Employees and volunteers at the Valley City National Fish Hatchery were busy Wednesday stocking a recreational fishing pond for youth with breeder black crappies, readying the fishing hole for use.
Noah Kvilang, 15, a student at Valley City High School, was dipping nets full of the young adult fish out of a tank on a trailer towed by a pickup truck and emptying them into the pond.
Kvilang said he helped out earlier this summer in the Youth Conservation Corps, and decided to continue helping as a volunteer.
“I’m thinking of doing something like this after I graduate, but I don’t know.”
Working with Kvilang was Adam Larson, a Valley City State University Fisheries and Wildlife Science major, employed at the fishery through the STEP Kurt Eversman, manager of the Valley City National Fish Hatchery since March, said the crappies were collected by North Dakota Game and Fish Department employees by net near Jamestown “and brought here in late May to early June.”
The hatchery is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Eversman is working on plans to expand the hatchery’s involvement with the YCC. “In early spring I hope to bring in up to five YCC kids aged 15 to 19.”
For the STEP program Larson is in, Eversman said the service sets aside money to employ the young people and prepare them to work for the service in the future.
“The average age of fish and wildlife employees is 55, and as baby boomers retire, we will need new employees,” Eversman said.
Eversman said the fish remain in the pond between 60 and 90 days depending on conditions.
At present the hole is “the kids fishing pond open to kids 12 and under, but I would like it to be for 18 and younger along with senior citizens (and) people who want to catch and release or just sit under a tree.”
Plans for the fishing pond include stocking with rainbow trout in the spring, and depending on what fingerlings the hatchery raises this year, “bullheads, northern pike, walleye, crappie and yellow perch. You just never know what until you catch them.”
Eversman is working to make the federal facility located about 2.5 miles north and west of Valley City a recreational destination.
“I would like to see people on the property. This is federal property and people should be able to come and enjoy it,” Eversman said.
Eversman said the hatchery was brought to Valley City in the 1940s “to enhance recreational fishing in North Dakota and the region.”
Along with enhancing recreational fishing in the area, the service also is trying to protect and add to stocks of fish and mussels that are endangered or threatened.
Eversman said mussels operate symbiotically with fish. In effect, baby mussels hang onto fish without harming the animals and then fall off into the water.
Fish help the mussels by spreading the creatures, and mussels help fish and water quality by acting as filters “to provide a stable habitat for fish.”