Its walleye population could be the stuff of which fishing dreams are made.
“It’s just a big slough – only 8 to 9 feet max – and you can almost walk on water in 6-pound walleyes in that lake,” said Greg Power, fisheries chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.
Greg Power, fisheries division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Getting them to bite, though, can be another story, Power says. Fattened up on a steady diet of fathead minnows, the walleyes are so well fed they rarely show interest in what anglers have to offer.
“Those fish just don’t bite – they’re just so full,” Power said. “There’s just so much forage, and that becomes – it’s not a management nightmare – but we have so many examples of lakes like that, and some pretty decent-sized lakes that went from 10 or 15 years of never producing a fishery to the angler, but you go out with our nets and see what’s there and you just can’t believe it.”
The fish might not always cooperate, but these are the good, old days for walleye fishing in North Dakota. Thanks to a wet cycle that has turned many sloughs into productive fisheries, anglers have never had more options for putting walleyes on the ice or in the boat.
Once limited to the big three – Devils Lake, Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea – along with a handful of smaller reservoirs, North Dakota anglers today have access to more walleye fishing opportunities than ever before.
Game and Fish in 2020 stocked a record 180 lakes across North Dakota with nearly 12 million walleye fingerlings, also a record. North Dakota today manages upwards of 400 lakes for fishing, whether pike, perch, walleyes, panfish or trout, compared with 150 or so a couple of decades ago.
“The new kid on the block really has become the walleye because our managers have kind of switched over to walleye management in a lot of these lakes,” Power said. “It’s incredible growth that we’re getting in these prairie sloughs, so there’s a lot of interest.
“For us, it’s never been better.”
Water drives trend
The trend is driven by abundant water, and even if last summer’s widespread dry conditions persist, the best is yet to come, Power predicts.
“Even if we enter a drought, I still think it will be another one to two years before we’ll be at our peak” for walleye fishing opportunities, Power said….