The Evolution of ND Fishing

Doug Leier

By Doug Leier

Sipping coffee early in the morning and talking fishing is about as close as it gets to enjoying fishing without wetting a line. Truth is, I spend more time talking about fishing than actually casting, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I say it’s like the plumber whose faucet is always leaking, yet spends more time fixing the dripping pipes of others. Don’t get me wrong, I like talking about fishing more every day. Hearing the excitement and listening to the stories is priceless.

I took a call from an angler the other day asking about a place to take his grandkids fishing. Nothing unusual about the call or my response. We talked about a small reservoir nearby. It has a fishing pier (like many others), a pretty good panfish population and even a few bullheads. Before he could complain about the yellow bellies and his disdain, I cut him off and made the point that at some ages a worm on a hook with a bobber creates memories for little anglers.

Oftentimes, it’s the adults who think the only good fishing memories include walleye or pike. After discussing the pros and cons of a stocked trout pond, the conversation advanced to maybe a little farther trip to one of the larger reservoirs within a couple hours of home.

As the waterbodies grow in size and depth the options become a little farther away, but I started to smile, and our conversation took a few more turns. I mentioned a couple of times that the same tools I’m using to “virtually” explore potential fishing destinations is available to anyone through the Game and Fish Department website.

Years ago, there was a little more emphasis put on a chance meeting of a fisheries biologist stocking or checking an area lake. It was kind of inside information.

The stocking reports are now available online, but the little tidbits about a professional assessment of predator/prey balance, fish size and so on, is still part of the personal contact. I mentioned how past years stocking reports might provide a little incentive to give a lake a try and see what he’d find. While he said he’d rather not spend time online, his grand kids might find it interesting on the drive to check out contour maps and look for some holes or transition zones to target.

We talked about how fishing has evolved and both acknowledged when it comes to fisheries, access and amenities such as fish cleaning stations, boat landings, piers and docks have made comparing fishing 30 years ago about like comparing the stock market.

He explained some of the places they’ve tried in the past and how maybe shore-fishing isn’t a bad option with a few extra grandkids versus trying to keep everyone untangled in the boat.

In the same breath, he related his grandkids love a little trip with grandpa and he has a little boat that he could use.

The bottom line in the conversation was that fishing in North Dakota can be enjoyed by all ages in a multitude of ways. For those wondering where to go and what is available, the Game and Fish Department website,, is a one-stop-shop for all ages, interests and abilities.

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Dept.

Featured Photo: The way fisheries are managed in North Dakota has changed, along with the amenities and ways to make memories on the state’s waters. NDG&F Photo.

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