Scenic 0002Back when I lived in northeastern Iowa, the smallmouth bass was decidedly missing from most streams.  Today it has made a phenomenal comeback proving a fishery for the angler that is second to none.  The difference is that in the past stream degradation cl9ouded clear, gavel laden river bottoms which are needed by smallmouth bass.  In recent years the numbers and size of bass caught have improved.

Iowa smallmouth bass have golden green sides and backs with faint, wavy olive blotches along the sides.  Five olive-green bars radiate back from the red eye and one radiates forward.  Fish over 3 or 4 pounds are trophies.  They feed on fish, crustaceans, and large insects.  The smallmouth in Iowa re found in the northeastern two-thirds of the state.  They inhabit clean rivers, streams and some lakes.

In one section of the Maquoketa River some 9,700 fish release allowing anglers to catch them an average of 6.4 times.  Some prime smallmouth streams are designated catch and release areas.  Check with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for their locations.  Deep holes, beautiful scenery and good populations of bass make the catch and release areas great fisheries.

Smallmouth anglers catch fish with ultra-light and fly tackle, and six to seven foot spinning rods.  Two to four pound test line is good.  Spinners of less than 3/8th ounce work the best but live-bait fishing can be successful with small minnows.  Small jigs with hair bodies are popular with some fishermen.

Fly fishermen prefer a number 5 or 6 weight rod in eight- to nine-foot length does the trick for smallies.  Regular weight forward line is good for shallow areas.  In deeper water, a sinking line may be preferred,   Traditional flies as well as tiny jigs and spinners are good.

For the live-bait angler, 4-pound test line with a float about two feet above a number 1/0 hook is the ticket.  A minnow is back-hooked so as to allow it movement.  Cast the rig to an area that may conceal a waiting smallmouth.

Careful handling of fish will help insure their survival after release.  Set the hook quickly when using live bait to reduce the chance of deep hooking.  Pinch down the barbs on hooks to make removal easier.  Do not use treble hooks and remove the rear hook on baits with multiple hooks.  With spinners, replace treble hooks with single hooks.

Once a fish is hooked, land it as quickly as possible.  Avoid contact with gill areas.  Handle it as little as possible.  Remove the hook while the fish is still in the water.  A pair of needle-nose pliers speeds up the hook removal process.  In releasing a deeply hooked fish cut the line as close to the mouth as possible.

If you must handle the fish, use the lip hold technique.  Insert your finger inside the lower jaw of the fish and your forefinger against the outside of the lower lip.

To revive a fish, hold it upright and move it back and forth gently forcing water over the gills.  The process, like artificial respiration, may take a little time.  A trip to northeastern Iowa’s smallmouth areas provides a memorable experience in terms of fish caught and release as well as the scenery that abounds there in the fall.



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