The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission completed a fish renovation at Watts Lake on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge on March 27 to address an unbalanced fish population triggered by drought conditions in 2012.
Fisheries biologist Zac Brashears of Valentine said lower water levels that year caused a partial winterkill in Watts and prompted the problems with the fishery. The primary goal of the renovation was to remove unwanted fish species such as common carp, northern pike and black bullhead.
Plans are to restock the lake this spring and summer with black crappies, largemouth bass, bluegills and yellow perch. He expects the fishery to rebound quickly with harvest-worthy fish in three to five years.
Nine lakes are open to fishing on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. They are Watts, Hackberry, Dewey, Clear, Willow, Duck, Rice, West Long, and Pelican.
Another renovation project occurred in 2014 at Rat and Beaver lakes, just south of the refuge. Yellow perch, bluegills, crappies and largemouth bass were stocked there late last year and Brashears expects them to become large enough to pursue for harvest in a couple of years.