Doug Leier: Cooperation is key to North Dakota fisheries | Outside


The staff of the two agencies bring different skills to the partnership. The state’s fisheries biologists provide the know-how in egg collection, fish transportation, and in-depth knowledge of North Dakota waters. Conversely, the hatchery has disease experts and the wisdom to breed fish.

“We’re all working on the same goal of improving fishing statewide, regardless of what uniform we wear or the different patches on our sleeves,” Weigel said. “They want to produce good, healthy fish, and a lot of them, and we want to make sure that we get them to the lakes and provide them with proper management that results in the best possible catch.”

The Garrison Dam and Valley City National Hatcheries are critical to North Dakota fishing, as fish populations in many waters are simply not self-sustaining. And with much more water on the landscape today, the demand for walleye production and storage continues to rise.

“People have to keep in mind that the number of fish we store is not determined by what the hatchery can produce, but by the needs,” Weigel said. “Thirty years ago, we only needed 3 to 5 million walleye because we had less than 200 lakes to stock. Today we have 450 lakes to store, and 10 to 12 million is barely enough to cover what we need to do.

Aside from walleye, trout, and salmon, a number of other fish species have been hatchery raised and released into state waters over the years, such as bass, crappie , pike, muskellunge, paddlefish, the list goes on.

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