West Fargo

When my son, dad and I went spearing, Dad had his ice saw in the back of the truck. We put it in the sled and hauled it out. But we didn't use it. We could have, but the lithium ion auger popped the holes and within minutes the ice was clear and we were ready for action. We had the old school, but the new one was more efficient.

Quite honestly, it was less work.

While some may prefer going out looking for structure and channeling their inner Lewis and Clark to discover the next great fishing spot, others choose to use some of the latest technology to make the work a little less laborious and spend more time fishing and less time searching.

Advancements in technology, easily retrieved on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, allow ice anglers access to more than 200 lake contour maps, providing yet another tool in the angler’s tackle box.

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“Back when we first started mapping in the early 2000s, anglers pretty much had to print a paper lake contour map at home and take it with them to help navigate and find the underwater features,” said Jerry Weigel, Department fisheries production and development section supervisor.

Times have changed.

Anglers now have access to two free smartphone mobile apps on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov, both of which provide interactive functionality and work with a phone’s GPS. One option, Weigel said, is ESRI ArcGIS Explorer, which requires cellular service to work in the field.

“When you’re out on the lake and you have the app running, it literally has the lake contour lines and everything,” he said. “It’d be the exact same thing you would do with your Lowrance GPS or young Hummingbird GPS when you’re navigating open water in the summer.”

Considering cellular service is iffy, at best, on about 30% of North Dakota’s fishing waters, there are benefits to downloading maps to your mobile device before leaving home using the Avenza Geospatial PDF app.

“With this electronic fishing map information and you see there’s a sunken island out there, you can literally drive right to it on the ice using either of the two technologies,” Weigel said.

Weigel added that there is something anglers need to keep in mind when using this GPS technology on their favorite fishing waters.

“They imply they’re absolute,” he said. “In other words, when it says it’s 15 feet deep, we say that there’s 15-foot depth in that general area. But folks need to keep in mind that their GPS’s are plus or minus 10 feet at the best.”

What’s more certain, if Mother Nature allows, are the opportunities afforded ice anglers this winter across North Dakota’s landscape.

“There have never been stronger populations of fish than there is now,” Weigel said. “It’s amazing. And we literally have twice the number of fishing lakes as there once was.”