The 139th walleye fishing season officially opens at Spirit Lake, East and West Okoboji lakes. Beautiful weather is forecast this weekend, but lake conditions could create some challenges.
“The lakes are very cool and clear this spring,” said fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins. “We’re seeing 12-15 feet of water clarity on Big Spirit Lake and 6-7 feet of clarity on East Okoboji. Walleyes are definitely more cautious and finicky in that clear water. When the water is this clear, the bite is usually a lot better after dark. Daytime walleye fishing will be tough.
“Water clarity presents challenges anglers may be accustomed to, but lagging water temperatures are certainly another thing to keep in mind. After a cold first half of April, water temperatures are struggling to get into the 50s,” Hawkins said.
Walleye population assessments in the Iowa Great Lakes indicate very healthy numbers of large walleyes.
“We continue to see some of the best numbers of broodstock sized fish (17 inches and greater) that we have ever documented in the Iowa Great Lakes,” he said. The smaller, harvest-sized walleye numbers are probably best on the Okoboji chain, while a better percentage of the Spirit Lake population is above 17 inches.
Anglers heading to the lakes for the opener will be greeted with beautiful weather conditions; 75 degrees and sunny skies are forecast for . There is a slight chance of showers . Water temperature should increase this week, however, which may help the bite.
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 in May through each year. There is a protected slot limit on walleyes from 17 to 22 inches, with only one walleye over 22 inches allowed per day. The daily limit is three walleyes with a possession limit of six.
The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce will host the 33rd annual Great Walleye Weekend Fishing Contest in conjunction with the opener. For more information on the contest, visit their website -www.okobojichamber.com.