7 Sensational Yellow Perch Fishing Spots in Iowa

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Iowa offers some amazing perch fishing options, making these small but tasty fish a favorite among Hawkeye State anglers.

Yellow perch fishing is available year-round, with some of the best action happening through the ice in winter.

Anglers will find most of the best perch fishing in Iowa in the northern part of the state, where glacial lakes dot the landscape. Perch thrive in natural lakes more so than in reservoirs, but you can catch this species in a wide range of habitats all over the state.

Big Spirit Lake

The largest natural lake in Iowa, 5,684-acre Big Spirit Lake is part of a chain of natural lakes known as the Iowa Great Lakes. Most would agree that it’s also the best yellow perch lake in Iowa, producing big perch in impressive numbers. 

Many anglers target perch here during mid-summer when walleye become notoriously hard to catch. Outside weed edges are prime targets, with perch falling for mini jigs, including curly tail grubs and tubes. 

The winter months are another great time to fish for perch. Averaging just 13 feet deep, Big Spirit Lake ices up fast, and there are days when ice anglers can catch perch seemingly anywhere. Anglers Bay, in the lake’s northeast corner, is a good place to start.

As soon as safe ice forms, the rocky reef between Big Stony Point and Cottonwood Point on the lake’s east side is the place to be. Later in the season, perch fishing shifts from the north end towards the lake’s open basin.

Smaller perch gobble up bloodworms while larger perch favor minnows.

Yellow perch populations tend to be cyclical, but Big Spirit Lake can almost always offer up plenty of 7- to 9-inch perch, and 12-inch-plus bruisers are common during ‘up’ years.

Big Spirit Lake offers many of Iowa’s favorite gamefish, including some of the state’s best bass fishing.

Mississippi River Backwaters

Pools 9 and 10 of the Mississippi River feature extensive backwaters and sloughs off the main river channel that support tremendous perch populations. More and bigger perch are caught here than just about anywhere else in Iowa.

Protected from the main river’s current, these areas freeze in winter, making them accessible on foot. Ice fishing is available from mid-December through early March during a typical year, with deeper cuts and channels up to 10 feet deep being good winter spots.

Some of the biggest perch of the year are caught around the time of last ice in March, including fish measuring 13 inches and up. By April, the water will have opened up and fishing with bits of nightcrawler close to the bottom is often excellent.

There’s also some great fall perch action here on a variety of jigs and minnows. Some of the best backwaters are convenient to Lansing and Harpers Ferry on the northeastern Iowa side of the river.

Clear Lake

Perch tend to get overshadowed by other species in Clear Lake. This 3,684-acre glacial lake in north-central Iowa gets more attention for walleye and yellow bass, but perch are common, too. 

Early spring is prime time, and perch can be found in shallow water from ice-out through May.

The shoreline of Clear Lake is highly developed. A great approach early in the season is following the shoreline and casting to all the docks that have recently been put back out.

The dock fishing pattern repeats itself in fall, and the jetty at the west end of the lake is another great spot. A lot of perch measure 7 to 10 inches, but there are also bigger ones available. 

There’s excellent ice fishing on Clear Lake, with prime areas including Dodge’s Point, around Woodford Island, and the artificial fish habitat structures that the DNR has sunk throughout the lake.

Honorable Mentions

West Okoboji Lake

One of the Iowa Great lakes, 3,847-acre West Okoboji Lake is one of the best bluegill lakes in the state but offers an underrated perch fishery as well. Perch fishing tends to peak during years when the bluegill are on a downswing and vice versa.

West Okoboji Lake is the deepest lake in Iowa, and it is one of the few natural lakes in the state that stratifies in summer, followed by a turnover period in fall. Perch are often found deeper than in most lakes, sometimes 30 to 50 feet in summer.

This lake is also one of the last to ice over fully. Once it does, ice fishing for perch can be excellent. The water is so clear that sight-fishing through holes in the ice is often possible.

Gull Point State Park is one of several public access points.

Storm Lake

Better known for walleye, Storm Lake is a 3,097-acre natural lake in northwestern Iowa. Perch are abundant, and anglers typically report catching a lot of 5-to-7-inch perch with a few bigger keepers mixed in. 

As in many lakes, winter is when most anglers target perch here. As soon as safe ice forms, expect to catch them in shallow water using wax worms and minnows.

There’s good bank access on the east side of Storm Lake through a network of public parks. Deep holes adjacent to shallow water make the east end great for ice fishing. Spring is good, too, and you’ll often find perch around the marina in April.

Dale Maffitt Reservoir

Dale Maffitt Reservoir (a.k.a. Maffitt Lake) is located just off I-35 on the outskirts of Des Moines. This 200-acre impoundment is a hidden gem that offers excellent fishing for yellow perch, bluegill, channel catfish and largemouth bass. 

When it comes to perch, Maffitt Reservoir isn’t a numbers lake, but persistence often rewards anglers with some very respectable fish. It’s not unusual to walk away with several perch over 12 inches. 

A fishing dock and carry-down boat ramp are available within Dale Maffitt Reservoir Park. Once ice forms, anglers often catch perch here using Swedish Pimples tipped with spikes or minnow heads. 

Black Hawk Lake

About 30 minutes south of Storm Lake, 922-acre Black Hawk Lake is another glacial lake that offers quality perch fishing. The lake is broad and shallow, with a maximum depth of 13 feet.

Ice cover has been spotty on the main lake in recent years, with most of the ice fishing attention focused on Town Bay and Ice House Point in the lake’s northwest corner. Expect a mixed bag of panfish, including yellow perch in addition to excellent crappie fishing

Perch fishing has been on the upswing on Black Hawk Lake in recent years, especially in early spring and late fall. Key areas include the inlet bridge, the west stone pier, and the floating fishing pier on Town Bay.

Catch More Perch

Check out our easy fishing tips (including best baits) to catch more yellow perch.