Matt Strom, Minot, with a Garrison Tailrace salmon caught from shore Sept. 1. Strom said the salmon hit a Clackin' Minnow. The fish was not weighed prior to release. Fishermen have been reporting nice catches of salmon, northern pike and walleyes from the tailrace in recent days.
Pheasant numbers down from last year
North Dakota's roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August suggests poor production this spring, meaning a lower fall population in all areas of the state. Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the survey shows statewide total pheasants are down 36 percent from last year.
Statistics from the northwest indicated pheasants are down 53 percent from last year, with broods down 62 percent. In the northeast district both number of birds observed and number of broods recorded were down roughly 66 percent.
Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate both the number of broods and number of birds observed were down 26 percent from 2010. Results from the southeast show the number of birds observed down 54 percent from last year, and the number of broods was down 60 percent.
Kohn said several factors contribute to the decrease in pheasant numbers: three difficult winters in a row with above average snowfall has reduced spring's adult breeding population; wet conditions during peak hatch in mid-June of 2008, 2009 and 2011 reduced chick survival; and the loss of nesting habitat on the landscape as more Conservation Reserve Program acreage is removed from pheasant range.
The 2011 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 8 and continues through Jan. 8. The two-day youth pheasant hunting weekend, when legally licensed residents and nonresidents ages 15 and younger can hunt statewide, is set for Oct. 1-2.
Bighorn sheep numbers strong
While three consecutive severe winters played a significant role in reducing many of the state's western big game populations, overall bighorn sheep numbers are strong, according to Brett Wiedmann, big game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.
A July and August survey in western North Dakota showed 290 bighorn sheep, unchanged from last year and 26 below 2008's record summer survey.
"After recording dramatic declines in mule deer and pronghorn numbers, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our bighorns have remained stable," Wiedmann said.
Bighorn sheep can tolerate frigid temperatures, but deep snows can cause problems because of their short legs, Wiedmann said. "Low adult mortality last winter despite very deep snow conditions demonstrates just how hardy bighorns are," he said.
Survey results revealed 85 rams, 158 ewes and 47 lambs 233 in the northern Badlands (an increase of two from last year) and 57 in the southern Badlands (down one). The department's survey does not include an additional 30 bighorns that inhabit the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
North Dakota's bighorn sheep hunting season opens Oct. 21 and continues through Nov. 3. Six licenses were issued.
Swan licenses still available
North Dakota's swan lottery has been held and more than 450 licenses remain. Only hunters who do not have a swan license for the 2011 season can apply, as regulations limit hunters to one license per year.
Licenses are available online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Hunters may also request an application by calling the department's Bismarck office at 328-6300. The statewide tundra swan hunting season is Oct. 1 through Jan. 1. North Dakota residents and nonresidents are eligible to apply. The fee is $5 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.
Report whooping crane sightings
Whooping cranes are in the midst of their fall migration and sightings will increase as they make their way through North Dakota over the next several weeks. Anyone seeing these birds as they move through the state is asked to report sightings so the birds can be tracked.
Whoopers stand about five feet tall and have a wingspan of about seven feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Young-of-the-year whoopers are white with scattered brown feathers.
Anyone sighting whoopers should not disturb them, but record the date, time, location, and the birds' activity. Observers should also look closely for and report colored bands which may occur on one or both legs. Young whooping cranes were marked during 1975-1988 with colored leg bands.
Whooping crane sightings should be reported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office at 387-4397, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department's main office in Bismarck at 328-6610, or to local game wardens around the state.
Space available for BOW workshop
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is still accepting registrations for the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman waterfowl hunting workshop Oct. 1-2 in Bismarck.
Participants will learn firearm and waterfowl safety, shotgun shooting, waterfowl identification, water / field decoys and gear, and techniques for decoying and calling waterfowl. Oct. 2 will feature a mentored hunt. Participants must possess a hunter education certificate, current hunting licenses and provide their own hunting clothing, boots or waders. Workshop fees of $20 include instruction, program materials and use of equipment. No lodging is provided.
Becoming an Outdoors-Woman workshops are designed primarily for women with an interest in learning skills associated with hunting, fishing and outdoor endeavors. Contact Nancy Boldt, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman coordinator, at 328-6312.
Signs available for landowners
"Ask Before You Enter" and "Walking Hunters Welcome" signs are available to North Dakota landowners who encourage hunting on their land during upcoming fall hunting seasons. Landowners can order quantities of four, eight or 12.
The signs are free and sponsored by the North Dakota Landowner-Sportsman Council. To order, contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at 328-6300 or the department's Web site (gf.nd.gov).
Grahams Island project gets started
Construction to raise the road leading to Grahams Island State Park six feet is under way and visitors to the park should expect some delays going in and out of the park.
With Devils Lake reaching record levels and threatening to top a five-mile stretch of the Grahams Island road the North Dakota Legislature approved raising the road from 1,455 feet above mean sea level to 1,461 feet above mean sea level. Ames Construction was awarded the contract based on its bid of just over $15 million for the project.
Construction will start on the west side of the road coming from Grahams Island through the water zone. The lane will be widened, raised some and graveled for traffic. The work will then move to the east lane to raise it to grade and finally the west lane will be raised to the level of 1,461.
Initially, only short delays are expected with traffic directed by flaggers. Later, pilot cars will guide travelers through the construction area. Truck traffic will increase as the project proceeds as they haul fill, riprap and gravel.
On Monday the main boat ramp will be closed and construction will start to raise the ramp from 1,454 to 1,458 feet above mean sea level. A temporary boat launch will be located near the park's primitive campground. Depending on weather conditions and contractor progress the main ramp could be closed for the rest of the season.