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Unique tagging project sheds light on Oahe walleye

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PIERRE (AP) — Wildlife officials are learning more about the walleye in Lake Oahe through a unique tagging program that was launched last year.

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South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department, South Dakota State University and North Dakota's Game and Fish Department are cooperating on a project to tag about 40,000 walleye over four years, with tagging done in April and May. It started last year with about 9,200 tagged fish, and anglers caught about 2,000 of them, The Capital Journal reported.

So far, officials have been able to calculate that anglers are harvesting about one-fourth of the walleye in the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas. They also have learned that a lot more fish seem to travel from North Dakota to South Dakota than the other way around. Information on fish movement can benefit anglers in search of fish.

The data show mainly summer movements, since that is when most of the tags were returned, said Mark Fincel, senior biologist for South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks.

Biologists have less information on fish movements in the winter and this spring, as too few tags have been returned to base any conclusions, he said. However, Fincel said preliminary study data suggests there might be some fish movement into tributaries in springtime.

The study also provides insights on what biologists call "natality," or the practice of fish returning to the same locations each year to spawn.

Officials hope to learn a lot more over time, including how long Oahe walleye live.

As an incentive to anglers to notify officials when they catch a tagged fish, several hundred fish each year are being given a "reward" tag worth $100. About 400 of the tagged fish last year had reward tags, and about 100 of those tags were submitted by anglers, Fincel said.

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