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Lake Oahe Fish Numbers Recovering From Flood

January 14, 2013, 5:29 AM by Austin Hoffman

Lake Oahe Fish Numbers Recovering From Flood
PIERRE, SD -

2011 brought a record amount of water down the Missouri River. And while there are still some people working to rebuild their flood-damaged homes, life for the most part has returned back to normal. But just below the surface, it's a different story.

"It's unbelievable from the height that it was, almost overflowing the emergency spillway gates in 2011, it's drained down to a level you can not believe. All in one year," Carl's Bait Shop Owner Dan Miller said.

Miller says the river is now around eight to 12 feet below where it normally is. But it was when it peaked that the damage was done.

"As high as 92 percent of the smelt went out of Lake Oahe. Now some came through from North Dakota and helped reduce that loss and the fish.  As far as I'm concerned, we are in pretty good shape yet," Miller said.

Miller says the walleye on Lake Oahe that are between 15 and 20 inches are doing well.  But some of the larger fish are still pretty skinny. And while the loss of bait fish was a year-and-a-half ago, their numbers are still not back to normal.

"Nature has a way of helping things fast if, and this is if, the Corps maintains the water level steady or even increasing during the fish spawn and the smelt spawn, it could recover within a year or at the most two years. But if they drain it as the smelt are trying to spawn then we're just going backwards," Miller said.

But he says even with the change in levels and the loss of bait fish, it's still a great time to throw in a line and try your luck.

“You better believe it,” Miller said.

Limits have also recently changed on Lake Oahe. You can now keep eight walleye a day, four of them under 15 inches and four that are between 15 and 19 inches with one of them being more than 20 inches.

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