By KIM FUNDINGSLAND
PICK CITY - The success enjoyed by fishermen on the Missouri River below Garrison Dam, including a stretch of water known as the Tailrace, was perhaps a little too successful the past few years. More fish being caught meant more fish to be cleaned. In fact, fishermen were cleaning so many fish that the Tailrace fish cleaning station became overwhelmed in 2012.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the cleaning station, which is located a short distance above the Tailrace boat ramp. After posting a few warning signs about unwanted items such as metal fish stringers, filet knives and such becoming lodged in the grinder in the middle of the cleaning station table, the Corps closed the station.
State regulations do not permit fish remaining in water in a live well, meaning most fishermen had to find an alternative location to clean their fish or risk having them spoil during the journey home. Many chose to use the fish cleaning station at nearby Lake Sakakawea State Park, where the number of fish cleaned is said to have tripled from the previous fishing season.
Today, an orange fence surrounds the Tailrace fish cleaning station. The orange fencing is commonly put in place each fall prior to freeze-up when cleaning stations at various locations in the state are normally shut down for the winter. However, the Tailrace cleaning station was shut down late last summer, well before there were any issues with freezing and during a time when fishing at the Tailrace was unusually productive.
"We did close it," said Todd Lindquist, Corps project manager at Riverdale. "We ran into issues late last fall with the drain field being saturated. We'll take a look at that drain field this spring and may need to put in a new drain field once the ground thaws. Our intent is to open it."
As far as Tailrace fishermen are concerned, that is excellent news, and the sooner the work is finished, the better. Today, a sign on the cleaning station warns of fines to be levied against people who are responsible for items other than fish entrails being captured by the grinding mechanism. Another sign reads, "This area closed to public use, pursuant to Part 327.12, Chapter III, Title 36, U.S. Code Federal Regulations."
The wording seems a little too much to fishermen who wish only to clean a few filets and continue on their way home. If all goes as intended this spring, the closure sign will come down and the fish cleaning station will once again be well used by fortunate anglers who frequent the Tailrace.