Walleye Season Opens May 5 on Iowa's Great lakes

By: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Email
By: Iowa Department of Natural Resources Email

The 136th walleye fishing season officially opens May 5 at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes, and opening weekend could offer challenges not found in other years: the really early spring.

“Can the anglers adapt to the early spring conditions, or will the typical fishing patterns and tactics work?” asked fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “Some aquatic plants are already topping out in East Okoboji so fishing shallow could be difficult there. That has never happened this early since I’ve been here.”

Hawkins said water clarity could affect angler success on Spirit and West Okoboji. While West Okoboji has a history of clear water, Hawkins said Spirit Lake has clarity extending down 12 feet, which is more than normal and could make fish more wary.

While the advanced spring conditions may pose a challenge to anglers, a lack of walleye will not. The Iowa Great Lakes are full of walleyes with three strong and distinct year classes.

The majority of walleyes above 20 inches are from the 2001 class. The next big year class is from 2007 measuring 15 to 18 inches. The 2010 class is as large as the other two and will be making its presence known in future openers.

“Our walleye population is excellent on Spirit Lake and is very good on the Okobojis,” Hawkins said. “The chain of lakes was producing some nice fish last fall and I expect that to continue this year.”

Anglers heading to the lakes area for the opener will find warmer than normal conditions with a chance of rain, if the extended forecast holds.

Water temperature should be on the increase, and unless a cold snap comes, the lakes are in prime condition.

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 and runs through Feb. 14 each year. There is a protected slot limit on walleyes from 17 to 22 inches, with only one walleye over 22 allowed per day. The daily limit is three walleyes with a possession limit of six.

Easter Seals is celebrating its 30th anniversary of Walleye Weekend by raising its grand prize for catching one of six tagged walleyes to $30,000. Information about the tournament and a registration form is available at http://www.vacationokoboji.com/

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