North Dakota turned out to be the state I was most uncertain about—not because I did not think it would be a fun or exciting place, but because I had no idea where I was going to go fish. It is certainly not the most promoted state in “Fly-Fishermen” or “The Drake.” I did some research and found that walleye and pike fishing were popular, but I couldn’t find a way to target the walleye in shallow water and my time of arrival in the summer was not going to be optimal for pike. Additionally, I was trying to focus in the southeast corner of the state during a road trip through the Midwest. Fortunately, a friend of a friend connected me with an avid fly fisherman who lived near Bismarck. So, not really sure of what I was after, I made my way to the capital with my family late one evening after fishing in Minnesota. On the way, we of course had to take a stop to see the world’s largest buffalo, weighing in at 6 tons with “All-star gonads” inscribed on the plaque at its base for the public to see. You cannot make that stuff up—an absolute must-see if you find yourself in southeastern North Dakota. During the final stretch of our drive, I called up my fishing partner, Rick, who told me he would pick me up at 5:30 in the morning. I was all set and ready to go!
The next morning dad and I ate a quick fisherman’s breakfast (aka the Holiday Inn complimentary) and got ready to head out, unsure of what we were fishing for or where we were headed. That is one of my favorite parts of seeing a new fishery. My mom always says we were “seeing America, one waterway at a time.” Not only did the journey expose me to new species, techniques, and water, but also all sorts of new places I likely may not never have seen without fishing. I brought a 5 wt. assuming we would target some sort of panfish and a variety of flies—from deer hair frogs to tiny midges for trout.
We met Rick, a local wetlands biologist who generously offered to spend a morning on the water with my dad and me, and started towards a North Dakota Game and Fish pond. Rick had originally planned to pike fish, but the conditions of the day weren’t suitable, so he took us to a local pond dug by the National Guard at the state’s Game and Fish headquarters, the “Bismarck Family Fishing Pond.” This pond is accessible to the public and provides children and families with the opportunity to catch anything from a large mouth bass to a rainbow trout. To my surprise, I went from catching first a bluegill to then a chrome colored rainbow, followed by a crappie. I never would have expected to catch these fish in the same spot! It was sort of a funny compilation of species, but a great opportunity to find a variety in one place. Well versed in the panfish of South Georgia, it is always exciting for me to find trout, no matter the setting. They were eager little fellers.
A few families came by the pond the morning we fished and also had success, using fly as well as spinning tackle. Resources like the family fishpond make fishing the accessible sport that it is meant to be and offer a perfect setting for local youth to learn about fishing as well as species native to their home ecosystem and state waters. It also provides an available location to practice fishing skills and even learn a new style, such as fly fishing. Many state Game and Fish Departments such as this one even provide classes to teach fishing tactics to new anglers, ecology, and watershed conservation. It is not uncommon to find locally managed public fishponds in cities and rural areas alike.
For more information on the North Dakota Game and Fish department, see https://gf.nd.gov/. For additional information on the Bismarck Family Fishing Pond, visit the following link: https://gf.nd.gov/education/bismarck-fishing-pond.