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Fishing biologists kept invasive fish species out of popular south central ND lake

Published: Jul. 11, 2020 at 9:54 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) -Fisheries biologists were busy this spring keeping invasive fish species out of a popular lake in south central North Dakota.

It's hard to imagine only a decade ago, Rice Lake in Emmons County was 20 feet lower than it is today. Rising water this spring caused state Game and Fish Department fisheries crews to act quickly.

“We’ve installed a drop structure on the outlet from Rice Lake. Rice Lake, this spring reached its natural outlet for the first time really since North Dakota was first settled by European settlers. And that presented some problems. Usually more water means good things for fish. But in some cases, the water levels rise too much and can cause some problems by allowing some invasive species to access these lakes,” said Paul.

When Rice Lake met its natural outlet this spring, it connected the Lake through a 30 mile-long drainage to Lake Oahe. And that provided an avenue for other fish species in Lake Oahe to make their way into Rice Lake.

“Rice Lake has been an outstanding fishery for decades. It’s one of our premier fisheries in the south-central portion of North Dakota. It’s got northern pike, yellow perch and especially known for its walleye population in recent years. Lake Oahe itself has over 70 different fish species in it, most of which would probably be a detriment to the Rice Lake fishery. So most notably is common carp. They have a propensity for swimming longer distances upstream,” said Paul.

Carp have historically been present at Nieuwmsa Dam, and this spring at the recently constructed Rice Lake fish barrier.

“And despite having about a three-mile distance to work with from Rice Lake to where it joined the Nieuwmsa Dam drainage, there wasn’t a lot of great opportunity to work in this drainage due to insufficient gradient. Rice Lake hits its outlet and flows very gently, not losing a lot of elevation for the first several miles. So we’re fortunate to have this about a half mile stretch here that offered a little steeper gradient where we could install a drop structure such as this,” said Paul.

And this project wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration from private landowners.

“We’re very fortunate to have Duane and Dale Nieuwmsa, who also enjoy Rice Lake themselves who were willing to let us conduct this project on their property,” said Paul.

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