Active duty members claiming Iowa residency and having filed a state income tax return in the preceding year, or those stationed in Iowa, qualify.

Restrictions on Dual Residency

Unless falling under categories 2, 3, 4, or 5 mentioned above, you cannot hold resident licenses in Iowa if you've claimed residency in another state or country. This rule ensures that licenses are fairly distributed and that residents of Iowa receive the benefits entitled to them.

Accessing Special Licenses for Iowa Residents

For residents in need or meeting specific criteria, Iowa offers special licenses. Assistance and applications are available through the DNR central office or local offices that dispense hunting and fishing licenses.

Contact for Assistance

  • DNR Central Office: Call 515-725-8200 for inquiries or application assistance.
  • Local DNR Offices: Visit nearby offices that sell hunting and fishing licenses.

Types of Special Licenses

  1. Free Annual Licenses for Seniors and Disabled:

    • Eligibility: Iowa residents aged 65 or older and low-income or permanently disabled residents.
    • License Types: Choose between a fishing license or a combination of hunting and fishing.
  2. Disabled Veteran’s License:

    • Eligibility: Iowa residents who have served a minimum of 90 days of active federal service and have a service-connected disability or were prisoners of war.
    • Benefit: This license is a recognition of the sacrifices made by veterans and provides easier access to engaging in hunting and fishing activities.

Trout Fee

Fee Requirement

All Iowa residents and nonresidents who are required to have a fishing license must also pay the Trout Fee to legally fish for or possess trout.

Youth Exception

Children under 16, both residents and nonresidents, can fish for or possess trout without the fee if they:

  • Are accompanied by a properly licensed adult who has paid the Trout Fee.
  • Limit their catch to the adult's daily limit of five trout. Alternatively, they can purchase their own trout privilege to fish independently and keep their own daily limit.

Littering Public Waters

In Iowa, it's illegal to discard cans, bottles, garbage, or any other debris onto or into the state's waters, ice, or adjacent lands. This law ensures the cleanliness and ecological integrity of Iowa's natural water bodies for everyone's enjoyment and the health of the environment.

General Fishing Regulations

Artificial Light

You may use artificial light to take any fish except species listed as threatened or endangered.

Bait Definitions

“Bait” includes, but is not limited to, minnows, Green Sunfish, Orange-spotted Sunfish, live or dead Gizzard Shad, frogs, crayfish, salamanders and mussels. “Minnows” are chubs, shiners, suckers, dace, stonerollers, mudminnows,redhorse,

Bluntnose and Fathead Minnows. You can only take live mussels from the Mississippi River and its connected backwaters. The daily and possession

limit is 24 live mussels. You cannot possess live Gizzard Shad at any lake.

You can use game fish legally caught by hook- and-line for bait. If you transport live bait from one area to another, itmust be in clean water.

Bait Collection

You need a valid sport fishing license to collect bait for individual use. You can use minnow traps not more than 3 feet long. Each trap, when in use, must have a metal tag attached plainly labeled with the owner’s name and address. You can use a minnow dip net not larger than 4 feet in diameter, a cast net not larger than 10 feet in diameter and a minnow seine not longer than 20 feet with mesh not smaller than one-quarter inch bar measure.


You cannot take or try to take bait for commercial purposes from any Iowa waters, or transport minnows without a bait dealer’s license. “Commercial purposes” are selling, giving or furnishing to others. Bait dealers must notify their DNR conservation officer before operating. The licensee must be present with license in hand when bait is collected. Licensed bait dealers may use minnow seines not longer than 50 feet. Licensed bait dealers cannot harvest any crayfish species from Storm Lake.

Bait Dumping

It is against the law to dump bait in Iowa lakes, rivers or streams. Throw away unwanted bait in the trash. If keeping bait, you must exchange water in the bait buckets with tap or bottled water before you leave any waterbody to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Boundary Water Sport Trotline

You can use a maximum of four trotlines with 200 hooks with a boundary water sport trotline license in the Mississippi, Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers. All boundary water sport trotlines must have the owner’s name and address on a metal tag attached above the waterline. You cannot sell fish with a boundary water sport trotline license.

