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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: N.D. Game and Fish samples 27-year-old walleye from Lake Sakakawea, Free food plot seed available etc.

Growth rings from the ear bone of a 27-year-old walleye sampled in July 2018 during a North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries survey on Lake Sakakawea. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Sakakawea walleye, 27, sets old-age record

It's not the biggest walleye to come from Lake Sakakawea, but it's definitely the oldest.

The oldest ever documented, at least.

A 25.2-inch walleye sampled last July during an annual fisheries assessment on Lake Sakakawea was 27 years old, topping the reservoir's previous oldest walleye, a 24-year-old fish collected the previous year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reported on its Facebook page.

Department fisheries biologist Russ Kinzler aged the fish by counting the growth rings on the walleye's otolith, an ear bone, a process similar to how foresters age trees by counting the growth rings in the wood.

Kinzler said he'd heard of similar-age walleyes taken on the Missouri River System in Montana but none older, the Facebook post noted.

The Facebook post also indicated walleye abundance in Sakakawea is at its highest level since Garrison Dam was closed in 1953, and there's a high abundance of fish in all ages and sizes.

"We have had numerous strong year-classes since 2010, and they have driven the population abundance upward pretty dramatically," the post noted. "The presence of very old fish in a system does tell us one thing—that overall mortality (including natural and angling) is very low in Sakakawea. On Lake Sakakawea, we do have some very old fish as part of the population as well as many younger year-classes."

-- Herald staff report

NDGF offers free food plot seed

Landowners interested in planting wildlife food plots for pheasants can sign up to receive free seed from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for the 2019 growing season.

Rather than a more traditional corn or sunflower food plot, Game and Fish is offering a seed mix that provides increased plant diversity, including flowering plants from spring through fall, which will attract insects, the major diet component of pheasant chicks. Additionally, the mix will provide needed cover during spring and summer, as well as a winter food source. Other wildlife species also will benefit from this mix.

"In the past, Game and Fish food plots have been mostly tied to a Private Land Open to Sportsmen walking access contract," said Kevin Kading, Game and Fish private land section leader. "This new promotion does not require a PLOTS contract, but we are asking participating landowners to allow reasonable public access, which could mean simply providing access permission to hunters from time to time, putting up 'Ask Before You Enter' signs around the area or not posting the surrounding land."

Landowners participating in the promotion cannot charge a fee for hunting, Kading said. Game and Fish will provide enough seed to cover up to a maximum 5-acre planting at no cost to the landowner.

Landowners who are interested in receiving the food plot seed must sign up on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov by March 31. Seed will be available in April for participants to pick up at Game and Fish offices in Bismarck and Dickinson, N.D., this first year.

In future years, seed for this promotion may be available at other locations in the state.

Game and Fish private land biologists can provide technical assistance on food plot location and site preparation.

Landowners who are interested in additional financial incentives may be considered for the PLOTS program, as well. For more information, contact a private land biologist at any Game and Fish office or email the department at ndgf@nd.gov.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

NDGF seeks entries for Earth Day patch

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department's annual Earth Day awareness campaign is accepting entries for design of a 2019 Earth Day patch. North Dakota students ages 6 to 18 are eligible to participate. The deadline to submit entries is March 15.

Game and Fish will announce a winner in three age categories—6-9, 10-13 and 14-18. Each winner will receive a pair of binoculars. The final patch design will be chosen from the three winners.

The winning design will be used on a patch given to members of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs and any school participating in Earth Day cleanup projects on state-owned or managed lands in North Dakota in April and May.

The patch should incorporate some aspect of Earth Day — celebrated April 22 — or keeping North Dakota clean. It must be round and 3 inches in diameter. There is a limit of five colors on the patch, and lettering must be printed. Name, address, age and phone number of the contestant must be clearly printed on the entry form. Only one entry per person is allowed.

Contest rules and entry forms are available on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov. For more information, contact outreach biologist Pat Lothspeich by email at ndgf@nd.gov or call (701) 328-6332.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department