Fish Condition on the Missouri River-October 21, 2021

Written by Mike Peluso

October 21, 2021

This is kind of a fishing report (I’ll still post one this weekend) but I wanted to write on the condition of the Missouri River near Bismarck as I see it from being on the water fishing everyday.

disclaimer I am not a Game and Fish Biologist, this is merely what I’m finding being on the water daily fishing. This is not etched in stone and things can change.

The health of the walleyes in the smaller 22 inch all the way down is strikingly alarming to me. These fish are extremely skinny right now. I’ve seen this before. In fact, I’ve seen all of this before a couple times over. I always keep my fingers crossed that history won’t repeat itself. Low water and skinny fish gives me anxiety for the future of this world class fishery.

I will say this, sometimes this isn’t terrible. I’ve seen it do this before where we get low water, starving fish, and boom! We get tons of moisture in the mountains filling up the systems and the spawning conditions are perfect after the exposed shorelines get some growth etc and we have all the cylinders firing. I have also seen it where we don’t get the moisture, and the food either gets flushed through the dams or they die because water conditions are not favorable. So this can go either way.

One of the things I’m seeing right now that I truly believe is having an impact, is the amount of rough fish I’m seeing. With low waters these fish have left their backwater areas forcing them into the river portion. Most of these fish are very aggressive eaters. They are much more aggressive than the walleyes for sure. It’s my philosophy they are cleaning up what little forage was out in the river for the walleyes to eat, therefore we are seeing not so healthy walleyes.

Now the very large walleyes in that 26 inch range on up, are doing well! They are still finding the fast growing forage. The problem with the forage they are eating the eater size walleyes cannot. It’s just simply too big! I just talked to a really good fishing guide and buddy from down south of Mobridge. Him and I compare notes all the time to get a gauge on what to expect. He’s fearful we have a fish gap right now. They are seeing just as many large 10 pound plus fish, as they are seeing eater size down there. He says the eater size fish are skinny and the big ones are really healthy. Almost the exact same scenario playing out up here north of the SD/ND border.

I don’t want to sound doom and gloom. Usually when this happens, fishing becomes unreal near Bismarck, especially in the spring and really late fall. The unfortunate part, if we don’t get some water and good reproductive conditions, we get two maybe three really good fishing years. After that things get ugly and it takes a long time to recover unfortunately.

I know we are on a reservoir system and we are subject to this. I’m pissed off how the Corps has handled the water situation up on Sakakawea. I’ll be writing a post similar to this one about what I’m seeing up there as well. No way drought has caused Sak to drop 26 feet in two years. There is a meeting next Monday night I believe at BSC to discuss water levels on Sakakawea. Once I get the meeting information I’ll post it. We need to express our concerns.

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