North Dakota Banner Banner - visit
North Dakota Legendary - visit

A Look Back

Article By 
Ron Wilson

When the conditions call for it, no snow and solid ice, donning ice skates for a day of ice fishing makes a certain amount of sense. Even so, it's still not something you see every day.

These unidentified anglers, who also employed long, open-water fishing rods, which is another thing you don't see routinely during the ice fishing season in North Dakota, were photographed on January 14, 1968.

The date is important because it marks just the second year this popular fishery, Sweet Briar Dam, was open to fishing.


Originally dubbed Sweet Briar Lake, this fishery was created with the construction of Interstate 94 west of Mandan. Engineers at the time determined the location of the highway crossing of Sweet Briar Creek appeared to be a good site for the dam.

While the road and dam were completed in 1964, anglers weren't able to fish Sweet Briar's waters until 1966. Rainbow trout were stocked, along with walleye fingerlings and adult bluegill.

"Opening day of the 1966 fishing season at Sweet Briar was a gratifying one to both fishermen and fishery managers. Thousands of fishermen caught 10- to 14-inch rainbow trout and limits were the rule. The high rate of catch extended into the summer, slackened during early July and August and resumed during late summer and fall. While creel census data is lacking for the reservoir, it undoubtedly produced as many fish per acre as any comparable area in North Dakota. Maintenance of this high catch rate is not feasible, but angling should produce good results for a number of years," wrote Dale Henegar, Game and Fish Department fisheries chief, in the October 1966 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS.

North Dakota Governor William L. Guy added in the same issue: "Sweet Briar Lake is a dramatic example of how to fill the gap that exists in North Dakota between the demand for recreation and the facilities that are available. I doubt that anyone who planned this wonderful water impoundment project ever dreamed of the instant popularity that the lake would have on opening day. It is not only a favorite fishing spot close to an urban area, but it is a beautiful change in the prairie scenery for those traveling on Interstate 94."