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Doug Leier: Advances in technology enhance management potential for Game and Fish fisheries biologist [Grand Forks Herald :: BC-OTD-LEIER-COLUMN:GF]

Anglers continue to enjoy rapid improvements in technology, from the affordability and accuracy of electronics for depth and fish finders to improvements in lithium ion batteries for ice augers.

While not as obvious to anglers, technology and creative management is improving fisheries research and helping Game and Fish Department biologists develop new fishing waters or enhance existing ones.

Many of these advances were featured in the March-April 2017 issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine, with excerpts highlighted below.

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Management

_Biologists now can determine if young-of-the-year walleye collected in fall reproduction surveys originated from a hatchery or were naturally reproduced. This analytical method helps biologists further refine future stocking rates and locations.

_Fisheries biologists for years have stocked some fish species in unique waters to create distinctive fishing opportunities. For instance, Game and Fish has stocked the Turtle River in eastern North Dakota with rainbow trout for the past 20 years, providing a distinctive fishery found nowhere else in the state. In addition, channel catfish (mostly 1- to 2- pound fish) are routinely transported from the Missouri River System, where the species is extremely abundant, and stocked into many small community fisheries scattered around the state.

_For fish tagging studies, fisheries staff have improved tagging methods by switching, in many cases, to metal jaw tags. These tags are easier to install and, most importantly, have high retention rates compared to plastic tags attached to a fish's dorsal fin or back.

_Dissolved oxygen (and other water quality parameters) monitoring in lakes is now more efficient with newer optic meters and membrane units. Reliable data is now collected instantaneously.

_Staff have experimented with smaller gillnets and are using them more for fish sampling on district lakes. These shorter nets provide better statistical data, with reduced fish mortality.

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Production

_The use of fish pumps to load larger trout into transport trucks, plus other actions, have assisted in maximizing daily loads, thus reducing miles driven to deliver fish.

_The department uses experienced, dedicated drivers to run the long routes to get fish where they need to go for stocking.

_Modern and highly efficient equipment is used to transport fish. For example, real-time oxygen monitors have improved the quality of fish stocked, as distribution drivers can adjust oxygen levels continuously. In the past, drivers had to stop numerous times, use a hand-held monitor to test the oxygen and then make manual adjustments. Monitoring equipment has helped increase the number and pounds of fish transported without changing the size of the tanks.

_Using GPS technology to easily find all stocking locations has greatly enhanced fish delivery. Today, significantly more lakes can be stocked in less time and with fewer drivers.

_Working with local entities, the Game and Fish Department has redesigned the fish cleaning station table/grinder units. About a dozen or so of these new units have been installed, with no operational issues to date. These new stations are expected to last twice as long as the old stations.

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