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Walleye increase proposed for Lake Oahe

PIERRE (AP) -- Professional fishing guides have mixed feelings about South Dakota biologists' proposal to increase the walleye limit on Lake Oahe next year.

Under the proposal for 2013, the daily walleye limit for the lake would be doubled. Anglers could take eight walleyes per day, four of which could be 15 inches or longer. The possession limit would be raised to 24. The proposal also would eliminate the rule allowing anglers to keep only one walleye over 20 inches.

The proposal comes in response to a large number of 10- to 15-inch fish and low food resources since the 2011 Missouri River flood, which 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.

"It's basically to provide that resource to anglers before those fish leave the system through mortality," Geno Adams, fisheries program administrator for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, told the media. "Larger walleyes especially rely on smelt."

Some guides do not like the idea of anglers being able to keep more large fish, saying it could hurt the lake's ability to produce trophy fish.

"I agree we need to pull some fish out of the system. The limit needs to go to eight, but they need to keep some of the breeding fish, the big females, in there," said guide Paul Steffen, of rural Pierre.

The Game, Fish and Parks Commission will take public comments at its Nov. 1 meeting at Camp Lakodia near Madison. Members of the public also can submit written comments.