Published December 06, 2012, 12:04 AM

Northern pike fishing is front and center

North Dakota recognizes the Western meadowlark as a state symbol, and I remember from my North Dakota studies that the prairie rose is our state flower and the American elm is the state tree.

By: Doug Leier, The Dickinson Press

North Dakota recognizes the Western meadowlark as a state symbol, and I remember from my North Dakota studies that the prairie rose is our state flower and the American elm is the state tree.

But for whatever reason, if you asked people their favorite fish, North Dakota’s state fish, the northern pike, is not often at the top of the list. In the late 1960s, however, at the time the pike was recognized as the state fish, it was a fish of headlines.

Gradually, pike populations in many waters diminished, and the walleye become more popular.

Starting in July 1993, following several years of drought in the late 1980s, it ?nally rained and rained some more, initiating a lengthy shift in North Dakota’s landscape to more water and less land. In the last 20 years or so, many dry spots have become sloughs, and waters once best described as marshes are now natural lakes that sustain recreational ?sheries.

This water flooded vegetation and created ideal habitat for northern pike. Since then, North Dakota has had continued addition and subtraction of pike fisheries, and biologists estimate the state now has more than 200 lakes with pike, including the Missouri River System and the Devils Lake chain. As a result of outstanding natural reproduction in recent years, many of these waters have never harbored so many northern.

While just about every angler in the state marvels at the sight of a whopper pike, many anglers dismiss smaller northerns as nuisances, which is unfortunate. Even if an angler passes on taking excellent-tasting pike home to eat, these ?sh are, pound-for-pound, one of the more feisty to catch on hook and line.

Following is a short list of lakes where there is good potential for pike seekers this winter, as reported by Department ?sheries supervisors in the November 2012 issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine.

Northeast District

- Devils Lake Basin (Devils Lake, Stump Lake, Morrison Lake and Lake Irvine)

- Island Lake, Carpenter Lake and Upsilon Lake, all Rolette County

- Sand Lake, Pierce County

- Fenster Lake, Ramsey County

- Lake Laretta and Tolna Dam, both Nelson County

South Central District

- Lake Harriet (Arena Lake), Burleigh County

- Froelich Dam, Morton County

- Rice Lake and Baumgartner Lake, both Emmons County

- Helen Lake, Kidder County

- West Napoleon Lake, Logan County.

North Central District

- Buffalo Lodge Lake, Cottonwood Lake and George Lake, all McHenry County

- Long Lake, Lake Audubon, Brush Lake, Camp Lake and Strawberry Lake, all McLean County

- Balta Dam and Davis Lake, both Pierce County

- Coal Mine Lake and Wolf Lake, both Sheridan County

- Rice Lake and North and South Carlson lakes, all Ward County.

- Lake Metigoshe, Bottineau County

Southwest District

- Heart Butte Reservoir (Lake Tschida), Morton County

- Dickinson Reservoir (Patterson Lake), Stark County,

- Bowman-Haley Dam, Bowman County

- Raleigh Reservoir, Grant

Northwest District

- Powers Lake and Smishek Lake, both Burke County

- Skjermo Lake, Divide County

- Stanley Reservoir, Mountrail County

- Arnegard Dam, McKenzie County

- Blacktail Dam, Cottonwood Lake, Tioga Dam and Trenton Lake, all Williams County.

Southeast District

- Alfred Lake, Boom Lake (Marion Lake), Flood Lake and Twin Lakes, all LaMoure County

- Arnie’s Lake, Logan County

- Elm Lake and Gullys Slough, both Richland County

- Big Mallard Marsh, Stutsman County

Leier is a biologist with the Game & Fish Department. He can be reached by email:dleier@nd.gov. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com

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