ND Outdoors: why has walleye fishing been so good on so many different lakes this year?

Published: Jul. 22, 2023 at 7:05 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The number one question anglers want to know this year is why walleye fishing has been so good on so many different lakes in North Dakota.

“2023 is going to go down as one for the record books in terms of walleye fishing. It’s been a remarkable season,” said Greg Power, fisheries division chief with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “It was a late spring; we didn’t really have much in fishing until mid to late May. But water temperatures warmed up rapidly, and, boy, fishing has just been hot ever since. And the reason being, bottom line, the reason that walleye fishing is so good is we just have a lot of walleye in our waters in North Dakota right now.”

The big three lakes, known as Devils Lake, Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe, have also had a lot of walleyes netted by anglers.

“Those lakes represent roughly half of our entire fishing effort and participation every year. And in particular, Sakakawea and Devils Lake have been absolutely on fire and Oahe has been good,” said Power.

And don’t forget the nearly 100 prairie lakes harboring robust walleye populations.

“A lot of counties have very high-water levels, lots of big lakes out there,” said Power. “We’re fortunate to have the new waters, we’re very fortunate to have the hatcheries to be able to stock walleye in them. And the nature of the water quality themselves, they’re highly, highly productive wetlands, lots of invertebrate base, a lot of fathead minnows so there’s just a lot of groceries and the fish grow fast. And in the end, the anglers really are enjoying them.”

The Game and Fish Department’s website’s “where to fish” link has a tremendous amount of information for anglers looking for places to fish.

“And, roughly, if you draw a line 50 miles either side from a line from Bottineau to Wahpeton, 50 miles either side of that, that’s where most of this new opportunity exists in prairie wetlands in central and southeast North Dakota,” said Power.

The future looks bright for anglers targeting walleyes in North Dakota.

“It’s a broken record for me for 10 years saying, ‘Man, I don’t know if it can get better.’ Then the next year, it’s better,” said Power.