Subscribe to the JMO Newsletter
The Hunting & Fishing Magazine of the Dakotas!

Great Planers Trout & Salmon Club 2021 Angling Report

summarized by Jack Long

2021 Season:  The Great Planers Trout and Salmon Club once again sponsored the salmon report card coupon program.  The program was established as a means for anglers to share their successes with other anglers in an effort to promote salmon fishing in the state and to provide anglers, new to the sport, a starting baseline of information.  Each year the Club encourages anglers to fill out coupons printed in the Club newsletter or also available at area bait and tackle shops, so that the data from angler successes can be compiled and summarized in a report.  As you are all aware by now, there is some uncertainty going into the upcoming season and involvement in the salmon fishing sport by the Club.  If the Club is disbanded at the conclusion of the current salmon season, it will also mean the termination of this report. It has been a pleasure for me to develop and write this report each year for the past 33 years, but things and times change and even if the Club is no longer viable and no report is developed, it will not impact the salmon fishery.  So, get out on the water, hook a Chinook, and have some fun, after all that’s what it is all about.

But, as in past years, let’s will get down to the nuts and bolts of what worked in 2021 to catch fish along with when and where. 

When:  After seeing a better afternoon bite in 2020, we saw a return of the morning bite in 2021.  In fact, 55% of the salmon reported caught were in the box before noon. 

Where:  This past summer Government Bay edged out the Face of the Dam as prime salmon catching area.  Twenty-seven (27%) percent of the salmon were picked up in front of Government Bay while 25% were caught on the Face.  Deadman’s and Pochant Bay followed at 18% and 11%.   

The other part of the where equation is where in the water column are the salmon and over what water depth?  The average lure depth for catching salmon during the season was 88 feet, the exact same depth as in 2019 and 2020, and anglers were running these lures in an average of 121 feet of water.  The 121-foot depth was considerably less than most recent years but it is probably indicative of the fact that fish are being taken along the Dam where water depths are a bit shallower, and most anglers were running close to the bottom and in a lot of cases, dragging their cannonballs on the bottom. 

What:  What works is the last question to the salmon catching equation and maybe the most important one.  How do I know what should I use and why should I use a particular color, lure, or attractor?  Salmon lures can basically be grouped into six categories; squids, needlefish, bait, spoons, flies, and crankbaits.  Usually squids, needlefish and bait are your best choices when on the water but in 2021 if you had only one type of lure in your tackle box, it better be a squid.  Fifty (50%) percent of the salmon were caught on a squid with a needlefish, at 39%, a somewhat close second, and bait accounting for 11%.

Lure color saw a similar pattern to 2019 and 2020 with white leading the way at 29%, followed by purple haze at 25%, green at 22% and blue at 14%.  

When it comes to attractors, flashers are used most of the time and why not, as they have been so successful over the years.   In 2021, the flasher was the leading attractor and it accounted for 90% of the salmon caught.  A green attractor led the color parade with 27% followed closely by white and blue, both at 26% and Mountain Dew at 13%.  So, the “what” factor of the equation was a white squid behind a green flasher, and this snapped a six-year streak where white had been the flasher of choice of both the anglers and the salmon.  

Largest Salmon:  The largest salmon weighed in in the report card coupon program was caught by Bob Gregorie, Bismarck.  Bob weighed in a 14 pound 13½ ounce fish.  The following is a listing of coupon reported fish weighing 10 pounds or more from the past season:

Bob Gregoire, Bismarck –  14# 13.5oz

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –     12# 14oz  

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –     12# 8oz

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –     12# 3oz

Larry Freed, Bismarck –      12# 0oz

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –     10# 13oz

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –     10# 8oz

Rod Resner, Grand Forks – 10# 5oz

Larry Freed, Bismarck –      10# 4oz

Larry Freed, Bismarck –      10# 4oz

John Baepple, Bismarck –  10# 2oz

Marlin Schick, Bismarck –   10# 2oz

LeRoy Feist, Bismarck –      10#2oz

In 2021, the average angler caught salmon weighed in at 7.3 pounds.  I have been preparing this report since 1989 and during that time span, the largest average was in 2000 and was 10.0 pounds, while it bottomed out in 2006 with an average of 3.7 pounds.  All total, in 2019, there were only four salmon with a weight of eight pounds or more as compared to five in 2018, sixteen in 2017, and 127 salmon of eight pounds or more in 2016.  In 2020, 79 salmon of eight pounds or more were reported caught.  While 2021 saw 57 salmon weighing 8 pounds or more caught. •