Catching catfish – and tagging catfish

I had a chance to spend a few hours on the Red River near Selkirk, Man., on Monday afternoon with Mark Pegg, a fish ecologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is faculty adviser for a channel catfish study underway on the Canadian portion of Red River.

Mark Pegg, a professor and fish ecologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, holds a hefty channel cat after tagging it Monday on the Red River near Selkirk, Man. (Brad Dokken photo)

Mark Pegg, a professor and fish ecologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, holds a hefty channel cat after tagging it Monday on the Red River near Selkirk, Man. (Brad Dokken photo)

Manitoba and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are coordinating the study in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Pegg, who is spending the summer in Manitoba helping to tag channel catfish for the study, tied up to our boat Monday afternoon while a couple of friends and I were fishing. Despite the sweltering heat, the catfish were surprisingly cooperative, and 15 catfish now sport the orange-colored tags behind the dorsal fins as a result of our time with Pegg.

Under Pegg's guidance, Brad Durick (left) of Grand Forks tags a channel catfish Monday on the Red River near Selkirk, Man. (Brad Dokken photo)

Under Pegg’s guidance, Brad Durick (left) of Grand Forks tags a channel catfish Monday on the Red River near Selkirk, Man. (Brad Dokken photo)

He even let Grand Forks catfish guide Brad Durick, who joined me on the trek north, tag several cats. Durick has documented nearly a dozen of the catfish tagged in Manitoba after catching the fish here in Grand Forks. That means the catfish have traveled upwards of 300 river miles from where they were tagged.

Durick and Pegg had corresponded by email about the study and our planned trip north, so the meeting wasn’t coincidental. Durick also caught one of the tagged Manitoba fish while we visited with Pegg. He probably should have bought a lottery ticket that day.

Since launching the study in 2012, Pegg says he and a handful of Nebraska students working on the project have tagged some 13,000 channel catfish along the Manitoba portion of the Red from the mouth near Lake Winnipeg to the border at Emerson, Man. DNR fisheries crews also tagged about 500 catfish on the U.S. portion of the Red this summer as part of the same study Pegg is advising.

An Iowa native, Pegg says the size and quality of the Red River’s channel cats has spoiled him for fishing catfish anywhere else.

Pegg says plans also are in the works to install transmitters in a small sample of the Canadian catfish — perhaps 12 to 15 to start with — in an effort to learn even more about where they travel. The Minnesota DNR coordinated a similar catfish telemetry study in the late 1990s, but this will be the first project since then looking at movements of fish in the lower Red River.

I’ll have an update on the tagging study and our time on the water with Pegg in Sunday’s Northland Outdoors section.

N.D. Game and Fish sets fall small game, furbearer regulations

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department released its small game and furbearer regulations this morning, and most are similar to last year. Prairie chicken and sage grouse seasons again will be because of low populations.

Season dates and regulations for most of North Dakota's upland and small game seasons are similar to last year.

Season dates and regulations for most of North Dakota’s upland and small game seasons are similar to last year.

Also as in recent years, only North Dakota residents can hunt waterfowl from Sept. 26 through Oct. 2. Nonresidents can hunt waterfowl in North Dakota beginning Oct. 3. Game and Fish will finalize other waterfowl season details in mid-August in the waterfowl amendment to the small game and furbearer proclamation.

Here’s a look at this year’s season dates and bag limits:

  • Crows (fall): Aug. 15-Nov. 2; no daily or possession limit.
  • Early Canada goose: Aug. 15-Sept. 15 (Sept. 7 Missouri River Zone); 15 daily, 45 in possession.
  • Mountain lion Zone 1 early (zone quota 14): Sept. 4-Nov. 22 (or when zone quota is reached). Season limit of 1 per hunter.
  • Mountain lion Zone 1 late (zone quota 7): Nov. 23-March 31 (or when zone quota is reached); season limit of 1 per hunter.
  • Dove: Sept. 1-Nov. 9; 15 daily, 45 in possession.
  • Mountain lion Zone 2: Sept. 4-March 31; season limit of one per hunter.
  • Hungarian partridge: Sept. 12-Jan. 3; three daily, 12 in possession.
  • Sharp-tailed grouse: Sept. 12-Jan. 3; three daily, 12 in possession.
  • Ruffed grouse: Sept. 12-Jan. 3; three daily, 12 in possession.
  • Tree squirrels: Sept. 12-Jan. 3; four daily, 12 in possession.
  • Sandhill crane Unit 1: Sept. 19-Nov. 15; three daily, nine in possession.
  • Sandhill crane Unit 2: Sept. 19-Nov. 15; two daily, six in possession.
  • Snipe: Sept. 19-Dec. 6; eight daily, 24 in possession.
  • Woodcock: Sept. 26-Nov. 9; three daily, nine in possession.
  • Tundra swan: Oct. 3-Jan. 3; season limit of one per hunter (license issued by lottery).
  • Pheasants: Oct. 10-Jan. 3; three daily, 12 in possession.
  • Weasel trapping: Oct. 24-March 15.
  • Mink, muskrat trapping: Oct. 24-May 10.
  • Fisher trapping: Nov. 23-Nov. 29; season limit of one per trapper.

Hunters should refer to the North Dakota 2015-16 Small Game and Furbearer guides (available mid-August) for more details on small game and furbearer seasons. Waterfowl regulations will be available in early September. More information is available here.

Audubon Dakota names Kellys Slough NWR as ‘Important Bird Area’

Add Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge to the list of North Dakota lands recognized as “Important Bird Areas” in the state by Audubon Dakota.

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Three ducks make their way across Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge on a calm April morning in this photo shared by David Hanson of Grand Forks. The refuge west of Grand Forks has been named by Audubon Dakota as an Important Bird Area in the state.

Matt VanThuyne, manager of Kellys Slough, sent me a news release this morning about the designation. Kellys Slough joins the Oakville/Fairfield prairies in Grand Forks County and the Grand Forks Greenway on the list of Audubon Dakota’s “Important Bird Areas.”

Sites are designated based on their bird species diversity and significant breeding bird numbers.

“The sheer volume of songbirds, waterfowl and other avian species that use this area is just incredible,” Marshall Johnson, executive director of Audubon Dakota, said in a news release. “The presence of such abundant bird life speaks volumes about the ongoing management and partnerships with private cooperators that make these areas so vibrant.”

Reasons for listing Kellys Slough as an IBA included:

  • Use of the area by more than 50 different species of birds including greater prairie chickens, dickcissels and northern pintails.
  • Important habitat conservation and management practices that aid migrating and resident avian populations.

Audubon Dakota has identified 39 sites across the state as IBAs, six of which are recognized for their global importance.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is honored to have Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge recognized in this way by Audubon,” VanThuyne said in a statement. “The refuge is a truly unique place in the Red River Valley, and we are very proud of its role in providing critical habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.”