The 142th walleye fishing season officially opens May 5 at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes.
“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,” said fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “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.”
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 added 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 notes. “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.”
Marble Beach State Park, a popular area campground and boat ramp, will be closed this year for an extensive improvement project. Since the entire park is closed, the fish cleaning station will not be in operation. Campgrounds at Gull Point and Emerson Bay will be open with other private facilities and hotels also available. The fish cleaning station at Emerson Bay State Park will be available.
Walleye season opens the first Saturday in May and runs through February 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.
The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce will host the 36rd annual Great Walleye Weekend Fishing Contest in conjunction with the opener. For more information on the contest, visit their website at www.okobojichamber.com.