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 allowing you 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 7-9. Mark your calendars! During those consecutive days, you can 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! 

Gray’s Lake Park

Friday, June 7 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. They provide bait, tackle, and expert instructors. No license is needed. Open to all!

Raccoon River Park – Park Palooza 

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

Kick off summer with West Des Moines Parks and Recreation and the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce! Two staple community events come together as one. This free family-friendly, rain-or-shine event will include a kid fun zone, a recreation and business vendor fair, live music, cardboard boat races, food trucks, and more. This event runs in conjunction with Cops and Bobbers, a free fishing event for all ages hosted by the West Des Moines Police Department. Located at Raccoon River Park.

Kids Fish Day

Saturday, June 8 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Have some fishing fun with us! Bring the family out to participate in the art of fishing. The fishing competition 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 ours. Bait will be provided. You will also be able to try fish bites cooked by the Izaak Walton League. *Fish will be fried in peanut oil.* It’s FREE — join us. A fishing license is not required for participants at Kid’s Fish Day. Please register each child so we can plan for bait and materials! This program is put on by Friends of Warren County Conservation and the Warren County Izaak Walton League.

Sign up on the website:

Annual Fishing Derby – Bondurant

Saturday, June 8 from 8 to 10 a.m. 

For ages, 3 – 15 years old Iowa residents can try fishing without buying a license as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) free fishing weekend. All other regulations remain in place. 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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