Ice Fishing Facing Challenges in North Dakota


Wet conditions the past few years have produced a record number of water bodies in North Dakota that are managed as fisheries, many with young populations of pike, perch and other species. However, another year of near-record early winter snowfall over much of the state is generating concern regarding access to these waters.

Greg Power, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries chief, said this winter is similar to the past two years when anglers had a tough time getting to some lakes to fish. ?We?re still in the first half of winter and already the state is blanketed, on average, with more than a foot of snow on the level,? Power said. ?Unfortunately, according to the latest long-term National Weather Service forecast for North Dakota, difficult winter conditions are expected until spring.?

As in other years with abundant snowfall, the Game and Fish Department has received some inquiries about removing snow from access areas, but Power said the department does not have the equipment or funding to maintain access to lakes in winter. ?Some lakes have a few local individuals or groups that pitch in and try to keep access points open, but when the wind blows it can and does nullify all the work in short order,? Power said. ?In harsh winters, the cost to try to keep access open could easily run into the millions of dollars.?

A few fishing tournaments have already been postponed or cancelled due to poor access, Power said, and potential contestants should keep in contact with their local organizers on their tournament status.

In addition to access issues, heavy snowpack has fisheries biologists concerned about the potential for low oxygen levels in many lakes. ?History has shown that the likelihood of winterkill increases when substantial snow comes early and stays on the lake,? Power said. ?As in the past during tough winters, we will undoubtedly lose some fish populations in some lakes to winterkill, but it?s just too early to predict how many or which ones.?

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