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GFP News - October 18, 2012

Changes Proposed For Lake Oahe Walleye Regulations

DEADWOOD, S.D. -- The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Commission has proposed changes to walleye harvest regulations for Lake Oahe.

Included in the proposal is an increase in the daily bag limit to eight walleyes per day, of which only four can be 15 inches or longer, and eliminating the rule allowing only one walleye over 20 inches daily. The possession limit would be increased to 24 walleyes, or three times the proposed daily limit.

GFP staff recommended the changes for Lake Oahe in response to the effects of last year's flooding, when record releases of water from Oahe Dam flushed a large number of rainbow smelt out of the lake.

"Rainbow smelt are the primary prey fish for Lake Oahe walleyes, and reduced smelt abundance has resulted in an imbalance between smelt and walleye," said Mark Fincel, a senior fisheries biologist. "Larger walleyes have shown a sharp decline in condition -- or plumpness -- due to the relative lack of food.  Additionally, highly abundant smaller walleyes of less than 15 inches are also showing a decline in condition."

A similar event occurred in the late 1990s when high walleye abundance, combined with low smelt abundance, resulted in skinny walleyes.  Fisheries staff realized an imbalance between smelt and walleyes and recommended a regulation change to allow increased harvest (bag limit of 14 walleyes, as opposed to the current daily limit of four) to reduce walleye abundance and make it easier for smelt to repopulate.

"While the walleye harvest increased following the rule change, natural mortality had a greater effect on lowering walleye abundance," Fincel said.

The smelt population rebounded a few years later, and the walleye population soon followed, he said.

“It is believed that smelt abundance increased because conditions were favorable for successful spawning and growth of young smelt -- not that enough walleyes were removed from Oahe to allow smelt to recover, Fincel said.
Allowing the high harvest of young walleyes when abundance was high presented an opportunity for anglers to keep more fish at a time when it would not hurt the Oahe walleye population.

"The proposed changes for 2013 are a way to provide extra opportunities for anglers to harvest walleyes that may be lost due to higher than normal natural mortality in the near future," Fincel said.  "Some of the larger walleyes will likely start dying from starvation, and this regulation will allow anglers to harvest some of those fish before they are lost."

The increased walleye limits will allow increased harvest of young, abundant walleyes that will likely make up the bulk of the catch nest year from Lake Oahe.

The increased possession limit is aimed at providing weekend anglers the ability to harvest and transport 24 walleyes.

"With a four-fish daily limit, many weekend anglers (those with three-day licenses) consumed part of their catch during their trip, allowing for additional harvest on their third angling day. Increasing the possession limit will allow the increased harvest to take place without the need to consume large quantities of walleyes during a trip.

"It is crucial to understand that increasing the daily and possession limits are not an attempt to 'fix' the unbalanced predator/prey ratio; it is simply an attempt to use an abundant resource without doing any harm to the resource," Fincel said. "The public input process is vital in determining acceptance by anglers across South Dakota of this recommended rules change."

Members of the public can submit comments on the proposed changes, either orally or in writing (or both) at the Nov. 1 commission meeting.  Those who are unable to attend the hearing may mail their comments to the Office of the Secretary; Department of Game, Fish and Parks; Foss Building; 523 East Capitol Ave.; Pierre, South Dakota 57501, or via email to

All written and email comments must be delivered at least three days before the Nov. 1 meeting and must include the name and mailing address of the person submitting the comments.  To view all of the proposed changes, visit


GFP Commission Proposes Expanded Pike And Catfish Spearing

DEADWOOD, S.D. -- The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission is proposing rules changes in areas open to spearing of northern pike and channel catfish.

The changes would allow northern pike to be taken by underwater spearing, dark-house spearing and archery on all inland waters of the state, except those waters actively managed for muskies.

"There are currently limited opportunities to participate in dark-house spearing for northern pike throughout South Dakota," said Geno Adams, GFP fisheries program administrator, "This proposal gives pike spearers additional opportunities to take advantage of pike populations around the state during both the open-water and ice periods of the year, without negatively impacting our resources."

Opportunities to spear channel catfish would also increase under a commission proposal that would open areas to catfish spearing on the Missouri River below Oahe, Big Bend, and Ft. Randall dams, which are currently closed to all game-fish spearing. Channel catfish can already be taken year-round by spearers and archers without limits on the inland waters of the Missouri River in South Dakota, except for the designated areas below dams that are closed to spearing and archery of all game fish.

"Allowing catfish to be speared in these areas will expand opportunities  to harvest an underutilized species on the Missouri River," Adams said.

The GFP Commission proposal also includes lengthening the game-fish spearing season from the current June 15 through Feb. 29 to June 15 through March 15. Season dates for northern pike spearing would match the proposed game-fish season dates. The date after which ice shacks may not be left overnight on the ice will remain unchanged at Feb. 29, but portable shacks could still be used until March 15 if removed from the ice daily.

To view the full proposals, visit:

To comment on the spearing proposals, email . Include your complete name and physical address to be part of the public record. The commission will take public comment at its Nov. 1 meeting at Camp Lakodia near Madison. The public forum portion of the meeting will begin at 2 p.m. CDT.


Bait Rule Changes Proposed By Game Fish and Parks Commission

DEADWOOD, S.D. -- The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission has proposed closing creeks, streams or rivers, permanently or temporarily, to the catching of bait with traps, nets and seines in the Black Hills trout management area and the following counties:

Use of hook and line to take bait fish species, such as creek chubs, would still be allowed, and bait could be trapped from lakes, ponds, and wetlands in those counties.

"This change was proposed in response to concerns about possible movement of young Asian carp to new waters," said Will Sayler, GFP fisheries program administrator. "Asian carp have invaded the James, Big Sioux, and Vermillion River watersheds and young Asian carp may be present in the streams and creeks which feed these rivers."

"Young Asian carp closely resemble some popular bait fish species and may be hard to recognize when mixed with other fish trapped for use as bait," he said.

Asian carp threaten game-fish populations by feeding on plankton that are essential to survival of young game fish.  Silver carp are known to jump out of the water when disturbed by boats and other watercraft, presenting a serious safety hazard to anglers and recreational boaters.

To view the full bait-fish proposal, which includes a map showing the areas recommended for closure, visit:

To comment on the proposal, email Include your complete name and physical address to be part of the public record.

The GFP Commission will accept public comment on the measure at a Nov. 1 meeting to be held at Camp Lakodia near Madison. The public forum portion of the meeting will begin at 2 p.m. CDT.


S.D. State Parks to Host Halloween Weekend Events

PIERRE, S.D. -- Three South Dakota parks will host trick-or-treaters this Halloween season. Hikes at Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, Hilger's Gulch in Pierre and Custer State Park near Custer will show families that Halloween can be a fun and educational holiday.

Make plans to attend a Halloween event:

There is no cost to participate in any of these events, although a park entrance license is required at Custer and Big Sioux. Participants should wear comfortable hiking shoes and dress for the weather. Children must be accompanied by adults. Costumes are encouraged for the hikes but not required.

Special events are held at South Dakota state parks year-round. For more information on the state parks or to see a calendar of upcoming events, visit or call 605-773-3391.


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