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Watts Lake Renovated to Improve Fishery

Watts Lake, foreground, has been renovated to improve the fishery. (NEBRASKAland/Eric Fowler)
Watts Lake, foreground, has been renovated to improve the fishery. (NEBRASKAland/Eric Fowler)

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.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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