My first open-water cast of the 2015 fishing season came before spring turkey season, and even before Easter. While the first fish of the year didn’t happen on the same trip, it was reason to smile. Just getting outdoors in early April without mud boots or winter jacket was enough to call it a successful outing.
While heading into the last half of April we all realize that the topsoil and even our fishing waters could use a little spring precipitation, our ranchers who are going through calving, and battle-weary flood fighters, are enjoying a spring with little mud, and fewer sandbags, make-shift dikes and washed out roads, bridges and culverts.
When you stop and look at it, subtle differences are evident from year to year when it comes to spring fishing. Some years it’s floods, other years it’s late ice and freezing temperatures. This year for the most part in North Dakota, it’s been about none of the above.
In terms of our fisheries, North Dakota Game and Fish Department biologists will tell you the overall water levels remain good- and the number of fishable waters is in unchartered territory. But, the lack of runoff from a light snow pack and a dry fall led to less-than-desirable conditions for natural reproduction from northern pike.
More often than not since 1993, however, North Dakota has had volumes of water running into lakes, streams and rivers, which boosted natural pike production. Compounded over many years, this phenomenon has created pretty much the best pike fishing ever in almost all corners of the state.
Who’s to say how long this will last? From ducks to deer to pike and perch, the fisheries and wildlife worlds are in a constant state of flux. Not to throw out a red flag, but even during a long-term period of unfettered growth and expansion of our fishing waters, supported by natural reproduction across the board for pike, perch, and walleye, we have had dry years.
We just never know how long any dry or wet spell will last. If the current dry stretch lasts for awhile, it shouldn’t be a shock or a surprise for anglers if fishable waters and fish populations are affected.
The good news for this spring is that the early ice-out and lower river levels made for optimal shore-fishing access in areas where in some years those conditions don’t exist until well into May or even June.
Along those same lines, Game and Fish crews were not fighting so much ice and snow during the important time for meeting pike spawning goals. That annual operation wrapped up in just about a week’s worth of time, with walleye spawning about to start the last third of April.
This year, regardless if it’s your first, fifth or 50th trip out fishing, make note of the current conditions compared to the past few years. Every year we have spring, but every spring is different. After the past couple of years, it’s nice to have one that came a little early.