Northern Pike and Walleye Egg Take Exceed Goals

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North Dakota Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries crews have completed spring spawning operations with more than enough northern pike and walleye eggs to meet state needs.

Jerry Weigel, fisheries production and development section leader for the Game and Fish Department, said even though they exceeded production goals, the two seasons couldn’t have been more contrasting.

“We had ideal conditions during the week we were taking pike eggs, and the worst conditions for spawning walleye,” Weigel said.

In just six days, crews collected more than 20 million pike eggs from South Eckelson Lake (Barnes County), Alkali Lake (Stutsman County) and Lake Irvine (Ramsey County).

“We had nice warm weather with little or no wind, a lot of eggs and the quality was great,” Weigel said. “In fact, we were able to help Montana and South Dakota by sending them some of our surplus.”

Walleye spawning operations took place in less than ideal circumstances, as snow, strong winds and cold weather were the norm. “More often than not crews were running gear on days with extremely high winds,” Weigel said, while noting a good spawning day was when winds were less than 20 miles per hour. “There were days when conditions did keep us off the water, but you can only wait so long to pull nets once they are in place.”

It took nearly three weeks to finish collecting eggs from Alkaline Lake (Kidder County), Antelope Lake (Pierce County), Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake. But despite the conditions, the goal of collecting 30 million walleye eggs was reached.

“It wasn’t a good run,” Weigel said. “Egg quality is not looking so good as a result of the brutal conditions.”

Eggs were taken to federal fish hatcheries near Valley City and Riverdale, where eggs will hatch and then be put into rearing ponds as fry. Fingerlings will be distributed to state waters in early June.