By Steve Weisman
What a beautiful day Easter Sunday was. Temperatures warmed into the mid-70s, and there was NO wind! I repeat: NO wind! Days with no wind have been far and few between since last winter! It made the perfect day for family get-togethers!
Now for the lakes area, it’s time for catch up! After all, the Great Walleye Weekend (May 3-4) looms ever closer, and there is a whole lot of dock and hoist work to get done.
At the same time, DNR personnel at the Spirit Lake Hatchery are moving toward the home stretch of the annual gillnet collection of northern pike and muskellunge.
It’s hard for me to believe, but the Spirit Lake Hatchery personnel have already completed their annual northern pike netting. The 7-8 inches of snow in early April added enough run-off into Big Spirit (Buffalo Run and Hales Slough) that over 300 pike were taken in short order. This provided all of the eggs needed for stocking efforts.
As of this past Sunday (April 20), the walleye collection over halfway.
The public is encouraged to come in and see the egg collection process and to see the spawners that are kept in the holding tanks. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until the spawning process is completed.
Of the three species, it is the walleye that the crews spend the most nights collecting. Once again, wind can be a huge player in the collection success, since the gillnets are placed near the shoreline where the adult fish move to spawn. Windy conditions on those areas make things pretty difficult. Once the striping process is completed and the fish have recovered, the fish are returned to the water in which they were taken.
Here are the walleye collection results for East, Big Spirit and West Okoboji through April 19.
East Okoboji Big Spirit West Okoboji
4-13 — — —
4-14 99 115
4-15 68 412
4-16 35 144
4-17 307 429
4-18 202 131 42
4-19 301 243 135
At this point, three walleyes over 10 pounds have been caught: a 10.6 pounder (photo below) and a 10.4 pounder out of East Okoboji and a 10.3 pounder out of West Okoboji.
Muskie collection includes nine nights on East Okoboji with 89 adult muskies caught. The largest was a 49.2 pounder (photo below). Big Spirit Lake collection numbers include six nights with a total of 111 adult muskies, including a 46 pounder. West Okoboji included two collection nights of 19 adult fish with a 32.5 pounder.
Great Walleye Weekend
The 32nd annual Iowa Great Lakes Walleye Weekend is drawing ever closer with the kickoff of the 2014 walleye season in the Iowa Great Lakes set for May 3-4. Sponsored by the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, the tournament begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 3 and concludes at noon on Sunday with an awards luncheon at the Dickinson County Expo Building in Spirit Lake.
Six specially tagged walleye placed in West and East Okoboji and Big Spirit by the Iowa DNR, and if a registered contestant catches one of these fish, that fish will be worth $32,000. If more than one fish is caught, the prize money will be divided equally.
In addition 18 other tagged fish will be released and if caught by a registered contestant, will be worth cash or merchandise awards.
As always, the two-day fishing tournament benefits Easter Seals Iowa, a state-wide non-profit organization that provides services to ensure all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
This year once the snowmelt left, there has been no runoff to speak of. As a result, the lakes are definitely not full, so there will be no water flowing in unless the weather changes dramatically.
Mother Nature, of course, will do whatever she wants. So, we might have warm weather, cold weather, snow, rain, flat calm, wind…each year is just a little different. Yet, that is what makes each Great Walleye Weekend so unique!