Bismarck, N.D. (AP) – Historic flooding in North Dakota in 2011 led to a small drop in fishing license sales, but it didn't keep most anglers from finding some place to wet a line.
The state Game and Fish Department's annual angler survey showed 137,000 resident licenses were sold last year, down 2 percent over the year. However, angler participation actually went up – 111,000 North Dakota anglers fished open water, up about 9 percent, and 48,000 residents went ice fishing, a 45 percent jump.
The small drop in license sales was no surprise because of flooding around the state last summer, particularly along the Souris and Missouri rivers, said Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish.
"Access was limited on many waters during peak fishing months,'' he said. "Furthermore, residents of Burleigh and Ward counties were hit hard by Missouri and (Souris) River flooding, and these two counties historically are by far the highest in terms of license sales.''
The major fisheries in North Dakota – Devils Lake and the Missouri River along with its reservoirs Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe – all were affected by flooding last summer. However, numerous small lakes and rivers play a large role in the state's fishing industry, as well.
"More than 300 small lakes, reservoirs and rivers account for nearly 50 percent of all fishing effort,'' Power said.
Access to lakes was the key to the big increase in winter anglers.
"We didn't have the severe winters like we had the previous three years,'' Power said.
North Dakota's fishing industry is healthy and is likely to remain that way, according to the fisheries chief.
"We have decent water levels across most of the state and fantastic fish populations,'' Power said. “Unless North Dakota experiences a severe and prolonged drought, fishing should remain good to very good at least for the next few years.''