By Doug Leier
I grew up listening to Casey Kasem’s Weekly Top 40 music countdown. It was a different era where musical success wasn’t measured by downloads and clicks. Even to this day I can’t say I really understood how his Top 40 was compiled, but I was hip to the long-distance dedications.
Listeners (maybe thousands?) would write the show and Kasem would read one on air and the dedication was granted. How he picked the song and when to play it was seemingly sort of science based on geography and popularity. He knew which one would draw in the listeners.
Hard to believe I can relate fish stocking in the state to a popular music radio show from three decades ago, but work with me. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department receives many requests for fish stocking on specific waters and preferred species. While Department fisheries personnel would love to make everyone happy, there are a number of management concerns that need to be addressed before simply stocking fish here or there.
Even so, this year a fish stocking record in North Dakota was broken as Department fisheries personnel stocked a record 180 lakes across the landscape with 12 million walleye fingerlings.
Jerry Weigel, Department fisheries production and development supervisor, said the number of lakes bested the previous high by nearly 30 waters.
“There is record water across the state, so timing of a near record walleye production could not have come at a better time,” he said. “Valley City and Garrison Dam national fish hatcheries contributed to make this happen. Both hatcheries have been outstanding in helping address our demand for walleye fingerlings.”
Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery set a record for the most pounds shipped of these 1- to 1.5-inch fingerlings, with more than 8,400 total pounds. Given the record walleye production, coupled with a record number of lakes stocked, resulted in a lot of driving time for fish haulers.
“Just in the first seven days of this year’s walleye production, haulers traveled more than 8,200 miles and stocked over 150 lakes with 7.6 million fish,” Weigel said.
Crews had near perfect conditions with most lakes at or near record water levels, with flooded vegetation for the young fish to hide and plenty of food for them to eat, which bodes well for future fishing opportunities.
“One of the biggest challenges this year was access to some lakes,” Weigel said. “As a result of last fall’s record rains, a lot of local roads in central and eastern North Dakota remained flooded and often closed, thus making navigating some roads more challenging.”
Later this fall, fisheries personal will sample walleye lakes to assess success of this year’s walleye stocking, as well as what Mother Nature provided.
One common observation fish haulers noted while traveling across the state, Weigel said, was the high amount of fishing taking place, both from shore and from boats.
“It’s a great time to fish for walleye,” he said. “Statewide, there are a lot of opportunities, and a good chance of success. This is especially true if you live in rural North Dakota where a lot of varied fishing opportunities exist.”
For a complete list of all fish stockings, visit the fishing link at the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov/fishing.
Until next time, keep your feet in the water and keep casting for the stars.
Leier is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
Featured Photo: Walleye fry are netted and ready to be shipped to a North Dakota lake for stocking. NDG&F Photo.