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Game and Fish work at fever pitch in spring

For anglers and hunters May is a transition time. Sports shows and annual club banquets wrap up, snow geese have long since moved into Canada and anticipation for summer builds.

For anglers and hunters May is a transition time. Sports shows and annual club banquets wrap up, snow geese have long since moved into Canada and anticipation for summer builds.

We begin to wonder what will fishing be like? Will this be the summer I get out as much as I think I should? Weather, and more realistically, how many weddings and family events are already etched onto the calendar, answer those questions.

While North Dakota Game and Fish Department personnel face the same everyday commitments, work during May is at a fever pitch. Here's a look inside the daily grind for department fisheries and wildlife personnel where time is at a premium each spring.

Fisheries Division

Gene Van Eeckhout steers the ship for the Jamestown office of the Game and Fish fisheries division. In spring, busy is an understatement.

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Fisheries work depends on water temperature and weather. One year, spring may come in late March, the next year ice-out may delay well into April. Like a farmer planning spring work, it doesn't matter where you write it on the calendar, Mother Nature may have her own plans. When spring finally arrives it's a race to complete all assignments.

For example, crews may set nets in Lake Ashtabula to gather northern pike eggs that become fingerlings stocked in June. Then they might travel hundreds of miles to Mooreton Pond near Wahpeton to check the results of a test netting that will help determine future management decisions.

Weather plays a big part and, so far this spring for a change, things are on course.

"We were fortunate enough to have a really good catch on the north end of Lake Ashtabula, where normally it takes a couple weeks to fill our quota for northern eggs," Van Eeckhout said. "This year we finished up in just four days. It's nice to get ahead of the game even if a couple bad days will put us right back at square one."

Stocking is important to maintaining some of North Dakota's popular fisheries, so a successful spring effort goes along way to ensure the future of fishing in many waters.

"While it seems quite chaotic, in the end we are usually very happy with how our springs turn out," Van Eeckhout said.

Wildlife Division

With hunting seasons months away, one would never guess just how busy spring is for the Game and Fish Department's wildlife division. Spring preparation work, however, is a buzz of activity.

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From the Jamestown district office, Brian Kietzman supervises work on wildlife management areas in 13 counties in southeastern North Dakota.

"With more than 22,000 acres in 41 different tracts, our three full-time staff are stretched pretty thin this time of year," states Kietzman.

It begins with sharp-tailed grouse census work. Biologists spend many early mornings monitoring leks, or grouse dancing grounds. These are sites where male and female birds gather during spring mating rituals. Numbers from this year are compared with past data to determine population shifts.

"I have one site with eight lek's near Johnson's Gulch on the South Dakota border," Kietzman said. "We try to observe sites three separate times and must be on a site before sunrise and it's 100 miles one way. Add into the equation a need for perfect weather -- no rain and little wind -- and the timing is hit and miss."

Spring also brings crowing counts for estimating pheasant populations, along with general maintenance and improvement projects on managed lands. It 's easy to see that time is a major obstacle.

"We have more than 1,500 signs to put up, 20 new Coverlocks tracts to get seeded, not to mention tree plantings and prescribed burns" Kietzman concluded.

Boat registration

I've been inundated with boat registration inquiries.

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Boat registration is different from registering a motor vehicle, depending on the state in which you register your boat. Boats and personal watercraft must be registered in the state where they are primarily used.

If you live in Fargo or anywhere in North Dakota, and use your boat primarily in Minnesota waters, you must register your vessel in Minnesota.

All North Dakota registrations are handled by the Game and Fish Department office in Bismarck. If you have misplaced or need a new registration application, one may be downloaded from our Website at www.discovernd.com/gnf or call (701) 328-6300 and an application will be mailed out.

Leier, an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at (701) 277-0719 or at dleier@state.nd.us

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