Each year, the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in Riverdale stocks North Dakota waters with millions of fish to keep anglers busy and the aquatic population steadily increasing.
There’s no shortage of beautiful lakes and rivers in the Peace Garden State and miles of shoreline to cast out your fishing lines.
If you happen to snag a northern pike or walleye, there’s a chance it was spawned locally — right in Riverdale.
“We have a lot of water in North Dakota and we have a lot of walleye fishermen in North Dakota. Game and Fish are trying to make anglers happy and the idea is if you have a good fishery, you’re going to have happy anglers,” said Project Leader Rob Holm.
With millions of fish supplying the lakes across the state, you may think fish would spawn on their own — but in some instances, some of your favorite fishing spots wouldn’t have fish without the help of the hatchery.
“In some lakes, there’s not the proper spawning habitats, whether that’s in the vegetation for the northern pike to spawn in or the gravel beds for the walleye to spawn on. Some lakes in the state, the water quality just isn’t there,” said Biology Technician Ben Oldenburg.
However, mother nature does play a big role in the success rate of natural fish spawning.
“If we have a really wet spring and get a lot of flooded vegetation, the pike do well on their own but if you got, like what we’ve had, an extreme drought over the years and we don’t have a lot of flooded vegetation which pike need to spawn, you come to the hatchery and order up some fingerlings,” said Holm.
As soon as water starts to break through the ice, the work begins — and millions of pike are spawned.
Not too long after that, the walleye come and the demand for that is especially high.
“The request this year is a little over 11.5 million walleye fingerlings. So we will have 1.5 million pike and 11.5 million walleye in the state and I think the walleye fisherman will like that,” said Holm.
Holm tells us there’s nowhere in the world that sees the walleye production rate that we see in Riverdale.
“Here in North Dakota, we’re fortunate to have the hatchery and partnership that we do. We produce more walleye here than anywhere else in the world and, in fact, we stock out over twice as many walleye than in any other state,” said Holm.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, the hatchery wants to make sure every angler has success reeling in a big one.
The hatchery also produces a variety of trout and salmon that gets stocked across the country.