Tag Archives: fish

stocking requests increase

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North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel are gearing up to stock a record number of walleye lakes this year.
Fisheries production and development supervisor Jerry Weigel said 20 years ago approximately 50-70 waters were stocked annually with walleye fingerlings, with the number of waters growing to 100 in the early 2000s. This year, 156 waters are scheduled to receive a share of 9 million fingerlings. “The growth in walleye waters is directly correlated to the number of public fishing waters we manage,” Weigel said.
In 1988, Game and Fish managed 160 public fishing waters totaling 99,098 acres, not including the Missouri River System. Today, Weigel said the department manages 415 waters and 345,988 acres, excluding the Missouri River System.
“This has put a lot of pressure on the two federal hatcheries in the state, Garrison Dam and Valley City,” Weigel added. “We need every available pond to meet a 9 million walleye fingerling request. In the last four years we have stocked more than 38 million walleyes in the state, in addition to salmon, trout, pike, bass and panfish.”
Weigel said the flood of 2011 caused the 40 east unit hatchery ponds at Garrison to lose their water supply. In order to fill the 40 1.5-acre ponds, he said Game and Fish had to rent pumps in 2012 and 2013. The department recently completed a permanent fix at a cost of $500,000, thus eliminating the need to rent pumps in the future.
To help offset the reduced role the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has with recreational fish production in recent years, Game and Fish provides seasonal staffing at both hatcheries and pays for half the operational costs at Garrison Dam. According to Weigel, this is in addition to both collecting all the eggs each spring and transporting all fish from both hatcheries.
“There is no question the hatcheries play a vital role in the growth of the state’s fisheries and will continue to be needed to sustain this growth,” Weigel added. “The federal hatchery staff strives to operate at 100 percent efficiency, and thankfully that has been the case. Even at that, there is growing demand, thus Game and Fish has increased its assistance when possible.”

winterkill update

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North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists said despite colder-than-average winter temperatures, not many lakes experienced a fish kill.


Fisheries management section leader Scott Gangl said biologists investigated winterkills at 11 lakes so far this spring, with only a few considered significant enough to affect the quality of fishing this spring.


Lakes that appear to have suffered a significant kill include Leland Dam (McKenzie County), Island Lake (Rolette County) and the State Fair Pond (Ward County).


Fisheries personnel already restocked these lakes with hatchery raised fish, or fish transported from another lake. Gangl said while the State Fair Pond will have catchable fish this summer, fish stocked in Leland Dam and Island Lake will take 2-3 years to be of a catchable size.


Some of the lakes that experienced a minor kill were too insignificant to affect fishing.


Anglers can contact the local Game and Fish Department fisheries district offices to get more information on the status of these lakes, or to report fish kills that may not be on the list.



first fish?

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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is reminding parents to capture their little angler’s first catch on a specially designed First Fish certificate.

First Fish has no qualifying weights or measurements. The only requirement is the successful landing of a North Dakota fish. Certificates are available to all who request them, and have ample room for all the important information, such as name, age, lake and a short fish story, plus a blank space for a photograph big enough to contain the smile of the happiest little angler.

Free certificates are available by contacting the Game and Fish Department at (701) 328-6300, or send an email to ndgf@nd.gov.

keep an eye out for winterkill

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North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists are asking anglers for help in documenting lakes that may have experienced winter fish mortality.

Fisheries management section leader Scott Gangl said some winterkill is expected every year, with the severity depending on winter weather conditions.

“We had a colder than average winter, but we had normal to below-normal snow cover,” Gangl said. “Therefore, we don’t anticipate major widespread winterkill, which is good news given the record number of fishing waters in the state. However, some of the smaller lakes where we periodically see winterkill will likely experience some die-offs.”

Gangl said this is the one of the busiest times of the year for fisheries crews, therefore Game and Fish staff might not get to every lake right at ice out. “That’s why it’s important for anglers to report fish die-offs so our crews can follow up on it,” he added.

Biologists will begin sampling suspected winterkill lakes later this spring once fish spawning operations are completed to document the severity of any die-offs.

