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Best Places to go Boating and Fishing in Iowa

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There are over 60 lakes and 3 major rivers that travel through or are in Iowa, so that means there are lots of options to choose from if you are looking for a good place to go boating or fishing. The DNR is very helpful in listing all of the bodies of water you can visit. You are even able to sort by size of the lake, whether it has a boat landing, what type of boat ramp is available, and more, but which ones are really the best to go to?

We put together a short list of places we think are the best to go boating and/or fishing here in Iowa to help you decide on where to go on your next weekend getaway. Don’t forget to get your fishing license for those 16 years old and older!

Boat steering wheel

Clear Lake (Cerro Gordo County)

Practically a neighbor for us in Forest City, so we might be partially biased but hard to tell. In all honesty Clear Lake is great for boating and water sports. The city itself is a vacation spot for many and hosts lots of family fun summer events (when COVID isn’t happening). You can even throw your anchor in the water near State Park Beach and stand in the water because it is that shallow.

West Okoboji Lake (Dickinson County) 

A part of the Iowa Great Lakes chain and is known for its recreational activities. Whether wanting to go boating, sailing, skiing or fishing, West Okoboji Lake is the place to be. There is an abundance of bluegill, walleye and yellow perch so there is decent fishing to be done here!

East Okoboji Lake (Dickinson County)

Neighboring West Okoboji in the Iowa Great Lakes chain is East Okoboji, so no surprise that it too is a great place for boating and fishing. Both Okoboji Lakes are natural and East Okoboji is actually from the Ice Age era. This lake’s great for fishing bullheads and is quite large in surface area, but is not super deep. 

Rathbun Lake (Appanoose County)

Although Rathbun Lake is not a natural lake, it is still one of the largest lakes here in Iowa. It was built for flood control and other recreational purposes by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you are looking for fun not on the water this lake has lots to do like a golf course and campgrounds nearby. 

Lake Manawa (Pottawattamie County)

This lake is great for water sports such as water skiing and wakeboarding and ideal if you are from Nebraska or Iowa as it is near Council Bluffs. Even if you don’t have your own water craft and want to go fishing there are canoe and paddle-boat rentals available at the Manawa State Park. 

Lake Red Rock (Marion County)

Boating and water sports are what you do when at Lake Red Rock, which was formed from the Red Rock Dam in 1969. This lake offers multiple boat ramps and a few beaches along the shoreline if you are wanting to stick to land. 

Black Hawk Lake (Sac County)

Black Hawk Lake is the perfect quiet hideaway that is perfect for fishing. You name the fish and it’s probably there. Bluegills, crappies, sunfish, bass, catfish and walleyes to name a few, so no matter what level of expert fisherman (or woman)  you are there are fish for you. They also have a nice playground and beach volleyball court for those that like the land activities. 

Lake Ahquabi (Warren County)

This lake is great for those without a means to get out on the water as its shoreline fishing is awesome. There is a fishing pier and lots of trails alongside the lake that grant access to the numerous fish in Lake Ahquabi.

That is our short list of best places to go boating and fishing in Iowa, but there are a lot of other great places Iowa has to offer. Also don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path sometimes and try somewhere new, you might just find a great place for fishing not many know about. 

But before loading up the family and heading to the lake, make sure your insurance policy covers your boat. If you aren’t sure whether you need boat insurance or not, read our blog 3 Reasons You Need Boat Insurance