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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is implementing a 15-inch minimum length limit on all walleye captured from Rathbun Lake, starting January 1, 2023.
All walleyes measuring less than 15 inches must be immediately released. Anglers can keep five walleyes per day. This regulation does not apply to the Chariton River below Rathbun Dam; the upper limit of the regulation will be the Wayne/Appanoose county line.
Currently, there is no length regulation on walleyes at Rathbun Lake.
“The walleye population in Rathbun Lake is one of the most studied in the state,” said Mark Flammang, fisheries biologist for the Iowa DNR.
Biologists monitor lakes to evaluate the effectiveness of different regulations and predict changes to the population to improve the angler experience and ensure that Iowa has a strong broodstock population.
When you catch a walleye in Iowa, there’s a good chance that fish got its start in one of Iowa’s walleye hatcheries. Since walleye often don’t reproduce naturally in the State’s inland rivers and lakes, their populations must be maintained through the DNR’s stocking program. The hundreds of millions of eggs needed each year to keep populations healthy are predominately collected from wild broodstock populations at Lake Rathbun.
“We have observed a change in the Lake Rathbun walleye population over the last decade. The population now experiences relatively inconsistent and low survival of stocked walleye on an annual basis,” explains Flammang. “Adding this minimum length limit can improve the average size of walleye anglers harvest, potentially increase the overall density of Rathbun Lake walleye, and likely reduce the time between bites for walleye anglers, while still protecting the adult female population.”
The DNR will continue to assess these regulations and recommend changes as needed.