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Officials to review fish problem in Lake Yankton

YANKTON (AP) — Wildlife officials are considering killing off all the fish in Lake Yankton in southeastern South Dakota to remove an unwanted population of undesirable species such as carp and smallmouth and largemouth buffalo.

Flooding two years ago caused Missouri River water to backfill into the lake just west of Yankton and led to an increasing number of the invasive species in the body of water. Officials in South Dakota and neighboring Nebraska are worried about game fish such as bass, bluegill, catfish and walleye being crowded out, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.

“There are a few good species left, but the writing’s on the wall,” said Craig Bockholt, acting manager at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery, which oversees the lake with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “There’s pretty much a consensus, something has to be done.”

Three weeks ago, officials with the hatchery, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a survey on the lake. The results found a small variety of game fish, but an increasing number of the unwanted fish.

“The lake got contaminated, and their (unwanted fish) numbers are going to expand and the game fish numbers will decrease. The warning signs are there,” said Jeff Schuckman, a Nebraska fisheries biologist.

In 1980, officials killed off the lake’s fish with chemicals so they could give game fish a fresh start. If officials decide to do that again they will seek public input, Schuckman said. Such an operation likely would not happen for a year or two, he said.

After a chemical kill it could take two years or more to get the game fish population back to normal, according to Bockholt.

“Hopefully sooner rather than later we can get going,” Schuckman said.