Anglers ready to reel as Walleye Weekend returns
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Life may have seemed a notch or two quieter in May of 2020 without the annual Walleye Weekend tournament, but things are expected to be back in full force Saturday as anglers from various states cast their lines in hope of landing the $39,000 prize.
The Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce had to call off last year's main tournament and offer only its optional extended contest — the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was not issuing special event permits at that time in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the chamber has some indications that participation will bounce back this year as the tournament returns.
"Registrations are up from where they were two years ago and, from what we're hearing from our partners and sponsors and everybody, everyone seems to be really excited about being able to offer the tournament again this year," Blain Andera, CEO of the IGLA Chamber, said.
The tournament typically brings more than 2,000 people each year, and funds from the tournament are donated to several local protective associations which in turn help care for the lakes themselves. In addition, Andera said local businesses also see some benefit as participants book hotel stays, fill their boats with gasoline, eat at local restaurants and go shopping at local stores.
"There's more to do in the Iowa Great Lakes than just fish during the fishing tournament, and a lot of people take advantage of that and support our local economy," Andera said.
Walleye Weekend officially gets underway at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 1 and runs through 11:59 a.m. Sunday, May 2. Participants can sign up for the extended contest, which allows them to potentially collect a cut of the entry fees generated from the extended portion — if they catch a tagged walleye before Labor Day that is. The first catch of the extended contest is awarded 20 percent, 15 percent goes to the second and 10 percent is given to the third.
"With 10 tagged walleye, there's a pretty good chance that someone's going to catch one throughout the summer months," Andera said.
Chamber officials said three tagged walleye were caught last year, but none of the anglers were registered for the extended contest. The chamber advised the public to not make the same mistake.
Participants age 16-plus can register for $25 — those age 15 and under can do so for $15 — and registration for the extended contest is another $15 for either age group. Fees must be paid prior to the contest kickoff, and registration for both the regular and extended contests closes promptly at 12 a.m. May 1.
Anglers will also have the chance to earn some bragging rights by bringing in the heaviest stringer of three walleye under 17 inches, heaviest northern pike, heaviest stringer of five panfish — perch, crappie, bluegill, yellow bass — or heaviest stringer of 10 bullhead. Weigh stations at Kabele’s Trading Post in Spirit Lake, Oak Hill Outdoor/The Hook Up in Milford and Stan’s Bait & Tackle in Milford can weigh fish and verify the serial number on the tagged walleye. The fish must be alive and caught on the local lakes within the contest window to qualify.
More than $3,500 in prizes has once again been donated by Pure Fishing, Andera said, and they will be awarded from noon to 1 p.m. May 2, during the weekend's awards luncheon at the Dickinson County Expo Building. The luncheon is free for all registered contestants, or $5 per person for non-registered guests. Andera noted participants do not have to attend in order to collect their prize.
"If they're not comfortable coming to that, that's an optional event," Andera said.
He said the chamber will be encouraging participants to use COVID-19 mitigations strategies over the weekend, and will ask attendees of the Sunday luncheon to wear face coverings when appropriate.
Registration and contest information is available at okobojichamber.com under the events tab as well as at any of the participating weigh stations.