Anglers can report fish mortality to a local Game and Fish Department district office.

late spring fisheries impact

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Fisheries biologists who questioned how a late spring and delayed ice-off would influence fish reproduction in North Dakota waters finally have a few answers.


“It looks better than we expected,” said Scott Gangl, State Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader. “Our biologists have been seeing some pretty good numbers of young-of-the-year yellow perch in lakes statewide, signaling some good reproduction this year. This was especially true in our larger lakes that traditionally provided a perch fishery.”


Devils Lake and Stump Lake reported excellent numbers of young-of-the-year yellow perch. Reports also indicated good numbers of young walleye in the upper reaches of Lake Sakakawea, and fair to good numbers of perch on the east end of the lake.


Reproduction was poor for most fish in the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which are still recovering from the forage losses during high water in 2011.


“We found some shad and decent numbers of white bass in Oahe,” Gangl said. “This was our second year in a row of stocking shad in Oahe, so it’s nice to see some reproduction of those alternate forages. The sport fishery will have a difficult time recovering without that forage base.”


On another note, Gangl said fisheries biologists are seeing good survival of walleye stocked around the state in North Dakota’s smaller waters.


“There were also fair numbers of young-of-the-year pike,” he said. “While we initially didn’t know what to think of the late spring, it apparently was good for fish.”

it’s an official new state record saugeye

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Lab results confirm Dan Faiman’s state record fish is a saugeye.

The Fairview, Mont. angler caught the 12 pound record fish on Jan. 16from the Yellowstone River. Because the fish had identifying characteristics of both species, genetic material was sent to a lab to determine whether the fish was a walleye, sauger or saugeye, which is a cross between the two.

Faiman’s catch broke the previous record, set in 1984, by 4 ounces.

Shad stocked in Oahe

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Biologists Hope Shad Boost Oahe Forage Base

Game and Fish Department biologists stocked roughly 225 adult gizzard shad in Lake Oahe’s Beaver Bay in May to help jumpstart a limited forage base.

A good share of Oahe’s young-of-the-year rainbow smelt were flushed through the dam during flooding in 2011, drastically thinning what game fish have to eat. In addition, high flows and sediment-laden water reduced production of other forage fish.

“When we did our fall reproduction survey in 2011, we saw very few young-of-the-year fish in all of the forage species,” said Scott Gangl, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader. “We knew going into 2012 that there was going to be a forage problem, at least for the short-term.”

Stocking prespawn adult shad was a collaborative effort with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fisheries biologists who stocked additional sites on Lake Oahe. “The plan is to give Oahe a little shot in the arm to help boost the forage base,” Gangl said.

If the adults spawn successfully, young-of-the-year shad will be on the game-fish menu by late June or early July.

Gangl said biologists on both sides of the border are trying to mimic the shad boom seen in the mid-2000s when smelt numbers were down. “We watched the shad slowly build over time and they eventually provided a good forage base for game fish,” he said. “We don’t have anything to lose by trying this. It’s certainly worth a shot.”

Gangl said Lake Oahe has a lot of hungry game fish, but the forage shortage is more pronounced on the North Dakota end of the reservoir. “The fish aren’t starving to death, but they are hungry,” he said.


tagged salmon

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Salmon Anglers Asked to Look for Tag

Anglers who catch a tagged salmon are asked to turn in the heads and report information to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.


Dave Fryda, Missouri River System supervisor, said while most Lake Sakakawea salmon anglers are aware of the tagging program, anglers fishing the Missouri River – especially the Garrison Dam Tailrace – tend to be less aware of the importance of watching for tagged fish.


“There is no external tag to look for, only the adipose clip,” Fryda said.


The adipose fin is a small fleshy lobe found on the back toward the tail. If the fin is missing, it was likely removed by Game and Fish biologists and the salmon probably has a micro-tag embedded in its head.


Micro-tags are inserted into a sample of young salmon before being stocked into Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River. This microscopic tag is implanted near the snout, and contains a code that identifies stocking information.


