Urban fishing gains popularity in Cedar Rapids

Downtown bridges a 'hidden gem' for fishing

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CEDAR RAPIDS — More anglers are forgoing the weeklong trips and secluded lakes, instead looking to catch their limit closer to home — including in the city.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 60 percent of anglers travel less than 20 miles to fish. In Cedar Rapids, that often means fishing off the bridges over the Cedar River.

Josh McDaniel, owner of C.R. Bait and Tackle on Third Avenue, called the river downtown “a hidden gem” for fishing.

“If you know how to fish the Cedar, you know how to get into some good fish,” McDaniel said.

He said the majority of his customers find their sweet spot on the Third Avenue Bridge, or one of the other bridges downtown.

Bob Oakley, owner of Bob’s Reel Service in Cedar Rapids, said he often is successful when he fishes on the banks of the Cedar River.

“If we didn’t catch fish, we wouldn’t go there,” Oakley said. “The fishing’s as good there as it is in Canada, but you’ve got to be there at the right time.”

McDaniel, who often fishes the Cedar River, said the 5-in-1 Dam plays a factor in the large fish population in the river downtown — the fish swim upstream, but stop once they reach the barrier.

The city has no regulations barring fishing off downtown bridges, said Gale Loskill, communications coordinator for the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department.

However, DNR regulations still do apply when fishing in the city, DNR fisheries biologist Paul Sleeper said.

He said there are no safety concerns for the river, as the DNR conducts annual tests of the fish to check for high levels of chemicals.

The most common species in the Cedar River are flatheads and channel catfish, Sleeper said, but other species such as walleye and large-mouth bass can be found as well.

Oakley said fishing off the bridges is a good way to catch catfish, which typically reside in deeper parts of the river.

“The catfish is out in the middle of the river, so the bridge is the way to get to them if you don’t gave a boat,” Oakley said.

People don’t have to be expert fishermen to succeed on the river, McDaniel said. The trick is to have the proper equipment, such as a bridge net, and a strong enough rod and reel. Otherwise, a catch will fall back into the river after the fishing line snaps.

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