It's "Fish Time" in Appanoose County - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

It's "Fish Time" in Appanoose County

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APPANOOSE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Across the state, this unusually warm spring has many Iowa residents feeling 'ahead of schedule.' Down in Appanoose County, things are moving along swimmingly.

Rathbun Lake is wide awake. 8-10 degrees warmer than most years, telling its residents that now is the time. DNR crews aren`t wasting any of it. With nets in hand and walleyes in sight, they`re out every night this week.

"'We`ve been doing this for 37 years, and this early walleye season, this is our earliest one in 37 years," said Jay Rudacille from the Rathbun Lake Hatchery.

The hatchery is ten days ahead of schedule and the big females are ready to go. It`s likely every one of them was spawned in this building, so for the crew, it`s a sort of homecoming.

"We`ve seen this fish before. It`s got it`s pectoral fin clipped and it`s also been tagged with a visual impact tag, you can see that little green area," said Rudacille.

"This is a highlight. It's kind of like the corn harvest for a corn farmer. Except this is a fish time, for fish guys," said DNR Biologist Chris Clouse.

It takes a 'fish guy' to appreciate the beauty in some of this work. Harvesting fish eggs is what it is.

"At Rathbun, our females average about a quart of eggs per female, and there's about 135,000 eggs per quart. Some of those large females are producing upwards of two quarts, I'd say," said Rudacille.

In two weeks, these fertilized eggs will hatch. Most will be sent back to Rathbun and up to Clear Lake, but about 200,000 will stay here and grow.

"Fish that we raise in the hatchery typically will be 8-10 inches in October, but if we have a normal fall or even a late fall, we're gonna extend our growing season because of the early spring and we'll have the opportunity to raise 12-14 inch walleyes, possibly," Rudacille added.

Bigger fish have a better chance of survival, and a better chance of returning here sometime down the line. Yet another bonus of this wonderful Iowa spring, where on Rathbun Lake and in its depths, life is wide awake.

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