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Anglers who catch a tagged fish can also contribute to better understanding of the ever-changing dynamic of North Dakota fisheries.

Hunters take a special interest when they bag a banded duck or goose, and for good reason. By reporting the basic information of a banded bird, hunters are contributing to expanding the knowledge base and assisting in research.

In similar fashion, anglers who catch a tagged fish can also contribute to better understanding of the ever-changing dynamic of North Dakota fisheries.

This year, North Dakota Game and Fish Department personnel tagged approximately 5,000 walleyes in two popular bodies of water to learn more about their respective fish populations and how anglers use them.

In Lake Sakakawea in northwestern North Dakota, biologists trapped and tagged 3,000 walleyes — 1,000 each in the upper, middle and lower regions of the lake. Lake Sakakawea managers plan to continue tagging 3,000 walleye each year through 2022, as part of a four-year study.

In addition to Sakakawea, fisheries personnel tagged about 2,000 walleyes at Alkaline Lake in Kidder County. This one-year study will enhance the understanding of the proportion of fish that anglers harvest each year from Alkaline Lake.

In the June 2019 issue of North Dakota Outdoors, the Game and Fish Department’s magazine, Editor Ron Wilson interviewed Paul Bailey, south central district fisheries supervisor, and Dave Fryda, Missouri River System fisheries supervisor, to learn more about these two tagging studies.  

“Alkaline has become a very popular walleye fishery and receives a lot of attention from anglers,” Bailey said. “Given the attention and its use as a walleye fishery, we want to make sure we’ve got the most effective regulations in place for maintaining good fishing at Alkaline Lake for years to come.”

Regarding Sakakawea, Fryda said, “Tagging studies allow us to look at a few things, such as natural mortality, angling mortality and movements. Where are the fish at certain times of the year, where do they move and their tendencies to home back to the same spawning grounds year after year ... the reason we initiated the tagging study on Sakakawea now is because the walleye population is exceptional. It gives us a snapshot of the fishery with a high abundance of fish, with an excellent size structure.”

Both Bailey and Fryda said it’s imperative Alkaline and Sakakawea walleye anglers report tagged fish, no matter if they end up in live wells or back in the lake.

“When it comes to reporting these tags, we’d like anglers to treat the tagged walleye just as they would treat any other fish they might have caught,” Bailey said. “So, if it’s a fish an angler was planning on harvesting, go ahead and harvest that fish. If it’s a fish an angler was planning on releasing, go ahead and release that fish. Just record the tag number and leave the tag on the fish.”

Anglers who report tag numbers will receive information on the fish they caught.

To report tagged fish from Sakakawea and Alkaline, anglers can click on the tag reporting feature on the Department’s website, www.gf.nd.gov, or call the Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck at 701-328-6300.

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Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

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