Gill netting for walleye is underway on Storm Lake. DNR fisheries biologist Ben Wallace says they began on Saturday, April sixth.
Wallace says each year, around the first of April, walleye get the urge to spawn when the water temperatures hit the mid-40s and the days start to get longer. They come in close to shore, looking for each other, and they’ll try to spawn in the shallows.
However, the lakes in Iowa don’t have enough of the right habitat for them to spawn successfully, at least not enough to support a good fishery… “We go out while they’re trying to spawn, and try to catch them before they release their eggs. To do that, we set gill nets close to shore, and as those fish are along the shore, they get caught in those nets. Most of this activity takes place in the evening and into the night. We set our nets around 6:30 p.m. And check them around 9:30 p.m. Then we go out again just after midnight and check and nets and pull them in for the night.”
Wallace says once they’re back at the hatchery, they sort the males from the females… and sort the green females from the ripe ones… “The ripe fish are the females that are ready to release their eggs. The next morning, at the hatchery we sort through the green fish to see which ones became ripe overnight. Then we’ll take the eggs from all the right fish.” The fish are then measures, tagged, and released back into the lake.
The eggs are then packaged up, shipped off to either the Rathbun or Spirit Lake hatchery, where they will get fertilized, put into jars, and incubate until they hatch out.
The goal this year is to collect about 18-hundred quarts of eggs statewide. Based on the average hatch rate of those eggs, the DNR expects to get about 150 to 160-million walleye to stock around the state.
Wallace says as of last Thursday, a little over 300 quarts of eggs have been shipped from Storm Lake. He says on Wednesday alone, they put up 137 quarts of eggs, which is the most they’ve every done in a single day.