MRS Walleye Tagging Study Continues
Year two of a four-year walleye tagging study on the Missouri River and Lake Oahe is complete, and returns are providing biologists with valuable information.
Paul Bailey, North Dakota Game and Fish Department south central district fisheries supervisor, said nearly 17,000 fish were tagged in 2013 and 2014, the first two years of the study, and more than 3,000 tag numbers were turned in by anglers.
“The study is designed to assess walleye movements, mortality and what proportion of the walleye population is harvested annually by anglers,” Bailey said.
The study area extends from the Garrison Dam in central North Dakota downstream to Oahe Dam in South Dakota, and involves a major collaboration of biologists and researchers from North Dakota Game and Fish, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, and South Dakota State University.
The study targets adult walleye, each fitted with a metal jaw tag stamped with a unique number to identify the fish, and a phone number to report the tag. Anglers can either keep or release the fish. Anglers practicing catch-and-release can write the tag number down and report it, leaving the tag on the fish when released.
Bailey said the first two years of the study revealed some interesting movement patterns. “For example, over half of the tagged walleye that were reported by anglers were caught within 10 miles of where they were tagged and released,” he added. “However, fish tagged in North Dakota moved greater distances than those tagged farther downstream, and North Dakota fish moved both upstream and downstream after tagging.”
Most of the returns in both 2013 and 2014 were from May, June and July, and Bailey said when the bite slowed in August, so did the returns.
Anglers can report tags by calling the phone number found on tags, which, anglers should note, is a South Dakota phone number. Tag information can also be reported on the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov, or by calling 701-328-6300.
Anglers should record the date and location of the catch, whether the fish was kept or released, tag number and length and weight (if the fish was measured). Anglers who report tagged fish can keep the tag, and will receive a letter providing some history on the fish.
A small portion of the tags offer a reward to anglers to encourage returns, Bailey said, with these tags clearly marked “Reward.”
Reward tags must be physically turned in to Game and Fish offices in Riverdale or Bismarck, or to a Game, Fish and Parks office in South Dakota.