The Best Time to Fish

Leier Doug
Doug Leier

By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.

I’m the first to admit I’m not a professional angler. When it comes to tips and tactics on how to land a lunker walleye or fill a stringer in short order, I’ve got more questions than answers.

At times, I casually refer to myself as the human cold front because of a perceived lack of fishing success whenever I’m around, and I have a few friends who even nod in agreement, instead of defending my fishing “expertise.”

In all seriousness, I enjoy the conversations when I meet new anglers and we begin talking about past fishing success, future plans and state fisheries management.

As a biologist with more of a wildlife than fisheries background, however, when I’m asked about the best place or time to fish, my typical answer is wherever you are and whenever you have time.

This is probably a bit disappointing for some who might have anticipated a more detailed answer that took into account the moon phase, barometer, water temperature and natural food competition of the target fish. But my answer reflects my philosophy, that I’m not out there to land a trophy or fill a limit.

I love spring and open-water shorefishing. I don’t often go out on the ice or fish from a boat. But I also understand that anglers come in all shapes and sizes, with their own preferences, which is what makes it so difficult to come up with a fishing report that everyone can use.

In many discussions, after an angler relays where he or she prefers to fish and what kind of angling they like best, a question will often pop up about stocking. Anglers often ask why certain fish – walleye are a popular species – are or are not stocked in a particular body of water.

In truth, the habitat of a lake or reservoir, plus water quality, determine what species might have success. Think of it in terms of an off-the-wall request for stocking halibut in some North Dakota water. Just because you want halibut – or walleye – doesn’t mean that stocking will work to meet angler expectations in any given body of water.

On the other end of the spectrum are the open-ended requests from people who just want the state Game and Fish Department to “stock anything” in slough X so they can catch some fish. But when I ask if bullheads are all right, the acknowledgement is usually “anything but bullheads.”

While bullheads are native to some North Dakota waters, they are undesirable in lakes where they did not exist naturally. Like any fish, however, they do trigger the adrenaline in a young angler who may just like to see a bobber disappear, and doesn’t care what’s on the line. 

I understand that few people young or old really want to catch, keep, clean and eat a bullhead. But I also know that in the spring of the year, I’m not the only one nodding his head admitting to eating “poor man’s catfish.”

It’s all part of the experience of fishing.

As June wears on and the summer fishing heats up, don’t get too picky about when, where and what your fishing target is. Remember, the best time to fish, is when you have time to fish.

Leier is the Outreach Biologist for the North Dakota Game & Fish Dept. 

(Featured Photo: Pike provide a great early summer fishing option. NDG&F Photo)

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