GF&P raises walleye limit on Oahe
– By Katie Zerr
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has voted to raise the walleye limit on Lake Oahe next year in an effort help keep to the fish population healthy.
The GF&P Commissioners meeting at Camp Lakodia near Madison, voted to make the change on Thursday, Nov. 1, in an effort to lower the number of walleye in the lake.
The limit on the Missouri River reservoir is doubled to eight walleyes a day, four of which can be longer than 15 inches. The possession limit is increased to 24, and anglers will still be only allowed to keep one walleye that is 20 inches or longer.
Biologists report that an above average walleye reproduction and a reduction of bait fish in the summer flooding in 2011 resulted in an abundance of the smaller fish. The change will help reduce the younger fish currently dominating the lake.
“The main focus of the change is to have anglers use this fish size to reduce the population and reduce stress on the baitfish population in the lake,” said GF&P Fisheries Resource Biologist Jason Jungwirth of the Mobridge GF&P office. “There is a huge number of the 10 to 15-inch walleye in the lake.”
Jungwirth said the fall netting survey showed there has been some success in the gizzard shad population of the lake. He said although the shad like the warmer water of the southern reaches of the reservoir, the older shad could survive in the colder water up north. He said the shad are getting to the age where they should be able to survive the colder temperatures of the upper reservoir and the population will continue to grow as those older baitfish spawn.
He said the younger fish die out when the cold weather sets in and those dead fish do not deteriorate in the colder water. The walleye feed on those fish and that impacts ice fishing in this area.
“Hopefully the bigger adults will survive and reproduce in the spring, “ he said.
The walleye around this area are still in pretty good shape according to Jungwirth, but those south of Whitlock are not, he said. The limit change will help both areas of the lake and leave more of the baitfish for the larger walleye. He said the younger walleye, smaller than the 12 to 15-inch fish, can eat bugs and other food sources and do not put a strain on the baitfish population.
Last month the state Wildlife Division recommended lifting the big-walleye restriction but decided before the start of the commission’s meeting Thursday that the restriction would be better left in place.
The changes also apply to sauger and walleye-sauger hybrids.
State Department of Game, Fish and Parks staff plans next fall to evaluate the results of the experiment and make recommendations to the commission.