PIERRE -- Anglers who have been east of Aberdeen or north of Sioux Falls can relate to how fishing is becoming increasingly popular on many lakes in northeastern South Dakota. Waubay, Bitter and Cattail/Kettle lakes have all expanded in size and depth and have become excellent fisheries. Since their expanded development, these improved lakes have received a high level of fishing pressure. According to Game, Fish and Parks officials, angler harvest is having an impact on the fish populations, and excessive harvest has become a concern for these new waters.
On Jan. 1, 1999, new length-limit regulations were implemented on some of South Dakota^s northeastern lakes. A 16-inch minimum walleye size limit was imposed, and only one walleye 20-inches or longer is allowed in an angler^s daily limit.
Fisheries Assistant Regional Supervisor Ron Meester of Webster said the regulations were set for these waters because of the walleye^s impressive growth rates. "In Waubay, Bitter or Cattail/Kettle lakes, walleyes have reached 16 inches in two to three years. On most other northeast lakes, walleyes will reach 14 inches in four to five years," he said.
Meester said this sudden success is attributed mostly to the new spawning and nursery habitat created when waters overflowed lakes. "Flooded marsh vegetation and adjacent upland has increased zooplankton and other food sources, such as minnows and aquatic insects. Fish loss to winterkill has also decreased," Meester said.
The goals of the regulations are to produce a better quality fish, let walleye survive long enough to reach reproductive maturity and to control walleye harvest. Game, Fish and Parks officials hope the regulation will prevent the boom and bust nature indicative of many new fisheries. "Anglers must realize walleyes do not need to be caught and taken home; they can be released to grow larger, reproduce, and be caught again," Meester said.