A multi-year walleye tagging study that will eventually include thousands of fish was initiated on the Missouri River earlier this spring.
The study area is big, running from Garrison Dam in central North Dakota downstream to Lake Oahe Dam in South Dakota. It’s being conducted by biologists and researchers from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and South Dakota State University.
The study, which falls on the heels of the 2011 flood and a major decline in the forage base, is designed to assess walleye movements, mortality and what proportion of the walleye population is harvested annually by anglers.
“The goal is to tag 10,000 walleye in study area in the Dakotas per year,” said Scott Gangl, Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader. “Up to 4,000 of those fish will be tagged and released annually in the Missouri River and upper Lake Oahe in North Dakota.”
The four-year study will target adult walleye and each will be fitted with a metal jaw tag stamped with a unique number to identify the fish, and a phone number to report the tag. “Anglers should treat tagged fish like any other fish they catch,” Gangl said. “If they would normally harvest that fish, they should harvest it. If they would typically release it, they should release it. Anglers practicing catch-and-release can write the tag number down and report it, leaving the tag in the fish when released.”
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, tag reporting page or by calling (701) 328-6300.
“When an angler does report a tag, we ask for the date the fish was caught, where it was caught, was the fish harvested or released, tag number and length and weight of the fish,” Gangl said. “An angler who reports a tagged fish, along with their contact information, will be sent a letter providing some history on the fish, such as when and where it was tagged, how big it was when tagged and so on.”
Gangl said a small portion of the tags, just 5 percent, will offer a reward to anglers to encourage them to turn them in. These tags will be clearly marked “Reward.”
Reward tags need to be turned in to Game and Fish offices in Riverdale and Bismarck, or to a Game, Fish and Parks office in South Dakota.