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Steering The Red River

Inside the Energy and Environmental Resource Center on the campus of the University of North Dakota, 10 natural resource officials from Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota gathered recently as the Red River Steering Committee. In a quick six-hour meeting a common theme arose: these biologists have a vested interest in the Red River and its intriguing fishery.

The meeting provided a wheelhouse of information and Lynn Schlueter, North Dakota Game and Fish Department special projects biologist, was the moderator. Committee members discussed past studies and activities reviewed monitoring methods such as trap netting and creel surveys, and evaluated findings with expert confidence.

Items of interest

Carl Wall of Manitoba informed members that Red River fishing in Canada is evolving rapidly. The number of recreational anglers in Manitoba is increasing, Wall said, while license sales in other provinces are decreasing. Manitoba has made a concerted effort to increase angler participation, with programs such as Take an Adult Fishing, Catfish Hunter and Little Angler generating “an amazing response,” he noted. Working with corporate sponsors such as the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team is a great way to promote fishing, Wall added.

Trophy walleye fishing on Lake Winnipeg, the final destination for Red River water, is attracting more and more interest. Fifteen pound walleye are becoming quite common, Wall said, and he wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a 20-pound walleye sometime soon.

Threats to the fishery

The threat of aquatic nuisance species generated considerable discussion. Stories of anglers who use a boat in the Great Lakes region, then don’t drain their bilge or live well before fishing back home, drew looks of disgust from panel members. Aquatic nuisance species are difficult to control, and anglers must take proper steps to ensure they do not bring in harmful biota.

Wall related an interesting story: “At one of our ports of entry, illegal bait was dumped on site. After a short time we were notified of an exotic plant growing at the dumpsite. An infestation of purple loosestrife was found to have manifested, another example of threats exhibited by interstate transportation.”

North Dakota now has strict regulations regarding importation of live bait Plain and simple, it’s illegal to import live bait into North Dakota. Tournament anglers are taking the lead in controlling the spread of aquatic nuisance species by having their boats inspected before launching in new waters, Schlueter said. Minnesota and Manitoba each have similar regulations.

Sturgeon recovery

Lake Sturgeon stocking by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources remains a popular effort. Plans call for continued stocking of this once prominent fish. Four years ago Minnesota DNR personnel stocked 378 adult fish, and angler reports continue to come in.

Walleye fishing is top notch

Dennis Topp of the Minnesota DNR continues to be impressed by the Red River’s walleye population. “In reviewing data, the Red River walleye fishery is impressive even compared to Lake of the Woods,” he said. “While the overall population of walleye is not as strong, the quality of fish exceeds Lake of the Woods.”

We must continue to stress the importance of maintaining the integrity of Red River tributaries, Topp said. “With a waterway such as the Red and its frequent flooding, fish move into tributaries during these events. Our data shows the species diversity in tributaries which have been dredged or ‘improved’ declines significantly.”

Future Red River fisheries management lies squarely on the shoulders of Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada and South Dakota. The Red River Steering Committee is a good example of biologists from diverse agencies focusing their efforts on what’s best for the resource.

Doug Leier is a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo.

By Doug Leier

He can be reached via email: [email protected] or office phone 277.0719.

Keep up the good work Doug!

Backwater Eddy.......><,,>

Backwater Eddy..><,sUMo,>

Backwater Guiding
"Ed on the RED"
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