The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) spring fish spawning season is over and Iowa’s two walleye hatcheries are filled to capacity. Netting crews collected enough walleye to produce 1,082 quarts of walleye eggs at the Spirit Lake hatchery and 963 quarts at the Rathbun hatchery.
“Our goal was to collect 1,668 quarts of walleye eggs to produce 148 million walleye fry that we can stock in Iowa lakes,” said Jay Rudacille, DNR Warm and Coolwater Fish Culture supervisor. “We collected 2,045 quarts which is 22 percent more than our goal.”
Walleyes were caught at Clear Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Rathbun Lake, Spirit Lake, and Storm Lake from April 6-15. During this busy season, a total of 5,825 walleyes were collected, with about 61 percent of them being females. This combined effort collected more than 272 million eggs.
Fisheries staff netted over 2,400 walleyes on Big Spirit Lake and East Okoboji Lake in four nights. Roughly 70 percent of the walleyes caught were female. DNR test net crew set nets behind the hatchery in East Okoboji on April 8.
“In a single run, they captured a total of 316 walleyes, of which, 270 were females,” said Kim Hawkins, Spirit Lake Fish Hatchery manager. “This was a large catch for one boat.”
The Spirit Lake Hatchery also cultures muskie and northern pike. DNR personnel collected 118 muskies to provide eggs for hatching to raise fish to 12 inches. Northern pike were netted from sloughs and fish traps surrounding Big Spirit Lake, producing 1.2 million fry.
“We collected over 473 quarts of eggs this year from Storm Lake,” said Ben Wallace, DNR fisheries biologist. “This year ranks fourth in number of quarts of eggs collected from Storm Lake since 1988.” Netting efforts at Storm Lake lasted for seven nights.
Anglers will find larger fish in Storm Lake compared to past years.
“We have a large size class of 21- to 23-inch fish that’s been producing a lot of eggs,” said Wallace. “Some of those fish have moved out of the slot limit and anglers can now take advantage of some of them.”
With little natural reproduction by walleye in Iowa, walleye populations rely heavily upon stockings. Walleyes are stocked throughout Iowa into natural lakes, interior rivers, flood control reservoirs, and selected larger man-made lakes.
The DNR plans to release more than 148 million walleye fry in late April and early May. While the majority of walleyes are stocked as fry, some are cultured in Iowa DNR hatcheries and stocked at different sizes. More than 1.2 million two-inch walleyes are expected to be stocked into lakes, rivers, and streams across the state this summer. Larger 6-9 inch fingerlings (more than 340,000) will be stocked in lakes later this fall.