Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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North Dakota fishing opportunities: Sakakawea walleye numbers strong; workshop set for spearfishers

(North Dakota Game and Fish)

It’s not quite like shooting fish in a barrel. But fish numbers – walleyes, in this case – reportedly are swelling in North Dakota’s premier fishery.

And, not far from Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River, spearfishing is the thing. Or, at the very least, a thing.

Combine the two, and winter fishing opportunities would appear to be alive and well here.

For those who prefer to fish with hook and line, the number of young walleye in the Lake Sakakawea reservoir on the Missouri River is among the highest in decades, according to reports: North Dakota Game and Fish Department crews last year reported the fourth-highest catch of young walleye in the lake in the half-century history of fall surveys, The Associated Press reported recently.

Scott Gangl, fisheries management section leader at Game and Fish, credits stocking efforts and natural reproduction aided by a rebounding smelt population since major flooding seven years ago flushed a good number of the forage fish through Garrison Dam, The AP report said.

There also are more forage fish for walleye to eat: Reproduction of gizzard shad in the river from Bismarck to the South Dakota border rebounded last year, according to The AP report.

Walleyes are, of course, off limits to spearfishers. But for those who might want to give darkhouse spearfishing a try, Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are sponsoring a workshop just up the road near Minot.

The workshop, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Minot, will teach participants about ice safety, the tradition of darkhouse spearfishing and required gear, Game and Fish said in a news release earlier this week. In addition, time will be spent spearfishing with a mentor.

Registration is limited to 18 participants, with a minimum age of 12. Cost of the workshop is $25, and all equipment is provided.

For more information or to register, contact Game and Fish education coordinator Brian Schaffer at 701-328-6312; online registration is not available.

Northern pike and nongame fish are the only legal species that may be taken while darkhouse spearfishing in North Dakota. (Daily and possession limits are listed in the Fishing Regulations Guide.) Darkhouse spearfishing is open through March 15 of each fishing year, and most waters open to hook-and-line fishing are open to darkhouse spearfishing. For more on darkhouse spearfishing in North Dakota, including closed waters, click here.

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