On both sides of the Mississippi River, scores of spring creeks flow through the limestone bluff country of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The topography of the area is more similar to the Appalachian Mountains than it is to the nearby prairies.
Streams tumble from the rocky hills and then meander through timberland and pastures, some flowing directly into the Mississippi while others join forces to form larger tributaries such as Minnesota’s Root River and the Upper Iowa River. The home of brook trout in pioneer days, bluff country streams are now the home to brown, rainbow, and new generations of brook trout, many of them wild and a surprising number unexpectedly large. Many of Northeast Iowa’s top streams feature 2,000 trout per mile.
The hatchery in Manchester—established in 1976—is one of the oldest in the country. The grounds are beautiful and the facility interesting to visit. Spring Branch Creek, which flows through the grounds, is arguably Iowa’s premier trout stream and supports a population of wild brown trout that has been self-sustaining for decades, and it has benefited from extensive habitat improvements.
Iowa streams are open to the public year-round, which is unique amongst neighboring states. Some of the best fishing takes place during the late fall, winter, and early spring.