by Doug Leier
My short-term memory is sharp enough to recall that the 2013 winter lasted a little too long for my liking, and unless April cross-country skiing or snowmobiling are a draw, I’d suggest ice anglers had plenty of time from last December through March to give way to spring.
But in 2013, spring just couldn’t seem to get over the hump until May was knocking on the door.
That drawn out winter delayed spring activity throughout North Dakota’s outdoors. Here’s a quick look back at how the year eventually played out.
Fisheries biologists questioned how the late spring and delayed ice-off would influence fish reproduction in North Dakota waters. After fall reproduction surveys were completed, they were pleasantly surprised.
“It looks better than we expected,” Scott Gangl, State Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader said in October. “Our biologists have been seeing some pretty good numbers of young-of-the-year yellow perch in lakes statewide, signaling some good reproduction this year. This was especially true in our larger lakes that traditionally provided a perch fishery.”
Devils Lake and Stump Lake reported excellent numbers of young-of-the-year yellow perch. Reports also indicated good numbers of young walleye in the upper reaches of Lake Sakakawea, and fair to good numbers of perch on the east end of the lake.
Reproduction was poor for most fish in the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which are still recovering from the forage losses during high water in 2011.
On another note, Gangl said fisheries biologists saw good survival of walleye stocked around the state in North Dakota’s smaller waters.
“There were also fair numbers of young-of-the-year pike,” he said. “While we initially didn’t know what to think of the late spring, it apparently was good for fish.”
North Dakota’s 2013 duck production was down significantly from 2012, but still similar to the good fall flights of 2007-11.
Results from the breeding duck survey in May indicated the duck index was down 17 percent from 2012, but still exceeded the long-term average by 73 percent.
May water conditions were up 17 percent from 2012, and 12 percent above the long-term average.
The mid-July waterfowl production survey indicated a duck brood index that was down 48 percent from 2012, but still 27 percent above the long-term average. Average brood size was 7.2 ducklings, up 0.3 from last year. The long term average is 7.1 ducklings per brood.
North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August indicated the number of birds, number of broods and average brood size were all down statewide from 2012.
Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for Game and Fish, said the survey showed total pheasants were down 30 percent from last year, while brood observations were down 29 percent.
“Poor production this spring resulted in fewer young birds added to the population, and a lower fall population in all areas of the state,” Kohn said.
With archery season open until Jan. 5, 2014 we’re still a couple of months away from assessing how the deer seasons came through. However, the fall mule deer survey showed some positive signs after several years of poor production.
Keep your eyes open for a special round of deer management meetings coming across North Dakota in late February, for a full discussion on the 2013 season and more.
Doug Leier is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.