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Ice Fishing Under the Radar

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Article By 
Ron Wilson
Under the Radar
 

North Dakota has never been in this position. Never before has the state been blessed with so many fishing waters and so many fish.

Many lakes, however, will go mostly unnoticed this winter as ice anglers stick to traditional fishing routines or simply trail rumors of the latest hot bite.

What follows is a list of lakes, and an accompanying map, of waters that typically fly under the ice fishing radar, yet have strong fish populations and the potential to provide good fishing.

According to Greg Power, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries chief, some of the lakes are large, while many are much smaller. Some are well-known for summer fishing, while others have names you’ve maybe never heard.

“What they all have in common, but perhaps for different reasons, are healthy fish populations that have received little ice fishing pressure in the past,” Power said.

Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said because North Dakota has a history of more drought than flood, biologists understand the fishing opportunities in these waters and others are only temporary.

“When water started coming back in 2009, we saw new lakes form and older lakes recharge,” Gangl said. “We took advantage of this by adding fish to lakes, but in the back of our minds we were thinking that some of these lakes are going to be around longer than others.”

Some of those here-today-gone-tomorrow waters have made this list because their future is uncertain, but support strong fish populations today.

“It’s going to dry up some day, and some of these waters may only be around for a few more years,” Power said. “We encourage anglers to give them a try today.”

On larger bodies of water such as the 7,000-acre Horsehead Lake in Kidder County and Bowman-Haley Dam in southwestern North Dakota, there are no worries of too much fishing pressure.

“These lakes and a few others could certainly handle lots of ice fishing attention … there are no worries of overharvest because of their size and historic lack of use,” Power said. “Big or small, the underlying message in all the lakes is that they all have strong fish populations.”

 

When the lakes do freeze, providing safe access to anglers, the majority – about 94 percent during any given winter – are out to catch walleye, pike or yellow perch.

“Right now, we have all-time high populations in district lakes for pike, walleye, and nearly so for yellow perch,” Power said.

Knock on wood in hopes that ice anglers can take advantage of the good fishing opportunities because you just never know. In three of the last five winters, too much snow made access to lakes around the state difficult, if not impossible in places.

During three consecutive winters, starting in 2008, only 13 percent of the statewide effort was attributed to ice fishing. The last two winters when snow conditions were more tolerable, 22 percent of the fishing effort was attributed to ice anglers.

“There is a bit of tradition, an ice fishing heritage in North Dakota,” Power said. “If there is access and the fish are biting, the anglers will come.”

Darkhouse Spearfishing

Darkhouse spearfishing has grown in popularity and is open virtually statewide. There is only a short list of waters where the activity is prohibited.

Darkhouse spearfishing is legal from December 1 through March 15. All waters open to hook and line fishing are open to darkhouse spearfishing except the following waters:

  • Braun Lake, Logan County
  • East Park Lake, McLean County
  • Heckers Lake, Sheridan County
  • Lake Audubon, McLean County
  • McClusky Canal
  • New Johns Lake, Burleigh County
  • Red and Bois de Sioux rivers
  • Red Willow Lake, Griggs County
  • Sweet Briar Dam, Morton County
  • West Park Lake, McLean County

In addition to possessing a valid fishing license, all darkhouse spearfishng participants must first register on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, or through any Game and Fish office.

 

Y Bone Help

Northern pike populations have never been higher in North Dakota and Game and Fish Department officials encourage anglers to take advantage of the fishing opportunities while they exist.

While there is more than one way to remove bones from pike, visit gnf/fishing/docs/pikeyboneremoval.pdf, for a fish cleaning method that has worked for a number of anglers. A printed copy of Removing the Y Bones From Northern Pike can also be ordered online free at gfapps.nd.gov/Publications/RequestPublications.asp

Pike Limit

Whether you’re pulling northern pike by hook and line through an ice hole or on the end of a spear, you’re reminded that the daily limit for pike is five fish and the possession limit is 10.

 

Overlooked Waters

Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists provided the following list of “under the radar” waters that could offer some good ice fishing opportunities this winter. These waters, for various reasons, often go unnoticed by anglers, but have strong fish populations.

The waters are listed in alphabetical order and driving directions and county are provided. The number in parenthesis that follows each lake name is simply code used by biologists to help identify those waters. The codes are also found on the map to help readers locate the waters in which they are interested.

