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Doug Leier, Published December 27 2011

Leier: There's plenty to look forward to in 2012


The older I get, the faster time seems to pass. My neighbor and friend Mick explained a few years ago it’s a function of the percentage of life.

Case in point for me is remembering the vivid details of my first trip to the old outdoor movie theatre in Valley City, N.D., more than three decades ago, watching Clint Eastwood with my Mom, Dad and sister. I even remember we had taco-flavored Doritos as a snack.

But fast forward to this past spring and I struggle to recall the when and where of my first fishing trip of the season. Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to forget about last year. As I mentioned in my column last week, many of us can’t wait to put up a new calendar and hope for improvements in the year to come.

One of the first positive signs is access for ice fishing. While the moderate weather in December hasn’t produced much ice fit for driving yet, at least people can get on lakes, and it should be a banner year for both ice and open water fishing.

State Game and Fish Department fisheries chief Greg Power wrote, regarding pike fishing in 2012: “North Dakota 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 the last three years, many of these waters have never harbored so many northerns.

“The hope is that ice anglers will catch a break this winter and have easy access to the abundant pike populations. Although many pike are currently young and relatively small, fish of 5 pounds or more should weigh heavily in the mix.”

In addition to northerns, abundant precipitation and increasing water levels the past three years have benefitted most fish species in the state. Unlike game birds that grow from egg to adult-sized in just a few months, most fish take a few years to reach “keeper” size, and those from the good class of 2009 may start reaching that threshold in 2012.

Water, of course, benefits ducks and geese as well. While the state could use a little bit of snow runoff or spring rain to recharge temporary wetlands, prospects for waterfowl production in prairie pothole country remains good, barring a hot, dry spring and early summer.

Abundant water has also meant a resurgence in muskrat populations. Game and Fish has been getting a fair amount of interest from people thinking of giving trapping a try, as prices for furs of several species are up heading into the new year.

The mild December also bodes well for pheasants and deer. While anything can happen the rest of the winter, all resident wildlife have had a relatively stress-free start. That gives us reason for optimism in 2012.

I’m looking forward to it.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com