By Mike Peluso
I honestly cannot believe this is my last spring river fishing report. It just feels like we all got cheated out of a nice long season here. It is what it is, so here we go.
Looking back, the Missouri River opened up around Bismarck in mid-March like normal. Maybe it was a few days later then average, but the water was good. The flow was definitely lower, but usually when it starts out low, it changes and dishes itself out. It did just that and navigating and access was decent. The fishing wasn’t bad either.
As the spring was chugging along, we were in full force guide mode. Big fish seemed to be finding the floor of the boat daily. While we were closing in on the prime time for big fish, a blizzard rocked us. Of course, this put everything on hold. I lost over two weeks of guide trips along with my partners.
Obviously with snow like that comes runoff. I felt like the snow melt wasn’t going to do much. As expected around Bismarck, it was melting slow and soaking into the ground. However, the following storm brought a ton of rain and that poured the mud into the mighty Mo. The river held true to its nickname of “the big muddy.”
The interesting part was even with the dirty water fish were still being caught. I was pleasantly surprised by this, and I certainly wasn’t complaining. Folks weren’t fishing and we had the southern stretch of the river to ourselves. In fact, it was fairly quiet down there all the way through the Big Muddy Tournament. It’s easy for me to say this now, but I wish I was in the competition this year. We were having a great week leading up to the event catching on average three big fish a day on a few offerings that just seemed like the magic baits.
Once we got past the Big Muddy I thought it was clear sailing. Oh man was I wrong! Just when fishing was really getting going again – boom – the western side of the state got drilled with a huge rain event and this dumped a lot of water into the Knife River. This flow is the mud slinger for sure, and man did it. Once again, we were forced into grind mode trying to fish through super muddy and cold water.
For me this might be the latest I’ve guided on the river. Each spring I think I could extend it more and more. However, Devils Lake is now calling my name. After a few solid weeks at Devils, I’ll put in a pretty good shift on Sakakawea. August looks like a little back-and-forth for me as this week on the river has been exceptionally good!
Jigs and minnows, jigs and plastics, and crankbaits have all been good! Three-to-12-feet of water behind or alongside the sandbars have been good for bigger fish. The numbers of fish are along the faster rock stretches. Again, it’s a bittersweet time for me to say the least. I will be back in full force this fall however! If you are thinking about fishing with me in October and November, I’ll have lots of weekdays available. If it’s anything like it was last fall, it will be awesome. Starting next week I’ll be bringing both Devils Lake and Sakakawea reports to you. Thanks for following!
Mike Peluso is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and licensed ND fishing guide specializing in walleyes on the state’s premier waters.
Featured Photo: It was a challenging spring on the Missouri River with weather events, muddy waters, and chilly temperatures testing anglers of all stripes, but big walleyes were still caught on the skinnier water from Bismarck south to the state line. DEO Photo by Mike Peluso.