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Before the new year gets too far back in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at some of the highlights and developments from 2018 that may interest North Dakota’s hunters and anglers.

Here’s some excerpts from the recent January 2019 North Dakota Outdoors magazine, published by the State Game and Fish Department.

Upland game/waterfowl

North Dakota’s late summer roadside brood surveys indicated total pheasant and Hungarian partridge numbers in 2018 were similar to 2017, while sharp-tailed grouse numbers were down.

The survey showed total pheasants observed were down 2 percent from 2017, while sharptails were down 49 percent statewide from 2017. Partridge were up 7 percent.


The fall fish reproduction survey, which evaluates natural reproduction, stocking success and forage abundance, indicated that most North Dakota waters fared as good as or better than expected in 2018.

Lake Sakakawea had the eighth highest catch of young-of-the-year walleye on record. There was also good reproduction of most game species in the big lake, as fisheries biologists saw healthy numbers of pike, perch, smallmouth bass, white bass, crappies and walleye.

Plus, it was the second year in a row of good walleye reproduction, which wasn’t a surprise considering the high water resulted in an abundance of food and habitat for the young fish.

Lake Oahe also had good reproduction of walleye in 2018, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, considering that Oahe is still lacking forage that fish need to grow.

Devils Lake saw fair to good numbers of walleye, with the catch close to average even though Game and Fish didn’t stock any walleye in the fishery in 2018. The result was all from natural reproduction.

While Devils Lake was not stocked, fisheries personnel did stock nearly 10 million walleye fingerlings in more than 140 waters across the state in 2018.

Considering not many went into Lake Sakakawea, 2018 featured one of the largest stockings of more than 8 million fingerlings into smaller fishing waters.


The Game and Fish Department made available 55,150 licenses to deer gun hunters in 2018.

That was good news because that was 650 more licenses than in 2017 and well above the recent low of 43,275 in 2015. Some of the increases in deer gun licenses were seen in both antlered mule deer, which were up 150, and antlered whitetails, up 150.

Aquatic nuisance species

North Dakota did not have any new aquatic nuisance species discoveries in 2018. That includes movement of ANS that are already in the state or documentation of new species.

Fisheries managers said North Dakota is fortunate to this point to have few problems with ANS. Game and Fish ANS educational efforts and cooperation of North Dakota anglers, boaters and hunters has helped in the effort to safeguard the state’s waters.

Record walleye

And last but certainly not least, in May Neal Leier of Bismarck caught a new state record walleye weighing 15 pounds, 13 ounces in the Missouri River in Bismarck.

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Doug Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department.