A sign of things to come for Iowa walleye anglers?
If a recent Facebook post by the Iowa DNR is any indication of the health of the walleye population in Iowa lakes, this year’s walleye opener – and season – could be a memorable one.
The above post came earlier this week – the same day the DNR released information on the Iowa walleye fishing season, which opens May 5 at Spirit Lake and East and West Okoboji lakes.
Still, while the DNR was able to collect broodstock on Lake Rathbun – and catch that massive walleye, which the DNR reported at 12.74 pounds and 28.8 inches – ice remains on a number of Iowa fisheries, which could impact fishing early on. According to the DNR, the late-night, walleye collection was completed at Rathbun on April 15, with crews netting for nine nights starting April 7. Netting began at Storm Lake on April 11, was delayed a week with cold weather and winter conditions, and has started again. Netting operations are expected to start at Clear Lake and Spirit Lake later this week.
“Winter is still hanging on in northern Iowa and some lakes are still frozen. The latest ice out for Spirit Lake and the Okoboji’s is April 28th, 1951, and we’re on track to get close to that date,” fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins said in the release. “There aren’t many years of history to study to know how this late ice will affect the bite. We expect the spawn to be delayed and the spring pattern accelerated.”
Still, walleye population assessments in the Iowa Great Lakes show healthy numbers of walleyes.
“We continue to see some very good numbers of broodstock sized fish (17-inches and greater) in the Iowa Great Lakes,” Hawkins said, adding that the number of fish under 17 inches will also be good this year. “On Spirit Lake, I predict anglers will catch quite a few 13- to 15-inch walleyes.”
Like many of Iowa’s lake walleye populations, stocking success is highly variable with good year classes of walleyes occurring every 3-5 years.
“Even when millions of walleyes are stocked each year, Mother Nature and other lake variables usually dictate how well a stocking will do,” Hawkins said. “This year looks to be one of those years when we will hit the part of the cycle with good numbers of harvest sized fish.”
Walleye season opens the first Saturday in May and runs through Feb. 14 each year on Spirit Lake, East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake. There is a protected slot limit on walleyes from 17 to 22 inches, with only one walleye over 22 inches allowed per day on Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji Lake, Upper and Lower Gar Lake and Minnewashta Lake. The daily limit is three walleyes with a possession limit of six.