Biologists have started spawning northern pike despite this season’s setback

Published: May. 21, 2023 at 8:26 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - In this week’s segment of North Dakota Outdoors, Mike Anderson takes us to Cattail Bay on Lake Oahe where fisheries biologists are spawning northern pike.

Northern pike spawning is triggered by the amount of daylight and water temperature. This spring’s weather conditions set that process back a little bit.

“We’re really dealing with a compressed time frame right now. So, it’s really essential that we get these pike to the hatchery as soon as possible so we can still double crop our walleyes because those are certainly two of our most popular sport fish in North Dakota are our northern pike and walleye,” said NDGF Fisheries Supervisor Paul Bailey.

Fisheries biologists are on Lake Oahe setting trap nets near shorelines looking for northern pike.

“So, these fish encounter our nets, get trapped in the nets. We can then go out in our boat, empty these nets, sort fish out from different species. And specifically, we’re looking for northern pike right now so we can sort out the male pike from the female pike. Then within the female pike, we can sort out fish that are ready to give up their eggs versus fish that aren’t quite ready to give up their eggs yet,” said Bailey.

Biologists bring back to the boat ramp an equal number of males and females that are ready to give up their milt and eggs.

“We then strip some of the milt from the male pike, put it into a bowl of water, and then also strip the eggs from the female into that same bowl of water. And those eggs are typically fertilized just within a matter of seconds in there. We then put those eggs into an egg washer to remove any debris that might be in those eggs,” said Bailey.

The eggs are placed in a cooler and transported to the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery where they are hatched and reared.

“Our end goal is to have about a little over 600,000 of those fingerling northern pike, so those about inch and a half northern pike. So, to reach that goal we need to take a lot more eggs than that 620,000. So, our goal this year is to collect about 4.5 million northern pike eggs, which represents about 75 quarts of eggs,” said Bailey.

And then the Game and Fish Department will stock pike fingerlings in various lakes to eventually provide pike fishing opportunities for anglers.

“One of the reasons that we do need to stock northern pike across North Dakota is we have a number of lakes that don’t support natural reproduction of northern pike,” said Bailey.