Heads can be turned into Game and Fish, or local bait shops. Anglers will be provided information about the fish when tags are extracted and read by biologists.

the next generation of fish in ND

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Anglers a times have an unrealistic expectation of stocking. In some small lakes, yes stocking is THE reason you have fish. But in Sak, Oahe, Devils Lake, stocking is more of the cottage cheese and carrots of the buffet than the roast beef and ham. It’s a supplement, not the main course. Stocking helps, and it looks like our hatchery’s have had a good year. But please realize that stocking=to fishing takes years for fish to grow from fingerlings to the frying pan.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries crews stocked a record number of walleye into state waters, according to Jerry Weigel, fisheries production and development section leader.
The Garrison Dam (10 million) and Valley City (1.5 million) national fish hatcheries produced 11.5 million fingerlings, besting the record of 10.9 million in 1991. “Fish quality and stocking conditions were great, with really nice fish and lots of cool water and flooded vegetation at the stocking sites,” Weigel said. “The federal hatchery system really delivered given the record walleye request this year.”
The record total was driven by a higher than normal request of 10.1 million fingerlings, with 4 million targeted for Lake Sakakawea.
“We had another 440,000 requested if surplus production occurred, and all of those requests were filled with most getting up to an additional 10 percent,” Weigel said. “In addition, we also supplied Wyoming and Iowa with walleyes as part of a trade or to cover their production shortages.”
Altogether, 114 lakes and rivers were stocked in North Dakota, Weigel said, covering every corner of the state. “Coupled with natural reproduction, we have set the stage for a phenomenal walleye year,” Weigel continued. “We will know more this fall when our crews follow up to check on survival rate of the stocked fish and determine the amount of natural reproduction.”


indepth on stocking

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 The fun thing about a question–from another biologist, angler, reporters and even neighbors is often times I don’t have the full answer. I’m not a fisheries biologist, wildlife biologist or game warden (but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express…) in fact I relate quickly when asked, that I’m not a practicing biologist. I’m not out in the field researching or documenting. My job is behind a keyboard, in front of a microphone, TV camera and taking the nuts and bolts of what the true biologists and scientists are working on and tabulating, then hammering it out in usable format.Yes I have a degree and have done my share of field work and was a game warden, so I do have a biological foundation to draw from.

So when asked about stocking fish on Jametown Reservoir my short answer of, "it comes down to habitat and isn’t all that different than cattle" needs to be expanded upon a bit. I enjoy the questions and finding the answers, because I learn as well along the way. Like when a kid asks when some asks what Braunschweiger is. It’s easy to come up with the answer but takes much longer to explain what goes into the final product.

Let me go back to stocking and cattle. It takes habitat, in terms of a cow you need grass and water. In terms of fish, you need forage for the fish, water (obvious?) and escape from predators or lack of predators to grow a fish. And like grass and cows, the better the grass, the faster the cows can grow. Just think yourself through the visual and you’ve a better understanding of stocking fish. In the middle of a drought you don’t put more cows on the pasture. Similar in terms of stocking when the habitat and/or forage is gone–the water levels low–or predators are high. Just adding more fish (stocking) won’t help out in the long run.

One last note, unlike deer, pheasants or ducks where the eggs are laid, young born or hatched and within a few months a viable resource is realized for hunters. Fish growth is measured in years and not in weeks or months.

A quick quote specific to Jamestown Reservoir stocking equation(how do you figure out the number stocked) from Gene Van Eeckhout our from our Jamestown Fisheries Divison



We’ve been stocking approximately 100 walleye/surface-acre lately. We stocked 30 pike/surface-acre last year.Survival and growth are highly variable from year to year. Conventional wisdom suggests that during flood years when abundant habitat is inundated, survival is better. Sometimes it takes a year or so before we can document this recruitment.


And through the years the ND Outdoors magazine has a stringer full of insight into the fisheries management of North Dakota waters. For more indepth, check these links out:

Here’s a good piece on fish reproduction


Looking for an explanation on stocking on Lake Sakakawea check this out


And one from a few years ago discussing the question of to stock or not to stock