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Doug Leier, Published July 30 2013

Leier: Fishing access in ND has never been better

West Fargo - Not surprisingly, my youngest daughter, age 6, considers me old, and I’d guess that most kids look at mom and dad in the same way, no matter the age of the parent.

On the positive side, I find myself enjoying the added knowledge that comes from experiences along the way. And a visit with others with more experience than I is a perfect opportunity to learn.

Earlier this summer, I was visiting a couple of wise (older) friends after a nice meal of reservoir walleyes, pike and perch. This particular small reservoir is one of many man-made lakes scattered across North Dakota, and I’ve fished them in all corners, from Patterson Lake to McGregor Dam, Wilson Dam, Dead Colt Creek and others.

Starting decades ago, government entities and local groups changed the landscape of North Dakota with small impoundments on rivers, streams and creeks. Flood control, recreation, irrigation and economics of different priorities all factored into construction of these reservoirs, and dozens were created from the 1950s through 1980s.

In casual conversations I learned that the land for Lake LaMoure in LaMoure County, where I have spent a fair amount of time since my youth, was bought many years ago for just over $600,000, and recent repair work to just the emergency spillway cost over $2 million. Talk about inflation!

We also touched on the changing times and how the process for creating one of these small reservoirs today is much more involved. That’s not necessarily good or bad. It just means that not many Brewer Lakes or Homme Dams will be added to the landscape in the coming decades.

The conversation with longtime friends Ron Splitt and Alan Hodem of LaMoure turned to fishing in “the good old days,” which proved equally compelling. I had just finished loading dad’s boat and checking out the dock, concrete ramp and adjacent fishing pier, all in excellent user condition, and available to make a 21st century fishing outing quite a bit more convenient than it might have been in the past.

Before Lake LaMoure existed, Splitt explained how every Sunday he would pack up the family for an afternoon of shore fishing and picnicking along the James River, and how few good spots there were to catch fish, let alone comfortable place to take a family.

That made me think of how good anglers of today really have it. Modern amenities make fishing now sometimes feel like a literal walk in the park.

The fact is, I would guess my friends wouldn’t necessarily consider the “old days” as the “good old days” for fishing.

That designation probably fits today. Just recently, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reported a record number of fishing licenses issued in 2012. That was due primarily to a record number of fishing lakes, many created naturally in the last 20 years, and good fishing success all around, from Sakakawea to Devils Lake to Lake LaMoure.

While there’s no shortage of excuses to keep from fishing as summer wears on, a quick visit with anglers of any experience, and you’ll soon realize there’s no such things as a bad day of fishing.

Just days you catch more fish than others, but access and availability of fishing spots have never been better.

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