Biologists hope shad boost Lake Oahe forage base
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- State fisheries biologists in North Dakota and South Dakota are working together to stock Lake Oahe with hundreds of adult gizzard shad -- lunch for game fish sought by anglers.
Last summer's historic Missouri River flooding flushed a large number of young rainbow smelt through the Oahe Dam, drastically reducing the amount that game fish such as walleye have to eat. The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department estimated earlier this spring that the rainbow smelt population was down by as much as 75 percent from last year.
High water flows and sediment-laden water also reduced the production of other forage fish, according to North Dakota's Game and Fish Department.
"(Game) fish aren't starving to death, but they are hungry," said Scott Gangl, leader of the North Dakota agency's fisheries management section.
The shad stocking is aimed at giving the lake's forage base "a little shot in the arm," Gangl said.
"We knew going into 2012 that there was going to be a forage problem, at least for the short-term," he said.
Lake Oahe is in south central North Dakota and north central South Dakota. The forage shortage is more pronounced on the northern end, but stocking has been done in both states, Gangl said. If the adult shad spawn successfully, young shad should be on the game fish menu by late June or early July.
"We don't have anything to lose by trying this," Gangl said. "It's certainly worth a shot."