Update On Winter Kill

A long winter caused a prolonged ice pack, and coupled with near-record snowfall throughout much of the state, resulted in conditions that made it difficult for fish in some lakes to receive enough oxygen to survive.

Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said 37 winterkills have been confirmed so far. The majority were in the western half of the state, where lake water levels were very low going into winter.

“The winter of 2008-09 was on par with the epic winter of 1996-97, when 46 lakes experienced winterkill,” Gangl said. “Similar to that winter, all is not lost.”

Fisheries personnel have already started restocking efforts on some lakes that experienced winterkill. “We are stocking with hatchery raised fish, or fish transported from another lake with an abundance of the preferred species,” Gangl said. “These fish may take a while to grow to catchable size, but in two to three years there should be populations of fish for anglers to catch.”

The severity of a die-off may vary by lake, but usually there are some fish left in the lake. “Most of the lakes that experienced winterkill are prone to die-offs,” Gangl said. “So while there was some disappointment in losing good fisheries, there weren’t many surprises.”

Fisheries biologists are in the process of sampling suspected winterkill lakes to document the severity of the die-offs. Biologists use three levels to describe the severity of a fish kill: total, where all fish died; significant, where the game fish population is greatly reduced; or partial, where dead fish were observed but game fish are still present.

Confirmed lakes with winterkill are listed by fisheries management districts. Anglers can contact the local Game and Fish Department fisheries supervisor to get more information on the status of these lakes, or to report fish kills that may not be on the list.


North Central – Jason Lee, Riverdale, 654-7475

· North Carlson Lake, Ward County – significant

· Coal Mine Lake, Sheridan County – significant

· Cottonwood Lake, McHenry County – significant

· Crooked Lake, McLean County – significant

· South Carlson Lake, Ward County – partial


Northeast – Randy Hiltner, Devils Lake, 662-3617

· Harvey Dam, Wells County – significant

· Island Lake, Rolette County – significant

· School Section Lake, Rolette County – significant

· Sykeston Dam, Wells County – significant


Northwest – Fred Ryckman, Williston, 774-4320

· McLeod (Ray) Reservoir, Williams County – significant;

· Nelson-Landers Pond, Ward County – total;

· Skjermo Lake, Divide County – significant

· Stanley Reservoir, Mountrail County – total

· Tioga Dam, Williams County – total


South Central – Paul Bailey, Bismarck, 328-6688

· Beaver Lake, Logan County – significant

· Braddock Dam, Emmons County – significant

· Cherry Lake, Kidder County – significant

· Dollinger-Schnabel Lake, McIntosh County – significant

· Fresh Lake, Kidder County – significant

· Lake No. 5, Kidder County – significant


Southeast – Gene Van Eeckhout, Jamestown, 253-6480

· Crystal Springs, Stutsman County – partial

· Bisek Slough, Richland County – significant

· Boom (Marion) Lake, LaMoure County – significant


Southwest – Jeff Hendrickson, Dickinson, 227-7431

· BarZ Dam, Dunn County – total

· Cedar Lake, Slope County – significant

· Danzig Dam, Morton County – significant

· Dickinson Reservoir (Patterson Lake), Stark County – significant

· Gascoyne Lake, Bowman County – significant

· Holocek Dam, Bowman County – total

· Mirror Lake, Adams County – significant

· Odland Dam, Golden Valley County – partial


In addition, East Spring Lake Pond in Williams County, Watford City Park Pond in McKenzie County, Beach City Pond in Golden Valley County, Belfield Pond and Dickinson Dike in Stark County, and Gaebe Pond in Morton County suffered fish kills this winter. However, those ponds are stocked with catchable size fish, typically consisting of trout, sunfish or catfish. Anglers visiting these ponds may notice some dead fish, but there are recently stocked fish to catch.