 
  • Baumgartner Lake (529) – 6 miles south of Linton. Northern pike abundant. (Emmons County)
  • Big Mallard Marsh (599) – 9 miles north, 1 mile east of Woodworth. Mostly medium-sized walleye. Pike not as abundant. (Stutsman County)
  • Bowman-Haley Dam (085) – 11 miles south, 8 miles east, 2 miles south of Bowman. Dominated by walleye, some up to 6 pounds, northern pike up to 10 pounds and smallmouth bass up to 3 pounds. Some yellow perch up to 2 pounds and small white bass. (Bowman County)
  • Brekken Lake (232) – 1.5 miles north of Turtle Lake. Very good population of 8- to 11-inch perch. Good numbers of smaller walleye, with some larger 16- to 18-inch fish. (McLean County)
  • Carpenter Lake (291) – 12 miles west of St. John. Supports a good pike population, even during tough winters. Most fish less than 5 pounds. (Rolette County)
  • Cottonwood Lake (381) – 1 mile east, .5 miles north of Alamo. Good numbers of northern pike and fair numbers of yellow perch, although most of the perch are fairly small. (Williams County)
  • Davis WPA (598) – 8 miles south, 1 mile east of Denhoff. Abundant yellow perch, with some quality-sized fish. Walleye population expanding in recent years, with a good number of 14- to 16-inch fish. (Sheridan County)
  • Gascoyne Lake (086) – 1.5 miles northwest of Gascoyne. Northern pike are stocked annually and pike up to 4 pounds present. (Bowman County)
  • Goose Lake (501) – 3 miles east of Braddock. Northern pike and yellow perch abundant. (Emmons County)
  • Lake Harriet (Arena Lake) (610) – 8 miles west, 1 mile south of Tuttle. Northern pike abundant and yellow perch present. (Burleigh County)
  • Heart Butte Reservoir (Lake Tschida) (160) – 15 miles south of Glen Ullin. Dominated by small walleye, but some up to 10 pounds, 2- to 5-pound northern pike, white bass up to 2 pounds, catfish up to 10 pounds and smallmouth bass up to 2 pounds. Some yellow perch up to 1 pound, crappie up to 2 pounds and small bluegill.
  • Hoggarth Dam (576) – 3 miles west, 3 miles south of Courtenay. Excellent population of 6- to 11-inch yellow perch. (Stutsman County)
  • Holmes Lake (455) – 1 mile northeast of Turtle Lake. Good numbers of 7- to 11-inch yellow perch. Fair number of 14- to 16-inch walleye. (McLean County)
  • Homestead Lake (696) – 8 miles south, 8 miles east, 2 miles north of Wishek. Northern pike abundant. Yellow perch also present. (McIntosh County)
  • Horsehead Lake (594) – 2 miles west, 6 miles south of Robinson. Northern pike population recovering and once again offers good fishing opportunities. (Kidder County)
  • Island Lake (672) – 3 miles south, .5 miles east of Urbana. Walleye up to 15 inches and small yellow perch. (Barnes County)
  • Jake’s Lake (527) – 13 miles south, 1 mile east of Strasburg. Northern pike abundant. (Emmons County)
  • Kee Lake (606) – 7 miles south, 2 miles east of Eckelson. Yellow perch up to 14 inches. Walleye up to 17 inches. (Barnes County)
  • Koenig North (676) – 12.25 miles north, 1.5 miles east of Robinson. Multiple year-classes of yellow perch present. (Kidder County)
  • Koenig South (677) – 12.25 miles north, 1.5 miles east of Robinson. Multiple year-classes of yellow perch present. (Kidder County)
  • Larson Lake (173) – .5 miles north and 2 miles east of Regent. Abundant northern pike up to 4 pounds. Some yellow perch up to a half-pound. (Hettinger County)
  • Leno Lake (604) – 1 mile east, 7 miles north of Tuttle. Northern pike abundant. (Kidder County)
  • Lesmeister Lake (692) – 3.5 miles west, 2 miles south of intersection of ND highways 3 and 19. New walleye lake with a good number of 13- to 16-inch walleye. (Pierce County)
  • Lindemann Lake (703) – 2 miles east, 2 miles north, .5 miles west of Enderlin. Walleye up to 16 inches. Good yellow perch population. (Cass County)
  • Logan (Mueller) WMA (613) – 8 miles north, 5 miles west, 1 mile south of Lehr. Walleye abundant. Low numbers of yellow perch. (Logan County)
  • Makoti Lake (365) – 6 miles south of Makoti. Good numbers of 24-inch northern pike and 8-inch yellow perch. (Ward County)
  • Meadow Lake (565) – 6 miles west, 6 miles north of Litchville. Yellow perch up to 14 inches. (Barnes County)
  • Miller Lake (315) – 7.5 miles east, 2.5 miles south of Lehr. Northern pike abundant, with fish occasionally topping 8 pounds. Fair numbers of yellow perch. (McIntosh County)
  • Powers Lake (093) – Southeast side of Powers Lake. Good numbers of northern pike and a few yellow perch. (Burke County)
  • Reule Lake (607) – 5 miles west, .5 miles north of Medina. Excellent walleye population, with fish up to 24 inches. (Stutsman County)
  • School Section Lake (296) – 9 miles north, 2.5 miles east of Dunseith. Had a partial winterkill in 2013, but still a good number of northern pike and some yellow perch available. (Rolette County)
  • Senger Lake (526) – 1 mile north, 6 miles east of Strasburg. Multiple year-classes of yellow perch. (Emmons County)
  • Sibley Lake (435) – 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Binford. Good northern pike population, some yellow perch. (Griggs County)
  • St. Mary’s Lake (045) – 2 miles west, 5.5 miles south, 4 miles west, 1 mile north of Valley City. Excellent yellow perch population. Walleye recently introduced. (Barnes County)
  • Swan Lake (678) – 10.5 miles north of Robinson. Abundant yellow perch. (Kidder County)
  • Wentz WPA (632) – 12 miles east of Napoleon. Abundant walleye. (Logan County)Willow Lake (645) – 9 miles north, 3 miles west of Robinson. Abundant yellow perch. (Kidder County)