What a spring, summer and fall it has been in 2015 for fishing in the Iowa Great Lakes! This year has been one of the best fishing seasons to date not only for me, but also our customers! It has been a very mild fall but winter will arrive soon and ice anglers coming to the Iowa Great Lakes should find some tremendous ice fishing opportunities this winter if this great bite continues!
Obviously fall weather patterns and precipitation can have a big influence on how the ice season shapes up for anglers, but from a numbers standpoint for most species of fish in the lakes area, there are some exciting days of ice angling ahead for the 2015/16 ice season. Perch, Bluegills, Yellow Bass, Walleyes, Northern Pike.....there are lots of choices for ice anglers to target on some of the most diverse lakes in all of Iowa.
Perch are always a sought after species in the lakes and things are shaping up with good year classes where we could be on the upswing again. During the winter of 2014/15 and during the open water season there were lots of Perch caught on all 3 lakes which gives hope for the glory days of winter perch fishing again. Bluegill numbers on West Okoboji are staggering with lots of different year classes that hold great promise for future years as well as the sought after "Bull" Bluegills that every ice angler loves to entice while sight fishing. Crappies are showing up again in decent numbers and West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Big Spirit Lake would be good choices for someone wanting to target them in NW Iowa. Remember to practice selective harvest of larger Bluegills and Crappies this season as these lakes have potential to kick out some real trophy panfish, but this is only possible through catch and release of these larger fish.
Yellow Bass? There are more Yellow Bass this year than I have seen since I moved here in 2005. Ice anglers will have an opportunity this season to harvest LOTS of these fish again as we did in 2014, and it can be some of the fastest ice fishing a person will ever experience for numbers! The downside to this, is these fish can impact other game fish species so do not feel bad about keeping a pile of "Yellows". There is not a size limit or daily limit for yellow bass so take advantage of them and put some topside for the fryer!
Walleyes this season should be good but there are still lots of fish in the slot, but there are lots fish coming out of the slot as well. There are a couple of strong year classes from stocking efforts thanks to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to maintain a strong population of walleyes in our lakes, which in future years will be the size class that many anglers desire under the 17-22" slot limit which is typically 15-16". The Iowa Great Lakes should provide ice anglers with very good opportunities for icing a trophy eye this year if they are willing to put in the work to search out bigger fish.
If you like to fish tip ups, there will be some great opportunities to catch Northern Pike on remaining weed lines on West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Big Spirit Lake where there is good vertical structure remaining after ice up. There are good numbers of smaller pike that will provide ice anglers an opportunity to get out and target these fish, and fishing tip ups can be a fun family and friends outing! Racing for a flag is always fun for kids, especially if they have never caught a fish on a tip up.
Ice season will be here when old man winter decides to make an appearance, but until then there are several hunting seasons to take advantage of and I will definitely be doing that. The 2015 ice fishing is going to be a good one and the lakes should kick out some good numbers and quality fish this season!
Chad Loreth- Iowa Great Lakes Outdoors, Inc.