Game and Fish encourages anglers in North Dakota to keep fish caught in deep water

Walleyes in Lake Sakakawea go deeper this time of year, and fish reeled in from deep water will likely die if released.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is encouraging anglers to keep walleyes and other fish caught from water 25 feet or deeper in Lake Sakakawea and other waters across the state.
Contributed/North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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BISMARCK – Anglers fishing North Dakota waters should keep fish caught from depths of more than 25 feet, rather than practice catch-and-release, fisheries personnel from the Game and Fish Department said.

Walleye fishing this summer on Lake Sakakawea has been exceptional, enticing many anglers to the big lake, said Dave Fryda, Missouri River System supervisor. Walleyes in Sakakawea tend to go deeper this time of year, and it’s important for anglers to know that fish reeled in from deep water will likely die if released, Fryda said.


“When the bite first started, anglers were catching fish in shallow water,” Fryda said. “As the summer progressed, fish moved into deeper water and are now being caught at depths where barotrauma is a concern.”

Barotrauma results from a change in water pressure, which in turn causes a fish’s swim bladder to expand. When that happens, fish can no longer control balance. In addition, other internal injuries are likely, such as ruptured blood vessels or damaged internal organs. Because of these other internal injuries, Game and Fish biologists also discourage fizzing, the practice of deflating the swim bladder.

Barotrauma injury can happen in any deep water body, but it is especially noteworthy this time of year in Lake Sakakawea.


Before fishing at least 25 feet deep on Sakakawea or other North Dakota waters, anglers should make the decision to keep what they catch and honor that commitment, Game and Fish said in a news release.

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