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Walleye season opens May 4 on Iowa’s Great Lakes

  • 4/23/2024 12:10:00 PM
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The 148th walleye fishing season officially opens May 4 at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes.

“Walleye sampling this spring shows a very robust and healthy population,” said Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist for the Iowa DNR. “Iowa Great Lakes experienced a record setting early ice out date. Ice duration also set a record with the lakes iced up for only 50 to 58 days, 20 days shorter than any other year since 1916 when record keeping began. Water temperatures remain on a normal trajectory for a good opener.”

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. The protected slot limit on walleyes is 19 to 25 inches, with only one walleye over 25 inches allowed per day.  The protected slot limit applies to 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 walleye season will be opening in the Iowa Great Lakes, but the lakes offer great fishing for a variety of other species.  Panfish, northern pike, and smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing can be very good as the water warms. Water levels on the Okoboji chain are just a little above crest level with water flowing over the Lower Gar spillway. Spirit Lake remains a few inches below crest.

Plan extra time to get to the Iowa Great Lakes with Highway 71 in Okoboji and Arnolds Park under construction. The Hattie Elston Boat Ramp in Okoboji will have limited access and some reduced parking due to the road construction.

For many anglers, this will be their first trip on the water for the season. Checking your safety equipment and making sure your boat is ready ahead of time can help ease congestion at busy boat ramps.

The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce will host the 42nd annual Iowa Great Lakes Walleye Weekend Fishing Contest in conjunction with the opener.  For more information on the contest, visit their website at

Anglers are also encouraged to participate in the Midwest Walleye Challenge hosted by the Iowa DNR Fisheries Bureau. Angler catch information from this citizen science data collection effort provides valuable data to help fisheries biologists manage Iowa’s walleye populations. For more information and to sign up visit