Unlike hunting seasons, most of which have a defined beginning and ending date, North Dakotans are afforded the opportunity to fish 24/7/365 for most species excluding paddlefish.
While fish do have some seasonal and natural migrations, from shallow water to deep or up and down river systems, they’re here year-round and anglers can pursue them whenever time allows.
When people emphasize the “great fishing,” often it’s regarding walleye, and honestly I’ve yet to field a call or an email that urges me to get out somewhere because the bullhead fishing has been fantastic.
But we’re also fortunate to have a number of other species that fall into the “under-the-radar” category that still can provide considerable action. And believe it or not, I think pike fall into that category.
Yes, the state fish of North Dakota is the northern pike, and we’ve all seen pictures of massive pike in recent years. Unfortunately, some anglers still don’t quite realize how fortunate we are, with a recently increased statewide limit of five pike per day, and eater-sized pike found across North Dakota.
I understand the external “slime” and internal bone structure make some anglers hesitant to keep one, but if you’re prepared to handle pike, and take a few minutes to learn the basic Y-bone removal method, what you’ll find is the bounty of pike in North Dakota fishing waters has never been and may never approach levels we’re currently enjoying.
Here’s what North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries division chief Greg Power said recently: “Currently, our state has never had so many water bodies with fishable populations of pike. There are more than 200 pike water bodies that dot North Dakota, and what is of particular interest, many of these water bodies have record populations swimming about.”
If you’re one to have seen the pike swimming through culverts, ditches and just about any damp spot during the spring of the year, or if you live near a spot where anglers have been bragging about phenomenal pike fishing, you’re smiling and nodding your head in acknowledgement about just how abundant northern pike are in the waters of North Dakota.
If I’ve convinced you to give pike a second look, I’d like to provide some support to make the transition a little more enjoyable. The Game and Fish Department website is a great destination to find fishable waters in North Dakota. If you haven’t checked it out, even veteran anglers may not realize an old slough they’ve driven by for years may now be listed as a managed fishery, as the number has doubled the past 20 years.
The waters are searchable by county and region, with access information such as boat ramps and fishing piers, plus the stocking history and known fish species found. You may also want to check out the high-quality contour maps available which may just highlight a shallow back bay or cutbank dropoff which could be a good spot to try.
While there’s still plenty of time left this summer to give one of these waters a try, the website information will be a great resource to keep in mind when icefishing comes around again as well.
Also available is a link to onscreen instruction or a printable publication that describes the cleaning method to remove the legendary Y-bones from pike. As an old-timer pike angler once told me, “It takes all those bones to make those pike so big.”
As far as techniques and methods to catching pike, the good news is I’m here to tell you the same red-and-white daredevil you used years ago is still catching pike today.
Just in a lot more spots.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email:firstname.lastname@example.org