Published May 03, 2009, 12:00 AM

OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Rising water on Oahe and Sakakawea, Red Lake pike study etc.

Heavy spring runoff that has boosted water levels on Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea will be good for fishing in the long run, but the high water conditions could present a challenge for anglers this year, a North Dakota Game and Fish Department official says.

By: compiled by Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

Reservoir updates: Heavy spring runoff that has boosted water levels on Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea will be good for fishing in the long run, but the high water conditions could present a challenge for anglers this year, a North Dakota Game and Fish Department official says.

According to Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, Lake Oahe is up 28 feet from last year, and Lake Sakakawea is 21 feet higher. That means both Missouri River reservoirs are, or soon will be, at normal levels after several years of low water.

“It’s rags to riches, literally, again — just like 1993-94,” Power said. Compared to even a year ago, the difference is “night and day,” he said.

While the influx of water will provide new spawning habitat for pike, perch, walleyes and smelt — a key forage species — Power said managers would have preferred a more gradual increase in water levels over a period of years.

“The critical thing is to have a rising pool after the spawn, and it looks like that’s going to happen,” Power said. “There’s a tremendous upside. Our only issue has been the fact that we burned up all that productivity in one year.”

As for fishing, Power said he expects it will be trickier.

“There’s the same number of fish in the system,” he said. “Now you’ve got a tremendous amount of new surface acres for them to spread out in. You’re diluting fish stock but it’s also challenging because you’ve got 20-foot high cottonwoods under 10 feet of water. The snag factor is going to be an issue this year, too.

“In the long term, it’s a great thing, but short term might be a bit more challenging.”

— Brad Dokken

Red Lake pike study: Fisheries crews from the Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji recently completed the second year of a trap-netting assessment for northern pike on Upper Red Lake.

According to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, 5 percent of the pike sampled the past two years have been longer than 40 inches, and 10 percent of the female pike have exceeded 40 inches.

Drewes said the DNR is compiling information from the surveys for a local group that would like to see more restrictive pike regulations. Anglers on Upper Red now must release all pike from 26 to 40 inches, and Drewes said there’s local interest in raising the upper end of that protected slot to 43 or 44 inches.

No changes in pike regulations are on tap for this year, Drewes said, but local resort owners along Upper Red will be surveying their customers to gauge support for tightening the rules.

“We’re going to take that forward on a slow information-gathering process and see what kind of support we can get,” Drewes said.

— Brad Dokken

Youth essay contest: The North Red River Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association is sponsoring its 17th annual youth essay contest for five scholarships to attend the MDHA Forkhorn Camp at Deep Portage Conservation Reserve near Hackensack, Minn. The contest is open to students ages 12 through 14 from Hallock, Karlstad, Stephen-Argyle and Lancaster, Minn., schools. Essays should be between 250 and 500 words in length and can be typed or handwritten. This year’s topic is, “What I Do to Protect Our Environment?” Essays should explain what conservation measures the author practices to protect the environment and also address recommendations for family conservation practices.

Submit essays by May 15 to Kelly Turgeon, Box 311 Hallock, MN 56728. Info: (218) 843-2046.

— Herald staff report

Did you know?

- The Minnesota DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program is holding a women’s catfishing event Aug. 15-16 on the Red River in East Grand Forks. The Red River Catfish League and the DNR will provide boats and gear and serve as guides. Cost is $50, which does not include food or lodging. For more information:

- Rick Acker, Grand Forks, received three awards for his taxidermy work during the North Dakota Taxidermists Association’s 25th annual Wildlife Art Show and Expo in Bismarck. Acker won the Best Bird award in the Master’s Division with his pheasant mount, Best Pheasant prize in the Special Sponsored Awards category and Taxidermist Choice for Best Bird with his pheasant mount. In related news, Raynette Zespy, Lakota, N.D., was re-elected secretary of the taxidermists association.

- The DNR again this spring will stock about 100,000 sturgeon fry into the Roseau and Red Lake rivers in northwestern Minnesota as part of an effort to restore the species to the Red River watershed. As in previous years, the DNR will purchase sturgeon eggs from the Manitou Rapids First Nation on the Rainy River near Emo, Ont. The eggs will be transported to the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin to hatch, and DNR crews will stock the tiny fry into the two rivers sometime in late May. Because of funding shortfalls, this could be the last year the DNR stocks sturgeon fry into the two rivers, officials say.