Fisheries Crew Goes Electro-Fishing on Missouri River at Night - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Fisheries Crew Goes Electro-Fishing on Missouri River at Night

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There's not many boats that will shock you if you touch them, but one such boat is cruising the Missouri at night.

Its purpose is to draw in fish so a North Dakota Game and Fish state fisheries team can learn more about what's swimming in the river.

It's nearly sunset, and a team of fisheries experts is getting ready to see what's in the Missouri River.

"We are electro-fishing tonight, doing what we call our fall reproduction survey." says Paul Bailey, South Central District Fisheries Supervisor.

Electro-fishing is how researchers gain access to the underwater world.

"These booms act as the positive and the boat itself acts as the negative so it completes circuit in the water, fish drawn toward positive."

Their research vessel is designed to draw in all fish in its path.

"Typically on the Missouri River we're running 8-10 amps and 200-250 volts."

"Basically we're overriding the fish's nervous system to take control of their fishing and bring them to the boat." says Bailey.

They're on the lookout for forage fish, like smelt.

Something that might be harder to spot than some of the bigger fish.

"The larger fish tend to get hit by the electrical harder than smaller fish."

The forage fish might be small, but the importance of catching them during this survey is big.

"The key to maintaining a healthy fish population in the Missouri River system, has always been maintaining a healthy forage base." says Bailey.

They are hoping to see a recovery in populations from the flood of 2011.

There was poor reproduction that year and a change down below.

"Some habitat changes haven't made the river conducive for forage fish production anymore, so we're hoping the river is now changed back since the flood that we'll see a rebound in our forage fish populations." says Bailey.

The results are not shocking, as much as disappointing.

"Yep, definitely a light catch."

Overall, they found among the lowest forage abundance ever seen on the Missouri river.

Something they can tell in part by the size of a this four-year-old walleye.

"Instead due to lack of forage, these are skinny 12 1/2 inchers, instead of plump 15 inchers, it's one of the repercussions of the flood of 2011..." says Bailey.

The fish that you saw were only stunned by the boat momentarily.

The fisheries crew finished up their electro-fishing surveys at seven locations.

Overall, they found the forage abundance is really low from the Garrison Dam tailrace to Lake Oahe.

Paul Bailey says they also found the walleye abundance has declined due to lack of forage.

The good news is that forage conditions did improve on Lake Oahe.

The Game and Fish crew will be doing a netting survey on Oahe next week.

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