North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel encourage anglers to keep fish caught from depths of more than 25 feet, rather than practice catch-and-release.
Scott Gangl, Game and Fish fisheries management section leader, said with the exceptional fish bite at Lake Sakakawea this summer, anglers should know fish reeled in from this depth will likely die if released.
“As water warms during summer, fish tend to move to deeper, cooler water,” Gangl said. “This is particularly true for walleye in the big lake, where they follow their primary forage of rainbow smelt to deeper depths as summer progresses. Now fish are being caught at depths where barotrauma is a concern.”
Change in water pressure will cause the swim bladder to expand, Gangl said, which means fish can no longer control balance. In addition, he said other internal injuries are likely, such as ruptured blood vessels or damaged internal organs. Because of these other internal injuries, biologists discourage fizzing, the practice of deflating the swim bladder.
Barotrauma can happen in any deep water body such as Devils Lake, Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea, Gangl said, but it is especially noteworthy for this time of year in the big lake.
Prior to fishing at least 25 feet deep, anglers should make the decision to keep what they catch.