North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel have wrapped up surveys and sampling efforts for the open water season, and results point toward good conditions on the state’s big waters.
“Fishing in North Dakota continues to be record-setting on most all levels,” said Greg Power, fisheries chief. “A record number of fishing lakes has contributed considerably to the record number of fishing licenses sold in recent years.”
North Dakota’s three big fisheries – Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe/Missouri River and Devils Lake – continue to account for approximately half of the annual statewide fishing effort.
Good habitat and forage conditions in Lake Sakakawea have resulted in an abundance of rainbow smelt and other alternative forage, which in turn has contributed to excellent condition and growth of game fish. Walleye numbers are high, and recruitment of several strong year classes in recent years bodes well for the future. In addition, a good population of northern pike should produce some of trophy quality.
Overall health of the Devils Lake fishery remains good. Walleye abundance is strong and anglers fishing for walleye this winter should expect similar numbers and size fish as compared to recent years. Northern pike are still plentiful with a nice average weight of about four pounds. The number of catchable-sized perch available is down from 2013 but still should be considered good. Anglers will notice fewer of the large 12-14 inch perch this winter.
The Missouri River between Garrison Dam and Lake Oahe is still under the influence of habitat changes caused by the flood in 2011. Walleye numbers remain low, and walleye reproduction and forage fish production have been poor in recent years. However, the outlook has greatly improved in Lake Oahe, especially near the South Dakota border where recovering forage populations have led to improvements in walleye condition and growth. In addition, northern pike are in good shape, with many of trophy size.