Definition of “Limits”

“Daily bag limit” is the number of fish you may harvest in a day. “Possession limit” is the number of fish you can store in your possession until consumed. Fish immediately released unharmed are not part of either limit. Any fish taken into possession by holding in a live well, on a stringer, or in other fish holding devices is part of the daily bag limit. Once you reach the daily bag limit of a species, you can still fish for that species, but you must immediately release all fish caught.

Culling or Sorting

You cannot sort, cull, high-grade or replace any fish already in your possession. Participants in DNR-permitted Black Bass and catfish (five fish per boat restriction) tournaments are exempted. Organizers of DNR-permitted catch and release Black Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth or Spotted) fishing tournaments can request exemption to the daily bag and size limit regulations, so participants of these tournaments can possess up to five bass of any length.

Identification of Catch

You cannot transport or possess fish on any waters of the state unless: a) the species can be identified easily by a portion of the skin (at least one square inch) including the scales left on each fish or fillet, and b) the length of fish can be determined when length limits apply. “Any waters of the state” includes from the bank or shoreline in addition to wading and by boat.

Jug Fishing

You cannot use more than two jugs or two hooks on each jug. You cannot leave the jugs in the water unattended by being out of visual sight of them. You can fish with one pole with line and one jug or two jugs and no pole with line. You can fish a third line or jug if you have a valid third line fishing permit.

Fishing Tournament Permits

You need a permit issued by the DNR to conduct a traditional or virtual fishing tournament on public waters under the jurisdiction of the state. Fishing clinics and youth fishing days are excluded. “Fishing tournament” means any organizedfishing event, except for department-sponsored fishing events held for educational purposes, involving any of the following: (1) six or more boats or 12 or more participants, except for water of the Mississippi River, where the numberof boats is 20 or more and the number of participants is 40 or more; (2) an entry fee is charged; or (3) prizes or other inducement are awarded.

During a virtual fishing tournament, also known as a catch-photo-release tournament, anglers photograph and releasefish upon catching instead of keeping them in a live well. An aggregated virtual fishing tournament is similar to a traditional fishing tournament with participants gathering at one location at the same time. A distributed virtual fishing tournament, usually organized as an online contest, occurs on multiple bodies of water and can last up to one year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31). Only five or fewer participants may be present on any one body of water at the same time.

You must submit your application via the centralized special events application system at more than 30 days before the event.

A tournament held on a boundary water must be permitted by the Iowa DNR for anglers to legally fish Iowawater, regardless in which state the tournament is based.

Fishing Private Waters

Much fishing in Iowa is done on private waters with permission from the property owner. Iowa residents and nonresidents 16 years old and older must have a valid Iowa fishing license to fish private ponds and lakes, and trout streams. Only owners or tenants of land and their children under 18 may fish on such lands without a license. All anglers on private waters must obey rules and regulations governing fishing, including bag limits, except there is no daily bag limit for bluegill or crappie on private waters. Statewide length limits do not apply on private waters.

Just because the DNR stocked a pond, does not open that pond to public fishing. When fishing privately owned waters, ask the property owner for permission to fish, do not block lanes and driveways, close any gates opened, do not damage fences and leave the area clean and litter free.

Frogs - Catching & Selling

You cannot use any device, net, barrier or fence which stops frogs from having free access to and from the water. You cannot transport any frogs taken in Iowa across state lines. You can buy, sell or possess frogs or any portion of their carcasses that have been taken legally and shipped in from outside the state with a bait dealer’s license. Frogs may be used for food or bait. You can catch frogs on your own land for your own private use.


When fishing by hook-and-line, you cannot use more than two lines or more than two hooks on each line whenstill fishing or trolling. When fly fishing, you cannot use more than two flies on one line. When you are trolling and bait casting, you cannot use more than two trolling spoons or artificial baits on one line. You can use a third line if you have a valid third line fishing permit. You cannot leave fishing

line or lines with hooks in the water unattended by being out of visual sight of the lines. One hook is a single, double or treble-pointed hook, and all hooks attached as a part of an artificial bait or lure are counted as one hook. An Alabama (umbrella) rig is not an artificial bait or lure.

Sign Up for Huntlink!

Huntlink is a free program that will allow us to send you state regulations to your email for the states you hunt in. The benefits of this are:

1. PDF Format - Downloadable

2. Able to be read with or without reception

3. Delivered right to your email with no ads

And much more!


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.