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Free Apps for the Angler's Tackle Box

Article By 
Luann Dart

North Dakota anglers can snag various map applications on their smartphones or other mobile devices by adding the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website to their tackle boxes.

Software applications, or apps, designed to operate on smartphones, tablet computers or other mobile devices with Internet access, can be accessed for free from the website, providing information on everything from up-to-date fishery reports and boat ramp access, to the location of the nearest fish cleaning station.

“You open the door to free public access to this information,” says Jerry Weigel, Game and Fish Department fisheries production and development section supervisor. “It’s putting the product in the angler’s hands without them having to pay for anything and giving them lots of options. It’s a real easy way to access that data.”

Various fishing-related maps are available on the Department’s website, from simplistic downloadable PDFs to interactive maps.

“We’re trying to accommodate a variety of users by giving them a flavor of whatever they like,” said Brian Hosek, Department GIS manager.

Start at, the Game and Fish Department’s website.

There, the Department offers a variety of Web-based maps. Other than the traditional browser experience, these maps are also available on smartphone apps in the Apple app store, Google Play store and Windows phone store. These apps offer additional features, including location GPS services.

For a quick look at the maps most utilized, click on “Map Index” and scroll down to the “Fisheries and Boating” heading, where fishing waters contour maps and boating access maps are available in simple PDFs or Web map formats.

Click on “Fishing Waters Contour Maps” to access information on more than 200 different lakes in North Dakota. For example, click on Lake Tschida (Heart Butte Reservoir) in Grant County and you’ll get the latest fishing status: “Dominated by small walleye, but some up to 10 pounds, 2-5 pound northern pike, white bass up to 2 pounds, catfish up to 10 pounds and smallmouth bass up to 2 pounds. Some perch up to 1 pound, crappie up to 2 pounds and small bluegill. Many large buffalo present.”

With another click, get a contour map of the lake.

A boating access map shows boating access locations and descriptions across the state by clicking on that area’s icon.

“That’s where the simplistic Web maps are very helpful. They reach those folks who want that one-click experience,” Hosek said.


The Game and Fish Department’s interactive map services provide a vast amount of data and functionality all through the Web browser. Users can customize maps using the various tools provided in the application. Or they can simply display or print the desired map.

“The nice feature about these is you can look at them through the browser or you can bring many of these maps up on your mobile devices,” Hosek said.

Click on “Map Service Applications” and “ND Game and Fish ArcGIS Online Site.” Go to the top of the page and click on “Gallery,” where you’ll find about 15 fishing-related Web-based maps and interactive maps viewable on mobile devices or a desktop, including:

Fish Stocking History – Includes the past five years of Department stocking information, such as the lake name, stocking date, species, stock size and total stocked. Click on the stocking icon and use the scroll button to get the complete stocking information.

Missouri River System and Devils Lake Boat Ramps – Includes active, usable ramps on the Missouri River, Upper Missouri River, Yellowstone River, Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe, Devils Lake and Stump Lake. Additional information includes lake name, location and general area, type of ramp, year constructed and handicap accessibility.

Fishery Status and Driving Directions – Provides a complete list of active North Dakota fishing waters. Click on the fish icon to get driving directions and the current status of the fishery for the season.

Lake Contours – Includes all active, Department-managed fishing waters and lake bathymetry (contours) for more than 200 lakes. Additional information includes lake surface acres, top three sport fish, driving directions, current status of the fishery for the season and, if available, a link to a printable fishing contour map.

Fishing Piers – Contains active, usable Department-managed public fishing piers. Additional information includes lake name, type of pier and year constructed.

Fishing Facilities – Contains active, usable Department-managed public fishing facilities, including boat ramps, courtesy docks, fishing piers, vault toilets and fish cleaning stations. Additional information includes lake name, type and category of facility, year constructed and handicap accessibility.

Boating Access – Includes all active, usable ramps of North Dakota boating access sites. Additional information includes lake name, location and general area, type of ramp, year constructed and handicap accessibility.

Using the interactive map applications, users can interact with the map features and customize the maps they desire.

“Those applications tend to have more functionality. They offer a rich user experience with additional tools and widgets,” Hosek said.

Offering real-time data is one advantage to the maps, Weigel said. “So when the consumers are hitting that app, they’re getting the most up-to-date information.”

And the information is available 24/7.

For example, the boating access app shares any limited access during flooding, drought or ice jams. Users can check on the status of a ramp before driving to the destination and finding it closed, Hosek said.

The website also includes maps to upload onto GPS units, offering information on fishing facilities and lake contours. Install the ESRI ArcGIS app available on the website for location services on a smartphone.

“Once you’re on that lake, you have no way to know for certain you’re over a spot that the map shows. When it’s real-time on your phone, you can turn on the GPS and the GPS will show you if you’re there or not,” Weigel said.

“We attempt to make these maps as dynamic as possible. There’s a lot of information out there,” Hosek added.

The apps and maps certainly offer another advantage in hooking a whopper.

“It provides a lot of things that once were a big mystery,” Weigel said.

LUANN DART is a freelance writer from Elgin, North Dakota.