Dakota Report: Changing Seasons

by Doug Leier

040213 open water fishing in the cold spring
Photo courtesy of ND Game and Fish

For most corners of North Dakota, the 2013 winter has extended well beyond the calendar declaration of spring.

Except for a few robins in the trees, Canada geese filtering in and the first pitch of major league baseball, spring has really struggled to win over winter.

Even on the first of April, the prospects for open-water fishing still seem weeks away, except on flowing rivers. Last year at this time, most waters in the state were already open.

Whether you’re extending the icefishing season or waiting for open water, we all need a new fishing license starting April 1. While fishing season in North Dakota never really closes, the licensing year runs from April 1 to March 31.

There’s no easier way to purchase a license than via the department’s website, gf.nd.gov. Beyond the convenience of purchasing from a computer or smartphone – you can print extra licenses to place in your tackle box, wallet or glove box. If that’s not enough, when you’re still unable to locate your license, you can log back on and print another. It does not get any easier.

Since North Dakota does not have a fishing season opener, you can head out any time the weather and your schedule allow. The license is the first step but you can add a few must haves to the list for just about any fishing trip, no matter the length.

A few items, like rod, reel, bait, sunscreen and bug repellant will remain constant. Others will become specific to each trip, like the bait du jour for whatever elusive trophy you’re seeking.

In addition to a list, align your expectations with an honest assessment of the outing’s potential. If you only have a couple of hours in the middle of a day to wet a line, just getting away from it all should put a smile on your face. Catching fish would be a bonus, not the primary mark of success.

Even with moderately placed expectations, planning is critical, especially for extended excursions. My only advice is to check your list, prepare, then double-check everything twice.

Careful preparation doesn’t ensure your outing will run smooth, but it sure helps remove the human element from souring a fishing trip. For instance, something small like checking the air in the spare tire for your boat trailer can keep a flat tire on the trailer from letting the air out of an entire trip.

Most veteran anglers have encountered their share of rainy weeks and uncooperative fish, even with what should be a fail-safe plan. All the more reason to make sure you enjoy your company, so you can carry on a conversation about days gone by when it’s a long time between bites.

Finally, if your measurement of success is nothing short of a trophy fish, or a limit, you’ll often be disappointed. It’s okay to return home empty handed, whether by choice, meaning you’ve released some fish you could have kept, or just because you didn’t catch any.

Determining how to best enjoy fishing time is not rocket science. As fishing season advances through spring and into summer, remember, each person sets his or her own standards. It’s still possible to have a great day of fishing without catching a fish. And that’s the way it should be.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov

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