Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Fall Mule Deer Survey Completed

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s fall mule deer survey indicated another year of good fawn production.

 

Biologists counted 2,218 mule deer in the aerial survey in October. The ratios of 41 bucks per 100 does, and 84 fawns per 100 does, were similar to last year.

 

“Overall, there was good fawn production and stable buck-to-doe ratios at or near their long-term averages,” said Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor, Dickinson.

 

The fall aerial survey, conducted specifically to study demographics, covers 24 study areas and 306.3 square miles in western North Dakota. Biologists also survey the same study areas in the spring of each year to determine deer abundance.

Fall Fish Survey Completed

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists have completed fall reproduction surveys and the future looks promising, especially compared to a year ago when many waters were struggling.

 

Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader, said many lakes already had low water levels going into last winter, and then a heavy snowpack resulted in significant winterkill.

 

“Good moisture throughout the summer rejuvenated the habitat in many of the smaller lakes around the state, primarily in the central and southeast,” Gangl said.

 

The cooler, wet summer produced ideal receiving conditions for stocked pike and walleye. “We saw really good survival and growth on most stocked species,” Gangl said.

 

Similar to last year, Devils Lake saw fair to good numbers of walleye, with the catch close to average. “However, we saw very low numbers of yellow perch, which means there wasn’t a good reproductive year for perch,” Gangl said.

 

In Lake Sakakawea, Gangl said there was a good catch of young walleye. “This was a result of a combination of stocking efforts and natural reproduction,” he added. “We also saw a lot of rainbow smelt, so the forage base is still pretty solid.”

 

Lake Oahe has had several years of good reproduction of walleye, Gangl said, including this year. “The walleye population continues to be dominated by smaller fish,” he added. “Lake Oahe is lacking forage which causes fish to grow slower than they should.”

 

Reproduction surveys evaluate natural reproduction, stocking success and forage abundance.

Water Recreationists, Property Owners Asked to Help Search for ANS

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking water recreationists and property owners to check for zebra mussels and other aquatic nuisance species when removing boat lifts, docks and other equipment from area lakes.

ANS coordinator Jessica Howell said zebra mussels attach to hard surfaces that are left in the water for long periods of time, first settling in tight spaces and areas that are protected from sunlight. She said this can make searching for them in the lake difficult when there are few mussels present.

“It makes it easier to do a thorough search on equipment when it’s taken out of the water in the fall,” Howell said. “Pay special attention to wheel wells, right angles on frames, and areas that are otherwise protected from sunlight. Feel for attached organisms that have small hair-like structures holding them in place. Small mussels can feel like rough sandpaper, and adults can be as large as two inches long.”

Howell said if you think you’ve found a zebra mussel, take pictures, write down any relevant information such as how many were found and where, and report it online at the Game and Fish website gf.nd.gov/ans, or email Howell at jmhowell@nd.gov.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas and were introduced to the United States in the mid-1980s. Since then, they have caused massive damage to infrastructure, increased costs to electric and water users, and altered the ecosystems into which they were introduced. They were first discovered in North Dakota in the Red River in 2015 as a result of downstream drift from infested Minnesota lakes. Most recently, zebra mussels were discovered earlier this year in Lake Ashtabula.

“Help stop the spread by reporting anything that seems out of place, and remember to clean, drain and dry equipment before moving between waters,” Howell said.

Fall Turkey Season Set

North Dakota’s fall turkey season is set, with 3,660 licenses available to hunters, 50 fewer than last year.

Fall turkey hunters, including gratis applicants, who are interested in applying for a 2019 license can submit an online application through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Applications are also accepted at the department’s toll-free licensing line, 800-406-6409. A service fee is added for license applications made over the phone.

The deadline for applying is Sept. 4.

Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply in the first lottery. Nonresidents can apply for fall turkey licenses that are still available following the first lottery.

As per state law, a resident who does not want to receive a fall turkey hunting license but would like to accrue a bonus point, can purchase a point on the application for the same fee as the turkey license. The bonus point fee is allocated to the department’s Private Lands Open to Sportsmen Program.

Hunting units 21 (Hettinger and Adams counties) and 47 (Sheridan, Wells, Eddy, Foster, Kidder and Stutsman counties) will be closed to fall turkey hunting again this year because of low turkey numbers.

The fall wild turkey season runs from Oct. 12 through Jan. 5, 2020.

Fall Fish Survey Completed

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists have completed fall reproduction surveys and most waters fared as good as or better than expected.

 

Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said Lake Sakakawea had the eighth highest catch of young-of-the-year walleye on record.

 

“There was good reproduction of most game species in the big lake, as we saw healthy numbers of pike, perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, crappies and walleye,” Gangl said. “And it’s the second year in a row of good walleye reproduction, which isn’t a surprise considering the high water is resulting in an abundance of food and habitat for the young fish.”

