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Supervisor talks Lake Sakakawea

Dave Fryda on fishery, reservoir

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Dave Fryda, Missouri River System supervisor, NDGF.

RIVERDALE — Walleye spawning operations were recently completed on Lake Sakakawea with eggs transported to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery for incubation and hatching. Dave Fryda, Riverdale, North Dakota Game and Fish Department Missouri River System supervisor, visited with The Minot Daily News about the walleye spawn and the overall status of Lake Sakakawea.

MDN: What was the take-away from your spring spawning efforts on Lake Sakakawea?

FRYDA: Things look good. We took way over the amount of eggs that we needed and let a lot of extra fish go. There was a lot of nice fish at Douglas Bay and White Earth. We were well over quota.

MDN: How many eggs are we talking about?

FRYDA: We wanted 460 to 480 quarts and were probably 200 over that. Our production goal is around 10-million walleyes but we can’t expect record production from the hatchery every year. They’ve had phenomenal production years but, realistically, you can’t expect the hatchery to put out those numbers every year.

MDN: Were the fish in the nets healthy? See any problems?

FRYDA: No problems. Not really. I do think the east end fish are a little thinner. The Douglas stuff looked really good. We had a 16.4 pounder at White Earth, the largest we’ve ever handled. She was a solid 33-inch walleye. You just don’t see that.

MDN: You’ve also been tagging walleyes again this year. Why?

FRYDA: It’s the third year of a four-year project, studying the mortality exploitation and movement of walleyes.

MDN: It’s a dry year with the effect even being evident on expected water levels for Lake Sakakawea. What effect will that have, if any, on the fishery?

FRYDA: As far as smelt go, it’s not going to be a good production year. There was a decent smelt run in places, which makes sense since the 2019 year class is predominantly out there and it’s their first-year spawning, but the water has been dropping consistently. We’re dropping now until we get mountain runoff. The critical thing is we need the water to rise in early May when the smelt eggs are on the rocks.

MDN: What will lower water mean for fishermen?

FRYDA: If we stay dry I would anticipate it will be a good bite. We’re not at record high walleye abundance but still above long-term averages. The bigger concern is where we will be sitting next spring. Like everything, we live in such a dynamic climate you don’t know what’s going to happen from month to month, year to year.

MDN: Salmon are recently being caught with reports coming from the east end of Sakakawea. Unusual for this time of year?

FRYDA: It is different. Historically, there used to be more of an ice out bite but there also was more guys targeting them. This year they’ve got into them too. It’s probably an indicator of a decent salmon run developing for the fall.

MDN: How about northern pike?

FRYDA: We tagged again this spring, a five-year tagging program we started in 2017. There’s still a pretty good slug of little guys coming up. It looks like a good year class from a couple of years ago. We saw some big pike, tagged some big pike, but those big pike from the 2009-11 period are peaking and fading out.

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