North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists have evaluated fish spawning and stocking success across the state.
Fisheries management section leader Scott Gangl said Lake Sakakawea produced good catches of walleye and yearling perch. “We had a good hatch on perch in 2014, and our guys were still seeing a lot of those in the nets this year,” Gangl said. “Our walleye catch was above average with a combination of stocking and natural reproduction. Smelt numbers aren’t compiled yet, but other forage fish remain fairly stable when compared to prior years.”
The Missouri River is beginning to show slow signs of recovery, Gangl said, as more adult game fish are showing up between Garrison Dam and Bismarck. “But reproduction is still poor, and we didn’t see much for young-of-the-year fish this fall,” he added. “The habitat is starting to rebuild, but it still lacks the productive capacity necessary for fish to reproduce and survive.”
Lake Oahe smelt numbers, according to Gangl, remain very low. “White bass, walleye and crappie numbers were fair for young-of the year fish, but down from a good year in 2014,” he said.
The Devils Lake basin reported lower numbers of young-of-the-year walleye, but white bass were plentiful. “Last winter was relatively dry, and generally our best reproductive years coincide with good water levels and in-flows,” Gangl said.
Statewide, smaller lakes showed various levels of success. “On many of the newer lakes where fish are introduced for the first time, our catches were generally good,” Gangl said. “However, in other lakes where we have strong populations of fish, our catches tended to be lower than average, which is not unusual when there already is an established population.”