 

Lake Oahe showed good reproduction of walleye this year, which Gangl said is not necessarily a good thing. “This is the fourth good year class out of the last five years, leaving a lot of small fish out there right now,” he added. “Lake Oahe is lacking forage which causes fish to grow slower than they should.”

 

Gangl said while there was some indication of gizzard shad reproduction in Lake Oahe in 2017, there wasn’t much this year. “The cold winter didn’t allow for much survival with this forage fish,” he said.

 

Devils Lake saw fair to good numbers of walleye, with the catch close to average even though Game and Fish didn’t stock any walleye in the fishery this year. “The end result was all from natural reproduction,” Gangl said.

 

Sampling results on smaller lakes generally vary from lake to lake. The common theme mentioned this year from fisheries personnel across the state is that the young-of-the-year fish were larger than normal. “This is significant because bigger fish generally have a better chance of surviving through the first winter,” Gangl said, “and that’s an important step in getting to a catchable size in the future.”

 

Reproduction surveys evaluate natural reproduction, stocking success and forage abundance.

Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

To help North Dakota hunters prepare for hunting seasons in 2018, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides its best estimate for opening dates for the coming year.

Dates become official when approved by governor’s proclamation. Tentative opening dates for 2018 include:

Spring Turkey April 14
Deer and Pronghorn Bow, Mountain Lion August 31
Dove September 1
Sharptail, Hun, Ruffed Grouse, Squirrel September 8
Youth Deer September 14
Youth Waterfowl September 15
Early Resident Waterfowl September 22
Regular Waterfowl, Youth Pheasant September 29
Pronghorn Gun October 5
Pheasant October 6
Fall Turkey October 13
Mink, Muskrat, Weasel Trapping October 27
Deer Gun November 9
Deer Muzzleloader November 30

 

Salmon Spawn Completed

Fisheries crews have completed their annual salmon spawning operation on the Missouri River System after collecting more than 2.5 million eggs.

Dave Fryda, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor, said crews easily collected enough eggs to stock the 400,000 smolts planned for Lake Sakakawea in 2018.

The majority of eggs were collected from Lake Sakakawea, with help from the Missouri River below Garrison Dam. Average size of Lake Sakakawea female salmon was 6.2 pounds, about 1.2 pounds smaller than last year. Fryda said once again there was an abundance of young male salmon, which forecasts a good run the next couple years.

Additional surplus eggs were provided to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to help with their Lake Oahe salmon program.

Chinook salmon begin their spawning run in October. Since salmon cannot naturally reproduce in North Dakota, Game and Fish Department and Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery personnel collect eggs and transport them to the hatchery.

Once the eggs hatch, young salmon spend several months in the hatchery before being stocked in Lake Sakakawea.

Fall Fish Surveys Provide Insight

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists have completed fall reproduction surveys, which evaluate natural reproduction, stocking success and forage abundance in many waters across the state.

walleye release 3

Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said there is good news from the survey efforts.

“We are seeing really good numbers of walleye and sauger in Lake Sakakawea, so we think those two had a pretty good year,” he said. “Devils Lake is seeing pretty good numbers of walleye, but the Missouri River and Lake Oahe are still really low in the production of anything.”

Gangl said the Missouri River flood of 2011 is still influencing this popular fishery.

“We’ve had some good walleye reproduction in the Missouri River System downstream of Garrison Dam over the last few years,” he said. “It is actually a good thing that we did not have a good walleye year-class again this year because there are a lot of small fish out there and they are going to start competing for limited forage.”

Gangl said that while biologists have not seen a lot of forage production in recent years in Lake Oahe, there was some indication of gizzard shad reproduction.

“The gizzard shad numbers are not what they were back in, say, 2008, but we did see quite a few fish down around the state line and we did catch some shad all the way up to Bismarck,” he said. “So there are shad in the system right now and they did reproduce, but I don’t think the numbers are there yet to provide a lot of forage.”

Considering summer drought conditions and other factors, Gangl said the results of the fall reproduction survey in district lakes scattered across the state vary.

“There are some good ones and some bad ones,” he said. “Department fisheries biologists are finding some good stocking success in a few lakes, but in some lakes, it wasn’t so good. It is all dependent on the different factors from lake to lake.”

From a statewide perspective, Gangl said North Dakota’s fisheries are sitting in pretty good shape.

“In our big lakes, Devils Lake has a pretty robust walleye population and Sakakawea is very good right now,” he said. “We may have lost some water in the more than 400 district lakes, but in the grand scheme of things, I think we are still riding high with all the adult fish and whatever young fish we had this year. I think we are sitting really well going into winter. We’ll just see what Mother Nature gives us in terms of moisture for the coming year.”