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Coming back to life

The fish habitat in Patterson Lake west of Dickinson is starting to show signs of life after a successful spring stocking. After a harsh winter in 2008-09 killed most of walleye and northern pike, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department killed ...

North Dakota Game and Fish fishery technician Shane Shefstad
Courtesy Photo by North Dakota Game and Fish North Dakota Game and Fish fishery technician Shane Shefstad gathers dead bullfish and carp in November at Patterson Lake as part of the department's fish kill effort. Game and fish restocked the lake with sport fish this spring.

The fish habitat in Patterson Lake west of Dickinson is starting to show signs of life after a successful spring stocking.

After a harsh winter in 2008-09 killed most of walleye and northern pike, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department killed off most of what was left in November.

"Virtually all of the game fish were killed," said Game and Fish southwest district fishery supervisor Jeff Hendrickson.

Game and Fish's fish-kill project killed what was left of bullhead and carp -- nuisance fish that aren't an attractive catch for fishermen.

"That was a big project," Hendrickson said.

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Hendrickson said Patterson Lake was one of the largest bodies of water where Game and Fish has pulled off a fish kill.

It wasn't just the lake, but the watershed that included rivers and streams that drain into Patterson Lake.

No carp and only a handful of bullhead were caught during the Game and Fish's summer netting survey.

Hendrickson said 25,000 pounds of carp were picked up after the kill in November, with the 2008-09 winter killing 100,000 pounds.

"There were still quite a few left and obviously the winter kill didn't get them all," Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said he's pretty sure the carp are gone now.

The reason behind the fish kill were bullheads and carp prevent the reestablishment of game fish.

"They occupy the habitat of the sports fish, the fish that people like to catch," Hendrickson said. "If you have a lot of them in there, there aren't any nutrients for the sport fish."

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Almost all of the fish caught during the summer netting effort were adult catfish, northern pike and yellow perch, and fingerling northern pike and walleye that were stocked in the spring, Hendrickson said.

Catfish came from the Missouri River and ranged from 1 to 8 pounds, Hendrickson said. The northern pike came from a reservoir near Rolla.

"It was from a lake they weren't supposed to be," Hendrickson said. "They reproduced and there were way too many."

He said most of the fish were small, around a ½ pound in size, but there were several near 10 pounds.

"There were some big ones," Hendrickson said of the 650 pike stocked.

With so few pike stocked, it will take some time for fishermen to catch them.

"People probably won't catch a lot of those," Hendrickson said. "We mainly put them in there to eat on the bullheads."

The adult perch were small as well, with 21,000 stocked.

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He said the fingerling pike and walleye were only about two-inches long.

"In a couple of years, pike will be in the one- or two-pound range," Hendrickson said.

It will take some a few years for the fish to grow, but the lake will still be stocked in spring, Hendrickson said.

The lake, though, will be mostly managed for walleye, he said.

After this spring's stocking, walleye fared the best.

"We had the best survival we've ever seen," Hendrickson said.

Related Topics: FISHING
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