A Look Back

Authors and Contributors

Ron Wilson


1968. Fifty years ago. Pull a wrinkled $1 bill from your front pocket and you could buy a dozen eggs and a gallon of gas, with change to spare.

While times have changed, some things remain pretty much the same.

Like today, ice fishing was a popular winter activity in North Dakota a half-century ago.

The provided photograph, the cover shot for the January 1968 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS, shows Daryl Briese of Bismarck pulling a trout through the ice at Froelich Dam.

Then: Trout were one the state’s most popular fish with anglers, in part, because of the establishment of new trout lakes, primarily newly created small reservoirs in western North Dakota. Another fish of choice was the northern pike, which, at the time, had yet to be officially designated by lawmakers as North Dakota’s state fish.

Now: For roughly the last 10 years, the preferred fish species for winter anglers are, in order, yellow perch, walleye and pike. With the advent of dozens of new prairie walleye lakes, and a decline in perch hotspots, the lean in winter is now more toward walleye.

“It’s not surprising to see the shift because in North Dakota, nothing stays static,” said Greg Power, Game and Fish Department fisheries chief.

Then: A half-century ago, the Game and Fish Department managed about 130 waters.

Today: The Game and Fish manages roughly 300 more than that.

Then: About 77,000 fishing licenses were sold, 9,000 of which were sold to nonresidents.

Today: About 220,000 fishing licenses were sold for 2016-17, 56,000 of which were sold to nonresidents.

No matter the year, or the price of a dozen eggs or a gallon of gas, what lures anglers outdoors in the middle of winter likely remains pretty much the same.

“Here in North Dakota we have a restless breed of people who are not content to spend the winter months glued to the TV screen or card table, waiting for the long winter to subside. They demand active forms of outdoor recreation. Some find it in skiing, skating, predator hunting … but for the majority of outdoor minded North Dakotans, winter fishing fills the big need,” according to the January 1969 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS.