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Zebra mussels don’t stop large ND walleye restocking effort

July 25, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The recent discovery of zebra mussels in Lake Ashtabula didn’t stop the North Dakota Game and Fish Department this year from completing one of its largest walleye stocking efforts in the agency’s history.

Valley City National Fish Hatchery gets its water from the lake behind Baldhill Dam on the Sheyenne River. Crews decided not to use walleye fingerlings produced at the hatchery to stock other lakes, to prevent spreading zebra mussels.

Fisheries production leader Jerry Wiegel said the move was done out of caution until more is known about zebra mussels in Lake Ashtabula, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Instead, the agency turned to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery for all of the fingerlings — young fish — it needed to stock walleyes in more than 140 lakes around North Dakota.

The hatchery produced more than 11.3 million fingerlings this year. That beat the production record by nearly 1 million fish.

“We’re very fortunate to have two federal hatcheries” in North Dakota, said Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish. “We’re very lucky to have that tool in the toolbox.”

Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake — North Dakota’s two premier fisheries — typically get fingerlings. Crews this year also focused on stocking dozens of lakes that suffered winterkill and on the 55 lakes around the state in which the walleye population is still getting established.

“The condition of the receiving waters could not have been better, with cool temperatures and a lot of newly flooded vegetation, which makes for excellent survival conditions for the one-and-a-quarter-inch fingerlings,” Weigel said.

Young fish from the Valley City hatchery were used to stock Lake Ashtabula and a lake in Iowa that is infested with zebra mussels, Power said.

The invasive mollusks compete with native species, clog water intakes and can even sink docks and buoys with their weight. Zebra mussels also are present in the Red River in eastern North Dakota.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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