New fishing license needed starting April 1; update on fish populations in ND

Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 9:09 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. - Anglers need a new fishing license starting April 1.

This is the second year of a two-year fishing proclamation in North Dakota, so all rules in place in 2022 apply to the upcoming fishing season. Yet the potential hiccup for anglers is fish kills in some waters.

“Without a doubt we’re going to lose a number of fish in lakes across the state. For the most part, they’re marginal lakes, they are not high-quality lakes by any stretch. We’ll be losing some. The bigger picture, the good news is, again, those high-quality lakes, the lakes that people tend to fish, especially in the summer, open water, the population, the water levels should be excellent, and the fish populations are good,” said Greg Power, ND Game and Fish fisheries division chief.

Walleyes, without question, remains the top fish targeted by anglers in North Dakota.

“I’d say 95 plus percent or more of our walleye lakes will be out there again this summer. And the population is probably, you know, in the big picture, are equal to or have never been better. The destination fisheries, the big three, Sakakawea and Devils Lake are in great shape. Lake Oahe is struggling. I mean, we do have some issues there. There’s plenty of walleye. They’re just not growing very well,” said Power.

Populations for our state fish, the northern pike, seem to be holding their own, even in light of this long winter.

“We’re probably going to lose a few of those this winter or at ice out. But by and large, our pike populations still are strong, very resilient fish anyways,” said Power.

One positive to all the snowpack on the landscape is spring runoff into lakes.

“Snowpack in the mountains, which drives water levels ultimately in the reservoirs, is right at about 100%. It’s not going to be an exceptionally large runoff year, but it’s not a drought year in the mountains,” said Power.

Overall, fishing should be good in 2023.

“The fish are there. Whether to get them to bite that’s always a $1 billion question. But at least the fish populations are out there, the water is out there, should be a great year,” said Power.

To purchase a new fishing license, visit