ANAMOOSE The number of fishing lakes in North Dakota has been on the increase for several years. The increase is the result of continued high water that has slowly been changing much of the state's landscape. Several of the new lakes have attracted the attention of the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
An example is a lake in Pierce County that was actually two relatively shallow sloughs about five years ago. As the sloughs gradually filled and overflowed they became one very healthy new body of water. Game & Fish stocked walleyes in the lake for the first time in 2010. The stocking has taken much better than expected.
"We test netted last fall and found we had just an exceptional catch rate on young walleye, probably one of the highest I'd ever seen on lakes that I've netted," said Jason Lee, Game & Fish fish biologist, Riverdale. "On this particular lake these 14-inch walleyes aren't even two years old yet, so that's exceptional growth. It's a unique situation in that we've got a lake with too many little walleyes in it right now."
The solution? Move a few of the excess fish to a lake in need of walleyes. That's exactly what occurred this past week when a number of young walleyes were trapped and transported to Lake Metigoshe.
"This is strictly an experimental thing, taking these fish out of a lake in the middle of nowhere in Pierce County," emphasized Lee. "People shouldn't expect we are going to raise 12 to 14-inch walleyes in one lake and then stock them in another. We just saw this as a unique opportunity to try something new. "
In past years young-of-the-year walleyes have not done very well in Lake Metigoshe. Lee believes the reason is that the stocked walleyes were so small that they provided an easy food source for cormorants and bullheads. He hopes the larger walleyes will fare much better.
"A lot of these walleyes are 8 to 9 inches, some 13 and 14-inchers too. The chances of a bullhead eating them is much less," explained Lee. "Hopefully we can track these fish over the next couple of years. We should be able to see that and, hopefully, provide some good walleye fishing up there down the road."
Perch are usually thought of as the fish of choice for stocking into new lakes, but stocking perch doesn't always work. Sometimes walleyes are a better choice.
"It has been interesting," said Lee. "We've stocked a few lakes in the past couple of years that have been from 500 to 1,000 acres that we wouldn't normally manage as walleye lakes, but what we are finding in this situation, with new water and when lakes are full, is that the walleyes are actually doing pretty well."
If all goes as planned, the young walleyes moved to Lake Metigoshe will do pretty well too.