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DNR: COVID-19 Will Have A Direct Impact On This Year's Gillnetting Operations On The Iowa Great Lakes

Thu 3-26-2020

(Spirit Lake)-- COVID-19 will be having an impact on this year's gillnetting operations on the Iowa Great Lakes. Mike Hawkins, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources tells KUOO news they'll be forced to scale things back...Gillnetting Impacts01 

”Right now our local staff are going to be working on getting in as many walleyes as we can. Northern pike will be starting here soon. So we're planning to go ahead with those plans to do some gillnetting this spring. It looks like it's definitely going to be scaled back, just with some travel restrictions in bringing staff in from other places in the state, so. We're not accepting volunteers this year and local staff only will be doing the majority of our netting. We're taking precautions in the facility just like everyone else is on social distancing and trying to make sure everyone is safe. And really that's the most important part now is trying to keep everybody safe.”

Hawkins says the fish hatchery will also more than likely be closed to the public during this year's operations...Gillnetting Impacts02 

"Currently all state facilities are closed to the public and by appointment only. So yeah, unfortunately it looks like, you know, that the hatchery is not going to be open during the gillnetting season for us this year and it's very unfortunate because it's a good time for a lot of folks to come out and see those fish, but we'll behind the scenes we'll be trying to keep everything going and keep walleyes, northern pike and muskies in the pipeline. We don't want to skip a year."

The exact timeframe as to when the gillnetting will actually start is dependent upon when the ice is completely out of the lakes. Hawkins says most of the smaller lakes are pretty much open now, but larger ones such as Big Spirit Lake and the Okoboji's still have atleast some ice cover.