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Matters of Opinion

Article By 
Terry Steinwand



With about week remaining in March, ice anglers are getting in their last licks on lakes across the state, and according to reports, the fishing is pretty darn good.

Even so, the carrot at the end of the stick is the open water fishing season in North Dakota. The March-April issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS is a marker of sorts that the fishing season is upon us.

In this issue, you’ll find, among other things, an enhanced fishing waters review, provided by Department fisheries supervisors, for most managed fisheries in the state.

Terry Steinwand

These short looks into waters found statewide are not all-inclusive, but they do help frame an angler’s expectations before he or she ever leaves the house.

Because there are more than double the number of managed fisheries in North Dakota today (about 420) than, say, 20 years ago, fisheries biologists don’t have the inside information on every fishery. There are just too many for Game and Fish Department staff to investigate every year. Yet, when you think about it, that is something we can live with because it solidifies the fact that there are many, many places today in North Dakota to fish.

Keep in mind, if there are any changes, insights, into any of the 400-plus managed waters, timely updates can be found on the Game and Fish Department’s website at

Speaking of the website, anglers can also get up-to-date information on new fishing regulations and review the 2014-16 North Dakota Fishing Guide, which is also available at Game and Fish Department offices and license vendors throughout the state.

The Department’s website is a valuable tool, no matter if it’s the hunting or fishing season. The site features contour maps for many of the state’s fishing waters, fishing ramp access sites on the Missouri River and Devils Lake, the list goes on.

This is great time of year as we put winter behind us and ease into the fishing season. I know that I’m not the only person who thinks this way because fishing is a big deal in North Dakota, as about 30 percent of its citizens wet a line annually. And that percentage continues to climb.

After years of rising water and aggressive fish management in a record number of lakes, more than 218,000 fishing licenses were sold in 2012-13 in North Dakota, which was 20 percent higher than the previous record set in 1982. Department statistics also revealed that a total of 159,000 resident fishing licenses were sold during that time, which also broke the record set three decades ago.

While Lake Sakakawea, Devils Lake and Lake Oahe/Missouri River receive the bulk of the fishing pressure most every year, there are a lot of waters spread throughout North Dakota that offer wonderful fishing opportunities. Nowadays, with so many managed fishing lakes in the state, a person doesn’t have to travel far to fish.

With so many lakes at our fishing disposal today, I encourage you to take a kid, neighbor, family member or friend fishing on one of these nearby lakes. Introduce someone, anyone to one of North Dakota’s great outdoor experiences.