By Mike Peluso
In this week’s fishing report I’m going to change course just a tad. With my recent cancellations, it has given me an opportunity to scout the upper stretches of the Missouri River near my hometown of Bismarck, N.D. I like to get out on the river a few times in the late summer and early fall just to see some of the changes before the flows are cut back.
As you may or may not know, this stretch of the river is where I cut my teeth in the fishing world. I’ve often wondered if it’s possible that even at my age if anyone has spent more time out there.
Normally these early fall trips result in catching a few local fish. So far this has not been the case. In fact, I’m not seeing much of anything to be honest. Now don’t get me wrong, there are always fish around in this area of the river somewhere. I know the Tailrace section right now has a decent population of fish. I also understand there is still a strong population of huge walleyes way down south. However, I’m not so sure we have much of a population of 14-to-22-inch fish in the entire system.
I do believe there are quite a few fish under 12 inches, but I am wondering how old these fish are. The mega walleyes of 28 inches and up seem to be doing extremely well! Plenty of fresh water herring are keeping these big giants well fed. The smaller fish however, don’t’ have much in the way of smaller forage. This spring on our river was pretty darn good. We are fortunate on the Missouri River to see a spring and sometimes fall run where these fish congregate in what I refer to as the bottleneck. This makes the entire system look healthy, but I don’t believe it is at this time.
In talking to a few of my South Dakota guide friends, they are telling me that this may be the worst they have seen things on their stretch of the Missouri River in a really long time. That is frightening to think we are headed into a down cycle. I’ve seen it way too many times to count in my lifetime. Again, we are blessed to be situated where we are. The stretch of river I get to fish and guide on will most often see decent fishing, simply due to a migration and a smaller area to work with.
Just think of it this way: we are in a 20 mile stretch of river where at times walleyes will migrate from areas 200 miles below us. That’s a lot of water to draw fish in from! My guide buddies to the south are also informing me they can catch more walleyes a day over 28 than they do in that 14-to-20-inch range. For me that’s hard to believe.
I’m seeing an effort down in South Dakota to try and build a fish hatchery to raise walleyes and smelt. I’m all for stocking as much forage as we can. I’m all for gizzard shad, herring, smelt, shiners, fatheads and whatever forage will help the smaller fish on Lake Oahe have a chance. If you get a chance, look up Lake Oahe Walleye Restoration Coalition. If you want more information, contact Bill Waeckerle via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Peluso is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and a licensed ND fishing guide specializing in walleyes on the state’s premier waters.
Featured Photo: Big Pigs. Large walleyes are a frequent occurrence, and do well with the forage in the Missouri River system, however smaller walleyes may be struggling to find consistent food sources. DEO Photo by Mike Peluso.