Doug Leier: Game and Fish director Jeb Williams looks back on 2022, ahead to ’23
People in North Dakota really like to catch walleye, and the opportunities have never been better to do that, Williams says, thanks to the tremendous aggressive stocking effort of fisheries crews.
WEST FARGO – As Jeb Williams, North Dakota Game and Fish Department director, works into his second calendar year leading the agency, he takes a look in the rearview mirror and also offers insight on challenges and important topics for North Dakota’s outdoors.
Q. How important was the spring precipitation of 2022?
A. So, it was really positive for our local lakes and wildlife habitat conditions around the state. We’d been in tough shape for the previous two years, and in some places, even three years.
While runoff from Montana was a plus, giving a boost to Lake Sakakawea, so too was the local rainfall that we started receiving and continued for a good chunk of North Dakota throughout spring and summer. (That) was definitely welcome for not only fish and wildlife habitat and the requirements that they have, but also for our farmers and ranchers across the state who had experienced a very tough couple of years.
Fishing hasn’t ever been better in North Dakota, with the number of lakes that we have across the state, the number of opportunities and the number of walleye opportunities. And we know people in North Dakota really like to catch walleye, and the opportunities have never been better to do that. And that’s due to the tremendous aggressive stocking effort of our fisheries crews.
Q. How did the moisture help the upland game?
A. Moisture level always means better habitat on the landscape in the form of grass, crops (and) all the different requirements that our critters need across the state. The increased moisture that we received (last) year, it meant good things for upland nesting cover, brooding cover and a good crop of insects that young birds require. As we move forward and see what that could look like in 2023, we know we’re in a better place, at least this year.
Update on fishing and lake access
We have focused on improved access on our fishing waters across the state. Maintaining and building new boats ramps and taking care of existing infrastructure that’s been in place for a long time is significant. Work that goes into managing the 450 lakes that are currently being managed remains extremely important.
We’re maintaining, like we have done for the last couple of years, right around 800,000 PLOTS acres. We’re also maintaining the quality of those acres and continuing to focus on that as we move forward, as it’s certainly a department priority.
Our game wardens have tremendous interaction with our sporting public and landowners across the state when it comes to our fish and wildlife resources. Department wardens are responsible for enforcing our fish and wildlife resource laws in place, which I’m certain is something the public is very supportive of. Just having that contact and interaction with the public reinforces the thinking that game wardens are a great source of information and knowledge when it comes to the outdoors.
We’re looking forward to 2023. From what we’ve experienced so far, it looks like getting through the winter might be a little bit of a challenge for all of us, wildlife included. But we know with the return of moisture in 2022, things are going to start off a little better, which typically means good things for wildlife.