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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ spring fish spawning season is over and Iowa’s two walleye hatcheries are filled to capacity as netting crews collected enough walleye to produce 1,048 quarts of walleye eggs at the Spirit Lake hatchery and 846 quarts at the Rathbun hatchery.
Walleyes were caught at East and West Okoboji Lakes, Spirit Lake, Storm Lake, Clear Lake, and Rathbun Lake from April 3-13. The effort from all the lakes combined collected more than 249 million eggs.
This year’s walleye netting produced the highest number of quarts of eggs from Storm Lake since the walleye broodstock collection efforts began here in 1988. “We collected over 640 quarts of egg this year,” said Ben Wallace, DNR fisheries biologist. “This beat our old record by 144 quarts.”
“We had a very large year class of 18 to 20-inch females show up last year and we saw them again this year and they’ve put on a little growth,” said Wallace. “Egg collection at Storm Lake should be good for the foreseeable future provided we can maintain this year class of fish.”
A 30-inch female, estimated to be 13 years old, was brought through the Storm Lake hatchery. This fish was originally tagged in the hatchery in 2008 and was recaptured for egg collection in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Crews at Rathbun Lake observed good numbers of smaller fish (<24 inches) this season, not seen in previous years. “This is a great indication that walleye survival of recent stockings has improved compared to recent broodstock collections,” said Mark Flammang, DNR fisheries biologist. Lake Rathbun has a rich tradition of excellent walleye fishing with a consistent number of large walleyes (approaching or over 30 inches). “The smaller fish netted this year are a welcome addition signifying a bright future for both anglers and netting crews.”
At Spirit Lake, fisheries staff netted more than 2,400 walleyes on Big Spirit Lake and East and West Okoboji lakes. The Spirit Lake Hatchery also cultures muskie and northern pike and DNR personnel collected 226 muskies providing eggs for hatching. Northern pike were netted from Spirit Lake and Diamond Lake, producing more than 823,000 fry, most of which have already been stocked.
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 149 million walleye fry in May. While the majority of walleyes are stocked as fry, some are cultured in Iowa DNR hatcheries and stocked at different sizes. More than 1.1 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 thousand) will be stocked in lakes later this fall.