By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
Ask an angler with his friends or co-workers within earshot what his three favorite North Dakota fishing targets and you’ll likely hear walleye, walleye and walleye. But bluegill? Likely not in the first casts of most campfire conversations. But maybe they should be.
“I think it’s safe to say, in terms of quantity and quality, the bluegill fishing in parts of North Dakota hasn’t been this good in the last 30-plus years,” said Greg Power, state Game and Fish Department fisheries chief in a recent article in North Dakota Outdoors magazine. “As fisheries managers, we always say there are other species out there. With the good bluegill fishing we have now, it’s nice to let anglers know there are other options.”
I grew up in a fishing era where we couldn’t be too picky. The number of fishing waters was about one-third of what North Dakota has currently, and if there was a place to catch perch or bluegill, we went there. Then came the severe drought of the late 1980s and early 1990s and the quality of fishing at those likes diminished.
The good news is that in the last 10 to 20 years, bluegill fisheries and angling has expanded. Department fisheries biologists often trap and transport bluegill from waters where they are over-abundant, in an effort to increase opportunity in new waters or better manage current fisheries. This includes community fisheries in many parts of the state where young anglers have easy access.
“In a lake with bluegills, you pull up to the weeds, drop anchor, throw out bait and a bobber and start catching fish,” according to Scott Gangl, Game and Fish fisheries management section leader. “You can also do this from shore or from one of our many fishing piers. Catching fish, and sometimes lots of fish, is where the appeal starts. Not only are they fun to catch, they are darn good to eat.”
“Bluegill are like perch. They make the bobber move and are great for kids,” Power said. “But when bigger bluegill are involved, adult anglers start taking notice.”
The following is a list of North Dakota lakes where anglers might look for prime bluegill fishing.
Southwest Fisheries District
● North Lemmon Lake – Adams County
● Sheep Creek Dam – Grant County
● Mott Watershed Dam – Hettinger County
● Camels Hump Lake – Golden Valley County
● Davis Dam – Slope County
● Dickinson Reservoir – Stark County
● Odland Dam – Golden Valley County
● Indian Creek Dam – Hettinger County
South Central Fisheries District
● Crown Butte Dam – Morton County
● McDowell Dam – Burleigh County
● Harmon Lake – Morton County
● Sweet Briar Lake – Morton County
● Frettim Lake – Kidder County
Southeast Fisheries District
● Brewer Lake – Cass County
● Clausen Springs – Barnes County
● Dead Colt Creek – Ransom County
● Heinrich-Martin Dam – LaMoure County
Northeast Fisheries District
● Lake Upsilon – Rolette County
● North Central Fisheries District
● Lake Metigoshe – Bottineau County
● Nelson Lake – Oliver County
Northwest Fisheries District
● Leland Dam – McKenzie County
● Northgate Dam – Burke County
Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department.
(Featured Photo: Bluegill fishing opportunities – and chances as true “bull” specimens – have expanded across the Flickertail State in the past decade. NDG&F Photo)