By BLAKE NICHOLSON | Associated Press
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The number of anglers fishing in North Dakota continues to hit record levels, thanks to a lot more water and fish and a good winter bite in recent years.
Fishing license sales for 2013-14 set a record for a second straight year at 219,400, an increase of 1,000 from 2012-13, the state Game and Fish Department announced Monday. North Dakota licenses are good from April 1 of one year to March 31 of the next.
Record totals of 160,100 resident licenses and 59,300 nonresident licenses were sold last year, according to the wildlife agency.
State Fisheries Chief Greg Power attributes the record sales to an aggressive fish stocking program and a record number of fishable lakes in North Dakota.
The wildlife agency this summer wrapped up a walleye stocking effort in a record 133 lakes, introducing nearly 10 million fingerlings of what is arguably the state's most sought-after game fish.
“We have more walleye than ever in the state, for sure,” Power said.
There are nearly 400 fishable lakes in North Dakota, more than triple the amount four decades ago. Lake Sakakawea, Devils Lake and the Lake Oahe/Missouri River system remain the top three fisheries in the state.
Not everyone who buys a fishing license actually uses it, but there were more than 203,000 “active” anglers last year, also a record. The number is determined through a questionnaire sent to anglers, according to Power.
Both Power and Kyle Blanchfield, owner of Woodland Resort on Devils Lake, said good ice fishing the past few years has bumped up the number of people heading outdoors with a rod.
“The last two winters our perch fishing has come back, and last winter we were swamped, crazy busy,” Blanchfield said. “There's been really good ice fishing across the state. It kind of builds its own momentu, people got excited about ice fishing again.”
Devils Lake has more than tripled in size over the past two decades because of a series of wet years. The prolonged flooding has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, but it also has given a big boost to the fishery.
“The walleye have been steady, and we have (northern) pike coming out of our ears,” Blanchfield said.