Every fall and spring, a massive migration occurs near
Bismarck North Dakota on the Missouri River. This migration
isn’t birds nor butterflies but walleye, a highly desirable
game fish that are regarded by anglers far and wide. In fact,
the fishing is so good for walleye on the Missouri River that
many citizens call Bismarck home or move to this prospering
community just for the fishing. This meandering river also
beckons anglers from across the state and country.
While the Missouri River near Bismarck resembles the same
river that Lewis and Clark saw, this large river now features
several large hydroelectric dams that back up some of the
largest reservoirs in the world. These huge reservoirs are
home to some of the world’s best walleye fishing and
each spring, nature calls. The natural instinct for this walleye
population is to swim up the reservoir, up river in search
of suitable spawning areas.
While this region of the country has been gripped with a
drought for nearly a decade, this hasn’t impeded great
fishing on Lake Oahe and the Missouri River above Lake Oahe
all the way to the Garrison Dam. Despite less than ideal water
conditions, the fishing just keeps getting better and there
are several factors that contribute to this fishery. According
to North Dakota Game and Fish Department Biologist, Greg Powers,
there are several year classes of walleye available right
now with many fish in the 21 to 23 inch range. “We also
had great year classes in 2005, 2006 and 2007 which is unusual
to have that great of recruitment for consecutive years,”
added Powers. There is a strong population of walleye in the
river and the river is literally a walleye factory with strong
natural reproduction driving the population of both Lake Oahe
and the Missouri River.
These fish grow fast on a diet of high calorie bait fish
like gizzard shad. According to Powers, “the size and
shape of these fish is impressive as there is plenty of forage
for these fish.” While walleye get most of the attention,
important to note that there are many channel catfish, white
bass and smallmouth bass in the river for anglers to catch,
according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Boat ramps are available up and down the river so that anglers
can access and take advantage of this world class resource.
Unlike many major fishing destinations and other parts of
the country, the Missouri River is unique in that it still
resembles the same river of old. There are many stretches
where you can almost imagine the countryside and river view
that early explorers, Lewis and Clark witnessed. Canada geese
patrol the numerous sandbars. Bald eagles are often seen overhead.
Massive cottonwood trees line the river valley. And in this
setting swim enough walleye to attract the attention of anglers
far and wide.
One such angler who calls Bismarck home and takes
advantage of this great fishing often, even winning
some regional fishing tournaments held on the river
is Kurt Schirado. Schirado is typical of many of the
anglers who call this community home, they have a deep
love and respect for this fishery and the fish who call
this river home. They also partake in fishing every
chance they get.
According to Kurt, “the fishing is usually great
from April all the way up to the fourth of July but
if you move further south, you can experience great
fishing for walleye all summer.” Spring anglers
typically focus on shallow current breaks caused by
the numerous sandbars. “Most anglers use jigs
tipped with minnows or Gulp! or they troll crank baits
slowly upstream along these same current breaks.
Productive lures on the Missouri River include Rapala Shad
Raps especially the Glass Shads along with Salmo Hornets.
Most fish are caught between three to nine feet of water.
“Most of the time, I don’t even have to leave
town to catch fish, there is great fishing right in Bismarck
so you don’t have to go very far,” adds Schirado.
The community of Bismarck is convenient for anglers because
of the number of motels ranging from luxury to thrifty, great
restaurants, and historical attractions. According to anglers
like Kurt Schirado, walleye fishing has been excellent again
this season and the crystal ball looks good. “Each year
just seems to keep getting better,” added Schirado with
a smile. While local anglers may be biased, fishing celebrities
from across the region echo Schirado’s opinion.
According to fishing celebrity and television host, Jason
Mitchell from the television show Jason Mitchell Outdoors,
the Missouri River near Bismarck and Lake Oahe combine to
make the region one of the premier walleye fishing destinations
in the Midwest right now. “We love fishing both the
river and the lake because of the beautiful scenery, great
people and most of all, we know that we can always get some
great footage,” explained Mitchell. Jason Mitchell recently
filmed two strong television shows in one day on the river
just south of Bismarck.
The angler joined up with several local anglers to quickly
figure out the most productive locations. “Great fishing
tends to create great anglers, explains Mitchell. We have
had the opportunity to fish with some really great anglers
from around the Bismarck area and their local insight and
knowledge not only makes us more productive when we are filming
but adds so much to the story.” According to Mitchell,
the shows will appear across the Midwest next year (2009)
early in the year.