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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.

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.

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Fish Surveys Completed

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists have completed fall reproduction surveys, which evaluates natural reproduction and stocking success across the state.

Fisheries management section leader Scott Gangl said Lake Sakakawea produced the fourth highest young-of-the-year catch of sauger since 1970. In addition, walleye numbers were relatively good due to natural reproduction and stocking efforts.

“We are seeing a lot of young-of-the-year smelt in the stomachs of other fish, which is an indication of good smelt reproduction in Lake Sakakawea this year,” Gangl said.

The Missouri River is still recovering from the flood of 2011, Gangl said. “But this year we did sample gizzard shad at all sites from the Garrison Dam down to Lake Oahe,” he said.

Gizzard shad in Lake Oahe saw the highest number since 2008. But overall, Gangl said forage is still lacking. “With good natural reproduction again in 2016, this is the third consecutive strong year class of walleye,” he added. “Which means the walleye catch will continue to be dominated by smaller fish.”

The Devils Lake basin reported relatively good catches of young-of-the-year walleye, after Game and Fish stocked 1.7 million fingerlings this spring.

Statewide, smaller lakes showed various levels of success. “We saw good walleye survival on the newer lakes, with more variable success on the established lakes,” Gangl said. “In addition, we saw good reproduction of bluegills in many of our lakes statewide.”