Doug Leier: Some Game and Fish highlights from 2016 – INFORUM

While not everything turned out exactly as envisioned, it was a good year on many fronts. Here’s a look at some of the Game and Fish highlights in the last 12 months.

Fishing in North Dakota

According to Game and Fish statistics, the state had an all-time high of nearly 223,000 resident and nonresident fishing licenses reached in 2015-16, the fourth year in a row of record license numbers.

North Dakota also reached a new record number of managed fishing waters, which at the end of the year sat at more than 425.

With North Dakota’s recent growth in prairie walleye fisheries, Game and Fish biologists stocked a record 150-plus lakes across the state with nearly 11 million walleye fingerlings in summer. This was made possible by record production of 10.4 million fingerlings at Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, probably the most walleyes ever produced at a single hatchery anywhere in the country.

During fall fish survey work, fisheries biologists found that Lake Sakakawea walleye numbers were relatively good due to natural reproduction and stocking efforts.

In the Devils Lake basin, biologists found relatively good catches of young-of-the-year walleye, and Game and Fish also stocked 1.7 million walleye fingerlings in spring 2016.

All-electronic licensing

A law that required all hunters and anglers to purchase licenses through the Game and Fish Department’s electronic licensing system took effect April 1, which phased out the use of paper licensing booklets at all North Dakota license vendor locations.

Overall, this switch to all-electronic licensing was mostly a smooth transition for the agency and hunters and anglers.

Aquatic nuisance species status

North Dakota did not have any new aquatic nuisance species discoveries in 2016. That includes movement of ANS that are already in the state, or new species that were not previously documented.

Emergency rules for the Red River, where adult zebra mussels were discovered

in 2015, became permanent rules. In addition, a new statewide regulation was established that requires boaters to remove drain plugs and leave them out during transport.

In 2016 Game and Fish for the first time hired seasonal staff through Valley City State University to conduct boat inspections. These students inspected and surveyed boaters at high-risk waters, including Devils Lake, Lake Sakakawea and several waters in the southeast and south central fisheries districts.

Game and Fish biologists and cooperators also expanded early detection sampling for zebra mussels from 17 to 32 waters across the state, and ANS surveillance by fisheries staff was at an all-time high.

Other ANS prevention work included inspections of commercial equipment and

bait from out-of-state vendors, and development and installation of signs designating

the Red River as a Class I Infested Water.

Game species up and down

Mule deer continued their population rebound in 2016, with a spring survey that indicated a 21 percent population increase from 2015. Based on this increasing population trend, Game and Fish issued a limited number of mule deer doe licenses in three units. Statewide, Game and Fish issued 49,000 deer gun licenses overall in 2016, nearly 5,800 more than in 2015.

North Dakota’s 2016 roadside pheasant survey indicated total birds were down 10 percent from 2015, while duck broods observed during the July brood survey were up 10 percent from 2015, and still well above the 1965-2016 average.

Pronghorn numbers increased by 34 percent from 2015, and Game and Fish increased the number of pronghorn licenses from 320 in 2015 to 730 in 2016.

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