While fishing stories are sometimes exaggerated, there are a lot of stories from recent fishing at Spirit Lake where anglers will have state records to back them up. Fisheries biologist, Mike Hawkins, says there were some 114,000 yellow perch taken from the lake in a 45-day period in January and February.
Hawkins says it’s the second highest perch harvest on big Spirit Lake since the started keeping records in 1957. It’s also the number one perch harvest for ice fishing. Hawkins says the record catch didn’t deplete the lake of perch. He says they estimated anglers threw back some 300-thousand perch that were too small to keep, so they should have a good population for next year.
Hawkins says it’s hard to pinpoint a year where the perch harvest will be so good — as it tends to be cyclical. Hawkins says there will be three to five years where there aren’t many fish, and then a year or two where there’s a great harvest. He says a lot of it has to do with environmental factors, but they aren’t really sure why there are such cycles.
Hawkins says there were some 500 vehicles a day coming into the area to fish — which makes everyone in the area happy. He says they have people coming in from around Iowa and other states, and it’s a big bonus to the winter business for merchants in the area. Hawkins says those who fish also got a nice reward with the plentiful catch.
"Folks love to eat perch, they’re a great tasting fish," Hawkins says. He says the number one way to prepare them is to filet the fish and pan fry it. One area bait shop reported its fishing license sales in January and February were up around 300-percent over last year as word of the great fishing got out.