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The 141st walleye fishing season officially opens May 6 at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes.
“Lake temperatures have been on a nice steady rise this spring and if the numbers of walleyes caught in our nets this spring are any indication, there should be some great fishing this spring in the Iowa Great Lakes,” said fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “The weather conditions leading up to the weekend will be a key factor in how successful anglers are during walleye weekend.”
Walleye population assessments in the Iowa Great Lakes show very healthy numbers of large 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 harvest-sized walleyes less than 17-inches is much higher this year.
“On Spirit Lake, I predict anglers will catch quite a few 13- to 15-inch walleyes,” said Hawkins. “We’re also seeing some good numbers of 14- to 15-inch walleyes on East and West Okoboji.”
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, 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.”
Anglers heading to the lakes area for the opener will find cloudy conditions with temperatures in the upper sixties and a chance of rain.
A quick check of state park campgrounds in the area found many sites with electricity still available at Marble Beach, Gull Point and Emerson Bay.
Walleye season opens the first Saturday in May through February 14 each year. There is a protected slot limit on walleyes from 17- to 22-inches, with only one walleye over 22-inches allowed per day. The daily limit is three walleyes with a possession limit of six.
The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce will host the 35rd annual Great Walleye Weekend Fishing Contest in conjunction with the opener. For more information on the contest, visit their website at www.okobojichamber.com.