Spring fish work winds down across region

Fisheries managers across the region say it's been a good spring for fish work and projects that range from collecting pike and walleye eggs in North Dakota to sampling northern pike populations on Lake of the Woods.

Zach Pawlowski, a fisheries technician for the Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, Minn., holds a large northern pike April 20 sampled during a fish assessment on the Warroad River in Warroad, Minn. Crews sampled 641 northern pike during the two-day assessment. (Minnesota DNR photo)

Fisheries managers across the region say it's been a good spring for fish work and projects that range from collecting pike and walleye eggs in North Dakota to sampling northern pike populations on Lake of the Woods.

Greg Power, fisheries chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, said crews gathered their quota of northern pike eggs from the Devils Lake Basin in a couple of days in early April.

The quota was 96 quarts, and fisheries crews collected 132 quarts, Power said-mainly from the area near Silver Lake off old U.S. Highway 281.

"That turned out to be really good," Power said. "We tried a few other lakes and got a few, but that was the place this year, and it went real quick."

Crews from the district Game and Fish office in Jamestown, N.D., also collected a few pike eggs, which already have hatched and been stocked as fry in rearing ponds, Power said.


"I think we'll be stocking fingerlings in a couple of weeks," he said.

Walleye wrapup

Game and Fish crews were on schedule to wrap up collecting walleye eggs by midweek, Power said. Walleyes spawn after northern pike, and the demand for eggs is greater. This year, Power said, Game and Fish exceeded the quota of about 500 quarts, the bulk of which came from the Parshall area on Lake Sakakawea.

"Parshall has been the go-to place," Power said. "We expected it to be good, and it was."

Power said the peak walleye spawn on Sakakawea typically falls between May 5 and May 10; this year, it was closer to May 1.

"We could probably take eggs for another week if we needed to," he said.

Power said the condition of this year's walleye eggs has been especially encouraging. "Eye-up," the stage at which the eyes of unhatched fish are visible inside the egg, looks to be good.

"When you get to (eye-up), basically you're talking whether the egg got fertilized," Power said. "At that point, there's pretty good hatching success."


Power said crews also have been busy stocking trout, catfish and pike in lakes and ponds across the state. Game and Fish this spring stocked more than 40 local fisheries across the state; by species, the breakdown was 23,000 11-inch rainbow trout, 800 adult catfish, 750 5-pound pike and 600 cutthroat trout weighing 1 to 5 pounds.

The focus of the stocking was on waters that are easily accessible to kids, older people and disabled anglers. Ryan Pond in Grand Forks and the Turtle River at Turtle River State Park near Arvilla, N.D., both received rainbow trout.


In northwest Minnesota, crews from the Department of Natural Resources' area fisheries office in Baudette, Minn., wrapped up their annual spring electrofishing assessment of adult walleyes on the Rainy River, along with a pike population survey conducted every five years on Lake of the Woods.

Phil Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Baudette, said walleyes up to about 32 inches were sampled in the Rainy River. The bulk of the electrofishing survey was done April 18-22, he said.

During electrofishing assessments, crews lower a metal ball that conducts an electrical charge into the water. The charge temporarily stuns the fish, which float to the surface for crews to net. The walleyes recover in a holding tank and are measured and aged before being released.

The DNR electrofishes the Rainy in the Long Sault Rapids near Birchdale, Minn., which is a key spawning area for walleyes. Talmage said the goal is to sample a "few hundred" spawning females to track long-term trends in adult walleye abundance.

"We know there are other spawning areas out in the lake and in other tributaries, but we have a better history" with the Long Sault Rapids, Talmage said. "It didn't take us many days to sample the desired number of fish we were going to get.


"There are lots of big females out there, and that's important information as we move forward."

Pike survey

Also this spring, Baudette fisheries workers set trap nets in a handful of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River tributary streams to sample adult northern pike heading upstream to spawn. Conducted every five years, the survey aims to monitor numbers of large, mature pike in the population.

Lake of the Woods is one of Minnesota's premier trophy pike fisheries, and all fish from 30 inches to 40 inches must be released on the lake and Rainy River; anglers are allowed to keep one pike longer than 40 inches in their three-fish limit for the lake and river.

Talmage said the survey also aims to gauge the effectiveness of the trophy pike regulation.

"We want to make sure we're accomplishing our goals and maintaining those high levels of big fish," he said.

In the Warroad River alone, crews sampled nearly 650 pike in two days during the April survey.

"We had some real high catch rates and some very nice fish," Talmage said. "All indications right now are that our regulation-and angler compliance with the regulation-is keeping the population looking good."


Also in the works is an annual spring assessment of sturgeon in the Rainy River and larger tributaries and a summer creel survey to measure angler harvest and other fishing trends on Lake of the Woods.

Crews from the Department of Natural Resources' area fisheries office in Baudette, Minn., measure a northern pike sampled April 19 during a pike assessment on the Warroad River in Warroad, Minn. The DNR samples northern pike populations on Lake of the Woods and tributary streams every 10 years in an effort to monitor a population considered one of the best trophy pike fisheries in Minnesota. (Minnesota photo)

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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