It’s been one of those years so far, starting with a mild winter in the southern part of the state and a long winter in the northern half. It looked like we were heading into a dry spell and then the skies opened up. In other words, normal for North Dakota.
We’ll have to wait and see how the weather pattern has affected our fish and wildlife populations. We already know that deer populations were affected in the northern half of the state by a solid winter that hung around for months. What we don’t know at this point, and likely won’t for a month or so, is how the wet spring affected our upland game bird populations. Heavy rains undoubtedly created a situation where pheasants in some areas were forced to abandon nests and had to renest. If we continue with seasonable temperatures and precipitation they should do fine.
The beneficiary of both winter and the high precipitation pattern has been the fisheries. Statewide, fisheries are in very good shape in terms of water levels and fish populations. The Game and Fish Department is managing a record number of fisheries and most are producing some pretty good fishing. This won’t last forever, but it sure looks like it’s going to last for another few years.
These fisheries are a product of a number of years with above average precipitation. When water levels climb, Department fisheries crews immediately jump to provide fishing opportunities for the public. And they’ve done a lot of jumping the last few years.
Along with the creation and management of a fishery comes the work of assuring that there is adequate access, be it by boat or shore. This work is coordinated, and at times implemented, by a small collection of Game and Fish staff. But it also couldn’t be accomplished without the cooperation of local park boards, county commissions, hunting and fishing groups and others. So it truly is a coordinated and collaborative effort.
We’re well into the fishing season and I’ve heard some good fishing stories to date. As usual, the Missouri River outside of Bismarck started with a bang, but has since quieted down, which is typical, but will likely continue with the forage deficiency.
Many of the smaller lakes had good pike fishing and I’ve heard that walleye fishing has been pretty good, but inconsistent, in the lower third of Lake Sakakawea. And while I haven’t heard anything yet, I have to believe the catfish bite on the Red River is underway.
My point is that North Dakota offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities. You just have to take the time to go out and experience it.
As most readers know, the deer gun and muzzleloader drawing deadline was in early June. Hopefully you submitted your deer application on time and, if so, good luck. Rebuilding the deer herd so most hunters can get a deer license in the future is a challenge. We need a combination of good habitat and relatively mild winters to get us to that goal.
Favorable weather and quality habitat are also critical in building North Dakota’s upland game bird populations for the coming fall hunting season and autumns to follow.
As always, this is going to be a good summer so get out and enjoy the great fishing North Dakota has to offer. Fall, and a host of hunting opportunities, will be here soon enough. No matter the season, it’s all about spending some time in the great North Dakota outdoors.