Channel catfish move close to shore and are eager to bite in many lakes and the large reservoirs across Iowa just after the ice is gone. The bite starts sooner in the southern Iowa impoundment since they lose ice a week or two before northeast Iowa natural lakes.
After eating light during the winter, channel catfish go on a feeding frenzy in early spring cleaning up small fish that died over the winter. Search for actively feeding fish on windblown shorelines and points where dead fish are piled up and the shallow water warms quickly. Keep the wind in your face and move often until you find actively feeding fish.
Use cut bait or shad sides fished on the bottom. To keep the bait on the hook, try using a 1/0 to 3/0 bait holder hook and enough weight (3/8th to ½ ounce) to cast into the wind. Bring along disposable latex gloves to handle the bait and help keep the smell off your hands.
Ice-out catfishing can be good in any lake that has an abundant catfish population. Iowa’s flood control reservoirs, Rathbun, Red Rock, Coralville, and Saylorville usually offer the best action. Try catfishing in Storm Lake, East Okoboji, Clear Lake or Black Hawk Lake in northwest Iowa soon after the ice is gone. Small impoundments in southern Iowa, like Greenfield City Reservoir, Big Creek, Lake Darling, Green Valley Lake, Lake Manawa or Lake Icaria, also offer good early spring catfishing.
Catfish can be found in almost every body of water across Iowa.