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 caught and spawned 1,020 quarts of walleye eggs at the Spirit Lake hatchery and more than 760 quarts at the Rathbun hatchery.
“We had a really good year,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “The late ice out helps us increase our catch rates and catch more fish that are ready to spawn. That shortens the netting season for the staff, even though we increased our egg take this year.”
Northern pike netting in the sloughs connected to Spirit Lake occurred April 6-7. Muskies were netted along with walleyes in Spirit Lake East Okoboji Lake and West Okoboji Lake beginning April 14. Both species exceeded their egg requests as well. Northern pike were netted on the Mississippi River beginning April 8, and the pike fry were stocked on April 18.
Walleyes were caught at Lake Rathbun, Storm Lake and Clear Lake during the nightly operation from April 6 to 20. The effort from all the lakes combined collected more than 200 million eggs.
“We took more walleye eggs this year so we can try some experimental fry stocking. Fry are cheaper than fingerlings and if the stocking works, it will produce a huge year class of walleyes,” Larscheid said.
The DNR plans to release more than 140 million walleye fry in May. Larscheid said fry stockings are successful every three or four years and the DNR uses larger and more expensive fingerlings to fill in the gaps between the good fry stocking years.
Most of the fry are returned to the traditional walleye lakes. The experimental fry stockings will go to lakes like Big Creek that has been releasing around 1.7 million fry each year since 2011.
“That 2011 fry stocking had excellent survival and is the biggest year class of walleyes since I arrived in 2006,” said Ben Dodd, fisheries biologist with the DNR. “We have had some success with the fry stocking and plan to continue it after the experiment concludes in 2015.”
Dodd said walleyes from the 2011 stocking will be approaching the 15-inch minimum length later this summer.