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.

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

B.J. Krattz releases walleye at Ash Tabula
photo by Craig Bihrle,ND Game and Fish

“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.”