Bullheads abundant at Patterson Lake: Recreational area still recovering from winterkill
For a local lake still rebounding from a winterkill that happened six years ago, it's all about the bullheads. Catchable game fish are back at Dickinson's Patterson Lake, but sought-after walleye and northern pike are currently feasting on a larg...
For a local lake still rebounding from a winterkill that happened six years ago, it’s all about the bullheads.
Catchable game fish are back at Dickinson’s Patterson Lake, but sought-after walleye and northern pike are currently feasting on a large number of “rough fish” inhabiting the fishery.
“People aren’t catching them (walleye and northern pike) very much, because they still have a lot of bullheads to eat,” said Jeff Hendrickson, supervisor of North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Southwest fisheries district.
Lures and worms just don’t carry the appeal of the abundant miniature catfish, Hendrickson said.
“The predators are catching up to them,” he said. “As soon as they knock down those bullheads to a point where they’re hungry, then fish are going to start biting better.”
In the winter of 2008-09, Patterson Lake experienced a massive winterkill which wiped out virtually all the game fish.
The following fall, the Game and Fish Department chemically destroyed most of the lake’s leftover fish, predominantly hardier carp and bullheads, as well as those along the nearby Heart River and its feeder creeks.
The Game and Fish Department worked with dozens of area landowners to ensure fish were nearly eradicated in the area watershed, and a massive restocking, starting in 2010, could begin from the lakebed up.
The winterkill occurred because of excessive snowpack on lake ice, as well as a low water levels.
“The perfect storm happened when we had the winterkill,” Hendrickson said.
The snowpack blocked sunlight from penetrating the ice, which then prevented aquatic plants from making fish-breathable oxygen. Low water levels meant less space for plants to do their work. And Patterson’s game fish were the victims.
Now, however, the game fish have been restocked, vegetation-destroying carp numbers are down, and local anglers should soon have a nearby spot to get their hooks hit.
“Our catch rate is climbing every year,” Hendrickson said.