Area lakes getting filled with fingerlingsNorth Dakota game and fish officials are gearing up to drive about 40,000 to 50,000 miles to stock millions of fish in water bodies, with the first transplant slated for the last week in April.
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
North Dakota game and fish officials are gearing up to drive about 40,000 to 50,000 miles to stock millions of fish in water bodies, with the first transplant slated for the last week in April.
With two fish hatcheries in North Dakota, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, near Riverdale, and a smaller one near Valley City, North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials team up with USFWS to hatch and transplant fish.
The fish-stocking process will be completed the first or second week of July.
“Usually 175 to 200 lakes we stock, some of them we go back more than once,” said Jerry Weigel, NDGF fisheries production and development section leader. “We typically stock on average, say 12 million fingerlings and weight wise say 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of fish in that time period is what we’ll move.”
In a few weeks, officials will begin gathering eggs from northern pike, walleye and other similar fish.
“Those eggs will go to the hatcheries and they’ll hatch them out and they’ll put them in some grow-out ponds for about a month and then we distribute them to lakes across the state,” Weigel said.
When transplanted to the water bodies, the month-old fingerlings are about an inch and a half to two inches long.
“The older fish that we stock would be the trout,” Weigel said.
Trout are typically kept for a year or slightly more, that way when they are stocked, the fish is about 10 to 12 inches long, Weigel said.
Northern pike and walleye are the primary fish stocked, Weigel said.
“The majority of the numbers of fish that we stock are going to be a month or less old,” Weigel said.
To gather eggs, officials trap fish, collecting males and females, collect eggs, fertilize them on site and take them to the hatchery.
“We try to minimize the handling of the fish as much as possible,” Weigel said, adding they are then immediately released.
All eggs are gathered from wild fish in areas with strong populations.
Jeff Hendrickson, NDGF southwest district fishery supervisor said the Dickinson NDGF office stocks about 30 to 40 area water bodies.
A recent eradication of all “junk fish,” including bullheads, in Patterson Lake may have an effect on what types of fish are transplanted into the lake this year.
If there are still bullheads left in the lake, all that will be put in is catfish, walleye and northern pike.
“The reason we’re putting catfish in is they like to eat bullheads,” Hendrickson said.
Perch and crappie may also be added.
Adult perch and catfish will be brought in from other lakes at the end of April, he said.
NDGF has been working with the Garrison Dam hatchery since the early 60s when Garrison Dam opened.
“It’s always been a cooperative effort to where we collect the eggs together, the hatchery folks then raise the fish and then traditionally the Game and Fish comes back and distributes the fish,” Weigel said.
The joint system is a unique one for the country, Weigel said.
However, work at the Garrison Dam hatchery doesn’t stop in the winter.
“The trout will be in the hatchery still growing so they actually have fish that they’re still feeding and cleaning tanks and things,” Weigel said.
While the process is funded through a joint effort between NDGF and USFWS, the majority of the funds come from NDGF, either through license sales or federal aid comprised of an excise tax on fishing equipment.
“It’s totally all user-based type of revenue,” Weigel said. “We spend right around a half a million dollars a year.”