NDGF wraps up walleye spawning

The effort stretched out over more than two weeks, but fisheries crews for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department on Thursday, May 14, wrapped up the spring walleye spawning operation on Lake Sakakawea.

According to Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, crews collected about 600 quarts of walleye eggs, which were fertilized with milt from male walleyes and taken to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in Riverdale, N.D.

Crews had to take some extra safety precautions this year to maintain the 6-foot social distancing guidelines recommended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides traveling in separate vehicles, fisheries personnel wore masks and used a modified “spawning bench” that kept them separated by a clear acrylic barrier while collecting and fertilizing the eggs.

Typically, workers face each other while seated on the bench, one person squeezing the eggs and milt into a bowl while the other stirs the mixture to fertilize the eggs.

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Fisheries crews for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department collected all of the walleye eggs for this year's stocking program from Lake Sakakawea, wrapping up the annual spawning operation Thursday, May 14. Note the blue acrylic barrier that was constructed to separate the workers on the "spawning bench" as a safety precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Fisheries crews for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department collected all of the walleye eggs for this year's stocking program from Lake Sakakawea, wrapping up the annual spawning operation Thursday, May 14. Note the blue acrylic barrier that was constructed to separate the workers on the "spawning bench" as a safety precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

The final tally exceeded the department’s goal, Power said, but a weeklong heat wave a couple of weeks ago resulted in warmer water temperatures and poorer quality eggs that aren’t as likely to hatch. To compensate, crews collected additional eggs when cooler air and water temperatures returned.

– Brad Dokken

Land access pilot study takes shape

The North Dakota Legislature’s Interim-Natural Resources Committee this week gave the go-ahead to the format for an electronic land access pilot study that will be tested this fall in Richland, Ramsey and Slope counties.

As part of the study, participating landowners or tenants will access their land descriptions in the digital tax records for each of the counties in the pilot study and electronically “sign” the property as either posted or not posted. The deadline to do that is July 15.

As part of the study, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department will have a link on its website for hunters to view whether a specific tract of land in the study counties is posted or open to access without permission, Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand said.

Landowners who want to post their land will still have to place actual signs on the property – at least for the time being – because there are no current laws on the books to allow electronic posting, Steinwand said.

“It really is a pilot study to see, No. 1, how easy is it for the landowners? And are they going to use it?” he said. “And then secondly, how easy is it for the hunters to use and will they use it?”

Plans are in the works to produce a YouTube tutorial in the near future for landowners, showing them how to access and use the electronic posting system, Steinwand said. A similar video for hunters would go online later this fall.

– Brad Dokken