Free Fishing in Des Moines

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Free Fishing in Des Moines, Iowa

Things are getting fishy in Des Moines, Iowa. ‘Tis the season for fishing weather. One of our family’s favorite summer activities to create new memories! Iowa is blessed with miles of rivers and plenty of options to fish. Did you know that you are required to purchase a valid fishing license even before any fishing trip in the state of Iowa? Even Iowa residents! It is true, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is giving you an opportunity to fish for free before you spend money on a fishing license. You can learn more on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website

This year’s Free Fishing Weekend in the Des Moines area is the weekend of June 2-4. Mark your calendars! During those consecutive days, you are able to fish for free. If you are not able to fish during the free weekend, scroll to the bottom and learn how you can get your fishing license through Go Outdoors Iowa. 

We have gathered a list of free fishing events where your family can fish for free in Des Moines, Iowa below. Save the date for outdoor fun! 

Fishing Basics at Yellow Banks Park

Friday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to Noon

Learn about the different kinds of fish in Iowa, fishing safety, casting, and how to tie a hook. This is during “Free Fishing Weekend” in Iowa so no license is needed. Bait and poles will be provided. Feel free to bring a chair to sit in.

Registration not required. COST: FREE. AGES: 5+

Gray’s Lake Park

Friday, June 2 from 5 to 8 p.m. 

First Friday Free Fishing is held annually in June for beginners to try their hand at fishing without needing to purchase a license. If you are interested in giving fishing a try for the first time, come on over, and don’t worry, there will be people to help you. Bait, a fishing pole, and supplies will be on hand to use at no cost. All ages are welcome. 

Free Family Fishing Night at Triumph Park

Friday, June 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Enjoy a fun night of fishing with the whole family. Please bring your own equipment, if you have it. Limited fishing equipment will be available to borrow while supplies last. Staff and volunteers will be available to help new anglers. Register online at https://forms.gle/yn1e4bUrfQ3gDWDm6.

Raccoon River Park – Park Palooza 

Saturday, June 3 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Get ready to kick off a summer of family fun at Raccoon River Park! There will be something for everyone at Park PALOOZA. This free special event will feature the Mayor’s Bike Ride with Mayor Russ Trimble, make-and-take crafts for kids in the Coneflower shelters with vendors and food trucks selling their products, an opportunity to borrow a fishing rod and fish for free at Cops and Bobbers, and a chance to check out the new Boathouse and a chance to get out on the water. Come enjoy the first weekend of summer at Raccoon River Park. It will be a great time for everyone.

2023 Kids Fishing Derby at Hawkeye Park Pond

Saturday, June 3 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Derby will include Fillet School, Casting School, minnow races, and open fishing. Participants are encouraged to bring a fishing rod and tackle but equipment will be available for those who do not have their own. Bait will be provided. Fish will be cooked on-site, giving participants a chance to taste the fish they catch. A parent/guardian must be present for this fun, family fishing day! 

Kids Fish Day

Saturday, June 3 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Have some fishing fun with Warren County Conservation! Bring the family out to learn the art of fishing. Participants can learn how to tie knots, cast, and fish safely. The fishing tournament will take place at Lester Pond. There will be awards, door prizes, and a free fish-cleaning demonstration. Bring your own pole or borrow one of theirs. Bait will be provided. It’s FREE!  A fishing license is not required for participants at Kid’s Fish Day. Please register each child so they can plan for bait and materials! This program is put on by Friends of Warren County Conservation and the Izaak Walton League.

FishWaukee! at Triumph Park

​Saturday, June 3 from 9 to 11 a.m. 

The Rotary Club of Waukee is partnering with the Waukee Parks & Recreation Department and other community conservation partners to host a fishing event at Triumph Park in Waukee! Participating individuals will have the ability to learn key fishing skills such as baiting, casting, reeling, and fish and wildlife ethics or get the right to “Free Fishing” around the Lake. Make sure you complete the fishing skills for a chance at the available Door Prizes!

Annual Fishing Derby – Bondurant

Saturday, June 3 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. 

Bring the kids (ages 3 – 15) for a fun morning of fishing at Lake Petocka. Bring your own fishing gear, bait, and tackle. A few buckets will be on-site to hold the fish that are caught. Raffle drawing and donuts after the kiddos catch a few fish! 

Purchase a Fishing License

The easiest way to get your fishing license for the season is by visiting DNR Go Outdoors Iowa which is a part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Resident licenses, season-long licenses, and 24-hour fishing licenses are available. After you have your fishing license head to Fish Local, a DNR website, to find great spots to fish right in our neighborhood. Not only is fishing a great way to get some fresh air this summer, but the purchase of fishing licenses also helps to fund wildlife conservation efforts in Iowa. 


Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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