This mid week fishing report I’m going to change course just a tad. With my recent cancellations, it has given me an opportunity to pre scout the upper stretches of the Missouri River near my hometown of Bismarck, ND. I like to get out on the river a few times early fall/late summer just to see some of the changes before the flows are cut back.
As you may or may not know, this stretch of the river is where I cut my teeth in the fishing world. I’ve often wondered if it’s possible that even at my age, if anyone has spent more time out there. I’m sure there is, but I gotta be somewhere in the top 5 lol. Anyway, my recent trips out on the river have definitely got me concerned for the future of Lake Oahe/Missouri River.
Normally these early fall trips result in catching a few local fish. This fall not so much? In fact, I’m not seeing much of anything to be honest. Now don’t get me wrong. There are always fish around somewhere. I know the Tailrace section right now has a decent population of fish. I also understand there is still a really strong population of huge walleyes way down south. However, I’m not so sure we have much of a population of 14″ to 22″ inch fish in the entire system?
I do believe there are quite a few fish under 12″ inches but what I’m wondering is how old are these fish? The mega walleyes 28″ and up seem to be doing extremely well! Plenty of fresh water herring are keeping these big giants well fed. The smaller fish however, not so much. This spring on our river was pretty darn good. We are fortunate up here to see a spring and sometimes fall run where these fish congregate in what I refer to as the bottleneck. This definitely makes the entire system look healthy. Problem is I don’t believe it is.
In talking to a few of my South Dakota guide friends. They are telling me that this may be the worst they have seen it in a really long time. That is frightening to me to think we are headed into a down cycle. I’ve seen this down cycle way too many times to count in my lifetime already. Again, we are blessed to be situated where we are. The stretch of river I get to fish and guide will no matter what see decent fishing, simply due to a migration and a smaller area to work with.
Just think of it this way. We are in a 20 mile stretch of river where at times we pull fish into this stretch from 200 miles below us. That’s a lot of water to draw fish in from! My guide buddies to the south are also informing me they can catch more walleyes a day over 28 than they do between 14″ and 20″ eater size. For me that’s hard to believe its off this bad.
I’m seeing an effort down in South Dakota to try and build a fish hatchery to raise walleyes and smelt. I’m all for stocking as much forage as we can! I don’t care if they say it won’t make it etc. It will make it long enough to do some good. I mean look at the back history as to how smelt ended up in Lake Sakakawea. It’s incredible to see where that body of water is. So I’m all for gizzard shad, herring, smelt, shiners, fatheads whatever to help the smaller fish on Lake Oahe to have a chance.
If you get a chance, look up Lake Oahe Walleye Restoration Coalition. If you want more information contact Bill Waeckerle firstname.lastname@example.org