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North Dakota ice anglers have more opportunities this season

Four lakes allow for walleye spearfishing

A northern pike gets pulled up on a North Dakota lake. Perch and pike remain as popular targets in North Dakota lakes.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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BISMARCK — This year the ice came early on many waters, and anglers are already fishing. In North Dakota, there are three fish species anglers mainly target in winter.

“When it comes to ice fishing, there's a lot of new walleye opportunities out there and people are really taking advantage of them over the last five or so years," said Greg Power, North Dakota Game and Fish fisheries department chief.

Northern pike is another species targeted in winter.

"There's a certain element of our fishing public that really like pike, and they've had an excellent year last year and we got good pike population so pike would be another species," Power said.

The third fish species anglers go after is yellow perch.


“We're not at a high for fishing lakes in perch lakes out there, but there's still always a handful of new lakes that will get hit pretty hard this winter," Power said. "And the good news with perch and pike is a couple of years down the road, we foresee really another peak in the population.”

There are some challenges for ice anglers even when fish populations are abundant.

“If you have a tough winter and the snow comes early and it stays and it keeps building and building, you can't access lakes, we don't get a lot of effort," Power said. "But if we have a fairly open winter like we've had the last few years, upwards of 25% of our entire annual fishing pressure comes from ice fishing and that's been growing.”

There is one change to darkhouse spearfishing regulations this year.

Aquatic nuisance species violations were the top issues in the fishing realm, followed by anglers exceeding the limit for fish species.

“This year, on the big water, Sakakawea, Oahe, Devils Lake and Stump Lake you also can take walleye, only in those waters,” Power said.

And here is some advice Power provides if you’ve never ice fished before.

“So I'd urge you just to hook up with some family or friends that take you out and introduce it to you and you can walk your way into the ice fishing. The other access that we offer is our website and there's a lot of how-to things there to kind of walk into ice fishing or all fishing.”

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