While farmers and urban folks may have had trouble with high water in the Dakotas following two decades of above average precipitation, anglers are taking advantage of some great opportunities in this spring of 2010. Scores of North Dakota sloughs have swelled to a size and depth capable of supporting game fish, especially northern pike and perch.
To get to one such lake, we drove around the “road closed” signs and backed down the highway to launch the boat in flood waters over the road. We could see the highway emerge from the water a couple hundred yards straight north. In between, the road was covered with 5- or 6 feet of water.
The author said his group caught a lot of pike between 5- and 9 pounds.
On the far side of the lake, where the shoreline and a corn field came together, there were last fall’s corn rows clearly visible under 4 feet of water. Another corner of the lake covered a local park and ball field.
It was a bluebird, late May day, with no clouds, little wind, and highs near 90 degrees. The water was clear and chocked full of freshwater shrimp.
Trolling, Casting Game Plan
Our game plan was to troll typical northern pike lures — spoons, spinners, and crankbaits — until we found likely spots to stop and cast for a while. Tom DeSutter brought his fly rod along, so we had to humor him occasionally as he fought a nice northern.
It wasn’t long before we had the first “fish on.” For the next three or four hours, we’d cast for 15 or 20 minutes, then troll another 10 minutes, then stop to cast again. By the time we’d had enough for the day, we had landed at least 25 northerns, averaging about 7 pounds! They bit on nearly everything we offered them, including a couple on DeSutter’s flies.
The biggest fish of the day was just less than 9 pounds, and the smallest was about 5 pounds, and they were all very healthy and chunky looking. I did have one fish on that seemed to be bigger as it went right to the bottom and didn’t budge. Unfortunately, I was using my spinning reel with 8-pound test and it broke off after a couple of minutes. I keep meaning to replace that line!
I asked Mark Bibelheimer, the third angler that day, if northerns actually ate the shrimp. He thought they did because once in a while they spit out a bunch when they’re hooked.
An abundance of precipitation overflowed ponds and made for some excellent pike fishing.
We didn’t catch or see any perch that day, but one northern definitely had something bigger for lunch as you could clearly see from the big lump in its stomach. Usually I check what they’ve been feeding on, but this day we were solely “catch and release.”
This was definitely a first-rate day fishing and catching in a North Dakota lake bloated with several years worth of higher-than-normal precipitation. For the farmers’ sake, I hope the precipitation gets back to normal, but until then the northern fishing is well above normal.
For a fine assortment of Freshwater fishing gear, click here.