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Doug Leier: Managing North Dakota fisheries hits full stride

Last year in North Dakota was one of the wettest and providing access to fishing waters is a spring priority for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. N.D. Game and Fish Department photo

WEST FARGO — Once ice starts to inch away from shorelines each spring, the business of managing North Dakota’s fisheries hits full stride rather quickly.

Nets go in select waters for pike and then walleye spawning. Distribution of catchable trout to community fisheries begins, and the development crew hits the road to start work on boat ramps, docks and other facilities to get things ready for the rush of open water anglers.

In a recent edition of “Outdoors Online,” the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s weekly webcast, fisheries development supervisor Bob Frohlich provided a rundown of that development work on the list for the coming months. Here’s some excerpts from that interview:

On ramp maintenance: The crew goes around the state and repairs damaged boat ramps that buckled up from the ice. They also are hauling and installing new courtesy docks. We spend the winter months building new docks along with fixing used docks and fishing piers … and then they're delivered to lakes around the state in partnership with local entities. And then we're also doing signing and maintenance activities that are required.

On high water: Last year in North Dakota was one of the wettest, especially in the eastern and southeastern part of the state. So that did fill up a lot of our lakes and reservoirs, and so overall, access is good. It did flood and inundate a couple of existing ramp sites,so we’ll have to go back in this spring, and try to reestablish boating access at those sites.


On new ramps: We have four or five new boat ramp projects planned. Two of those are ramp extensions where we're extending the top or bottom of the existing boat ramp. The other three are new ramps. We have one down in Emmons County, Rice Lake, which is needed because of high water.

On access on the big waters: Access on our Big 3, Sakakawea, Oahe and Devils Lake at this time is very, very good. On Sakakawea, back in the 80s and the mid-2000s when we were going in a drought, at this time of the year, in March and April, we only had one usable boat ramp on the entire lake. Right now, we've probably got 40 on Sakakawea. Oahe is kind of in the same boat. The Missouri River System has good water, good flows and good lake elevations.

On praise for partnerships: We only have two people who work in the field on development activities, so they cover the entire state. With more than 400 lakes and several thousand facilities out there, it would just be impossible for us to do it all. Most of those facilities are not owned or managed by the Game and Fish Department, but rather by a local managing entity, whether it's a park board, a water board or wildlife club. We rely heavily on those folks for not only a cost share to initially develop the facility, but then also for the long-term maintenance such as putting the docks in, picking up garbage, and just overall maintenance of the site.

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