Here’s why 1 in 4 North Dakotans Over 16 Bought a Fishing License for 2014-15

September 16, 2015 by  

I bought a fishing license this year, just like I have every year since I turned 16. I bought a license for my wife, and my kids still aren’t old enough to need one (16 or older) but we all fished the past year, just like we do every year.

I’m not sure I’d say we fished often enough, but when we did, it made us part of another record year, as the number of anglers buying fishing licenses in North Dakota during the 2014-15 season established a new record in license sales for the third consecutive year.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department, North Dakota Outdoors

More than 222,000 fishing licenses were sold last year. Photo courtesy, NDGF

Statistics compiled by the State Game and Fish Department revealed more than 222,000 fishing licenses were sold last year, an increase of 3,000 from 2013-14.

I stopped for a moment and did some basic math, and contemplated the fact North Dakota’s entire state population is now just under 740,000 from what Wikipedia told me. The license numbers indicate that just about one out of every four North Dakota residents age 16 and over bought a fishing license last year.

In addition, nearly 65,000 nonresidents bought fishing licenses, which was also a new record.

License sales records are closely tied to a record number of fishing lakes In North Dakota, and aggressive fish management. It’s no secret Lake Sakakawea, Devils Lake and Lake Oahe/Missouri River remain the top three fisheries in the state, as has been the case for decades. But since the return of water to the prairies after 1993 we’ve seen more and more sloughs, ponds, and lakes thrive as fisheries.

As a comparison, let’s look at fishing license sales from that last year since water started to return. During the 1992-93 license year, the Game and Fish Department issued about 94,500 resident licenses, and 14,300 nonresident licenses, for a total of 108,800. That’s about half the number of anglers we have today.

Surely, some of that increase is related to the state’s increased population in the last decade, but it also means more beginners and infrequent anglers are buying a license more often because of improved fishing opportunities in more areas.

Places where people played softball and hunted pheasants are now producing walleye and perch in summer and winter. In addition, Game and Fish biologists have stocked more than 48 million walleye fingerlings in the past 5 years, in addition to salmon, trout, pike, bass and pan fish.

While stocking is one part of the equation, ample water and accompanying fisheries management strategies have worked to help make fishing in North Dakota continue to flourish. Several times in the past two decades we’ve thought the realities of natural weather cycles would turn the improving fishing scene around. So far that has not happened in the long term, and no one knows how long the cycle will continue.

So while September means our focus shifts to hunting, there’s still plenty of time to fish. And if you are hunting there’s a good chance you probably spent some time this past year casting a line. And if you’re like me, stop for a minute and smile because you were part of another record.

Who knows, maybe next year we’ll do it again.


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