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Early indications suggest ice fishing for northern pike is off to a good start in North Dakota, but yellow perch haven't cooperated as much as anglers would like.

Is this the start of a pattern for the entire winter? Predicting a fishing season is like trying to predict the weather, according to Terry Steinwand, fisheries chief for the State Game and Fish Department. "About all we can say is we'll have weather but don't know what kind, and we'll have fishing but don't know how much they'll cooperate," Steinwand said.

Water levels in many lakes are down from last year, Steinwand mentioned, especially in the western half of the state. "Lower water levels won't necessarily hurt ice fishing, especially early," he added. "But when oxygen levels drop, as they can do in shallower lakes, the fish become stressed and don't bite. We also run the increased risk of winterkill as lakes become shallower."

However, pike and perch populations are good across the state, Steinwand noted, with perch the primary choice of anglers during winter. "Perch populations are still very good," he said, "but are not cooperating at the current time. It will pick up."

Until then, anglers might want to take a look at the department's North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine's November issue, Steinwand said. The magazine contains an article on winter perch fishing, which lists 68 perch lakes in the state, with details on location, size, and stocking information.

When referring to stocking reports, Steinwand suggests looking at records from two or three years ago. "The majority of perch stocked in the spring of 2002 were only about one to one and a half inches long and certainly won't be of catchable size for another two years," Steinwand said. "Records from two years ago will give a better indication of what perch fishing might be like in a particular lake."

Stocking records can be accessed by logging onto the department's website at Click on the fishing tab and scroll down to "fish stocking lists" in the left column.

To order a copy of the November issue, send $2 to North Dakota OUTDOORS, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58501-5095.
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