It's getting crowded! These gulls have found the manmade breakwater at the entrance to the marina at Lake Sakakawea State Park very much to their liking. Most are ring-billed gulls and Franklin's gulls. The photo was taken Aug. 10.
Small game, furbearer regs set
North Dakota's 2011 small game and furbearer regulations have been set and most season structures and bag limits are similar to last year. The only significant changes involve the early Canada goose and mountain lion seasons, and an introduction of an experimental fisher trapping season.
The early Canada goose season opened Saturday with a daily limit of eight and a possession limit of 16.
The mountain lion season in Zone 1 will have a season quota of 14 lions, split into an early and late season. The early season opens Sept. 2 and continues through Nov. 20, or until the early season quota of 10 is filled. The late season opens Nov. 21, and will run through March 31 or until four lions are taken. As in past years, the mountain lion season in Zone 2 (Sept. 2 through March 31) does not have a quota.
An expansion of fishers in eastern North Dakota has allowed the Game and Fish Department to implement the state's first experimental trapping season. The season quota is 10 fishers taken by traps and cable devices. A limit of one fisher per person is allowed during this season.
Prairie chicken and sage grouse seasons will remain closed due to low populations. Other small game and waterfowl licensing details are similar to last year.
Only North Dakota residents are permitted to hunt waterfowl from Sept. 24-30 Nonresidents are allowed to hunt waterfowl in North Dakota beginning Oct. 1. Other waterfowl season details will be finalized later in the waterfowl amendment to the small game and furbearer proclamation.
In accordance with state law, nonresidents are not allowed to hunt on Game and Fish Department wildlife management areas or conservation PLOTS (Private Land Open To Sportsmen) areas from Oct. 8-14.
Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2011-12 Small Game and Furbearer guides for more details on small game and furbearer seasons. Waterfowl regulations will be available in early September.
Bird hunters need HIP certification
With early Canada goose season open, migratory game bird hunters are reminded to register with the Harvest Information Program prior to hunting in North Dakota. HIP certification is required for all migratory bird hunters, regardless of age, before hunting ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, doves or woodcock.
Those who registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required only once per year. However, hunters must HIP register in each state for which they are licensed before hunting migratory game birds.
Missouri River fish populations healthy
The N.D. Game and Fish Department recently completed its annual fish population sampling on the Missouri River System and found positive results in both Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. The Missouri River from the Garrison Dam to Bismarck was not sampled due to high water.
Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader, said when Lake Sakakawea began to refill in 2009, all fish populations started to rebound, beginning with the smelt forage base. "The drought of the early 2000s hurt fish populations because low water reduced spawning habitat and the available forage base," Gangl said. "Now after a couple years of higher water we are seeing a turnaround."
Recent netting operations in Lake Sakakawea found abundant walleyes, with many in the 18- to 22-inch range. Biologists also noted substantial numbers of yearling walleye in the nets, an indication of good reproductive and stocking success in 2010.
Northern pike, yellow perch and sauger were also plentiful in the survey nets. Sauger numbers have been good in recent years, and the size structure is favorable for anglers. Meanwhile, northern pike and yellow perch reproduction has flourished since the return of water to the reservoirs. Although their size is still on the smaller side due to their younger age, Gangl said they are growing well.
Smallmouth bass are rebounding with the water levels as well, Gangl said, with good numbers of moderately-sized fish in the nets.
"All fish are in excellent condition and plump, a huge turnaround from a few years ago when drought conditions resulted in extremely skinny fish," he said.
On Lake Oahe, the walleye population is still strong, with numbers similar to the past three years. Although larger walleye remain in Oahe, many fish in the nets were less than 14 inches in length. Gangl said the high numbers of small walleye is the result of strong reproduction since the lake refilled in 2009.
"Northern pike numbers on Lake Oahe are also through the roof, higher than we've ever documented," Gangl added.
Catfish were the most predominant fish in the Oahe nets.
Keep an eye on water conditions
The N.D. Game and Fish Department advises hunters to be cautious with their dogs around water this time of year, due to potential health hazards associated with blue-green algae.
Dan Grove, wildlife veterinarian for the Game and Fish Department, said late summer and early fall offer prime conditions for blue-green algae growth in many state waters. Ingestion by a hunting dog while perhaps retrieving a bird during the early goose season, or just practicing retrieving, can lead to severe illness and potential death.
"Conditions are right this year for stagnant water to become contaminated, especially with all of the overland flooding that has occurred," Grove said.
Potentially toxic algae blooms occur under conditions of hot, dry weather. Shallow, stagnant water with moderate to high nutrient content provides an optimum environment for algal growth. Water or wind movements often concentrate the algae, and eventually the bloom appears as a blue-green "scum" floating on the water's surface. The threat disappears once the weather turns colder.
"Hunting dogs shouldn't drink or swim in discolored water or where algal blooms are apparent," Grove said. "If dogs retrieve in these conditions, they should be rinsed off immediately and shouldn't be allowed to lick their coat."
Early Canada goose hunters sought
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is starting a pilot program for matching early Canada goose hunters and landowners in much the same way antlerless deer hunters are paired with landowners.
Waterfowl biologist Mike Szymanski said the Game and Fish Department is currently working with approximately 40 landowners across the state who would like to host Canada goose hunters during the early season. Enrolled producers are also a part of the department's depredation permit program during spring and summer.
Interested hunters can get their name on the list of possible participants by accessing the Game and Fish Department's Web site at (gf.nd.gov). Hunters who do not have Internet access can call the department's main office in Bismarck at 328-6300.
North Dakota's 2011 early Canada goose season opened Aug. 13. The season closes in the Missouri River zone Sept. 7, while the rest of the state has an ending date of Sept. 15.