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Biologists Hope Shad Boost Oahe Forage Base
Game and Fish Department biologists stocked roughly 225 adult gizzard shad in Lake Oaheâ€™s Beaver Bay in May to help jumpstart a limited forage base.
A good share of Oaheâ€™s young-of-the-year rainbow smelt were flushed through the dam during flooding in 2011, drastically thinning what game fish have to eat. In addition, high flows and sediment-laden water reduced production of other forage fish.
â€śWhen we did our fall reproduction survey in 2011, we saw very few young-of-the-year fish in all of the forage species,â€ť said Scott Gangl, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader. â€śWe knew going into 2012 that there was going to be a forage problem, at least for the short-term.â€ť
Stocking prespawn adult shad was a collaborative effort with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fisheries biologists who stocked additional sites on Lake Oahe. â€śThe plan is to give Oahe a little shot in the arm to help boost the forage base,â€ť Gangl said.
If the adults spawn successfully, young-of-the-year shad will be on the game-fish menu by late June or early July.
Gangl said biologists on both sides of the border are trying to mimic the shad boom seen in the mid-2000s when smelt numbers were down. â€śWe watched the shad slowly build over time and they eventually provided a good forage base for game fish,â€ť he said. â€śWe donâ€™t have anything to lose by trying this. Itâ€™s certainly worth a shot.â€ť
Gangl said Lake Oahe has a lot of hungry game fish, but the forage shortage is more pronounced on the North Dakota end of the reservoir. â€śThe fish arenâ€™t starving to death, but they are hungry,â€ť he said.