By Doug Leier
Here’s some ice fishing insight for North Dakota this winter from Greg Power, fisheries division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Q: In terms of fishing activity, how much participation in overall effort is winter ice fishing?
Power: It can be substantial. In an open winter, at least in the past, we’ve seen as much as 25 percent of our entire annual fishing effort come from the ice fishing season. On a bad winter, historically, it could be as low as 5 percent.
Q: Outdoor recreation continues to change with technology. What do you see as some significant changes?
Power: Ice fishing has changed dramatically over the last four decades. One area is the amount of money and investment in technology and equipment that goes into ice fishing. It’s not what it once was. And along those lines, people have apparently a lot more money to invest in outdoor recreation and they’re using it to get them onto lakes. Track vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs have been around a long time, but the cost of some track vehicles and SnoBears have gone up. You’re seeing a lot more of that when it comes to the ice fishing season. Now, even in a bad winter with snow and challenging access issues, anglers can get onto those lakes. In the big picture, that’s a bit of a game changer. From our fish management perspective, we’re expecting to see more effort and more harvest in the winter.
Q: Do those cause associated problems from changing winter angling access?
Power: They now have the track vehicles and the SnoBears, they are trailering them and they’re not driving the truck on the lake, so they park on the shoreline, which is usually fine. But in some lakes when there is a good bite, there will be 40, 50 of these trailers, trucks and trailers on a county road that’s fairly narrow and it’s causing problems with landowners, with their farm equipment. So, we’re seeing more and more problems just with the parking of vehicles. We ask anglers to please use some commonsense out there and be respectful.
Q: Last year, we had record moisture on the landscape. How is that this year and how is that for access?
Power: First, ice access going into early December was totally unlike last year. Last year we had issues with much water running, you know groundwater, everything still running that we did not have good safe ice until well into January. That was atypical.
Q: We sold near record fishing licenses this year since April. Is that going to carry into ice fishing?
Power: I think the interest is there for all outdoor recreation. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, including winter fishing, we’ve seen such an uptick in people outdoors participating. At this point, I would totally anticipate, considering we have a good opportunity on the landscape, that we’re going to continue to see more licenses sold.
Featured Photo: Technology has helped increase anglers’ odds on the ice. NDG&F Photo.