Musky and Tiger Musky Fishing in North Dakota: A Hidden Gem for Anglers

Musky and Tiger Musky Fishing in North Dakota: A Hidden Gem for Anglers

Jodie Paul April 01, 2024

When it comes to musky and tiger fishing, North Dakota might not be the first state that comes to mind. However, hidden within its picturesque landscapes and pristine waters lies an exciting opportunity for anglers to pursue these elusive predators. For nearly 20 years, the North Dakota Department of Fish and Game have been quietly stocking both muskellunge and tiger muskies into the waterways of North Dakota.  Because of their efforts, the population of both are growing in numbers and size class to match that of many Northwoods destinations.

The weather and water quality of North Dakota provide fingerlings with an excellent hunting ground to flourish, with air temperatures hitting 80 only in the peak of summer, but typically remaining cool throughout the year.  Local fish species, such as walleye, pike, perch, bass, bluegill, white sucker, and carp are abundant and the target of many local anglers, while musky fishing lacks a lot of momentum.  As tigers and muskies have been underfished, they are steadily growing to trophy size, and continuing to thrive.

Making the trek to North Dakota would be a waste without the information at hand so let's dive into the 2 best lakes to guarantee some musky or tiger-catching success.

Lake Audubon, located in the central part of the state, is a hidden gem for musky enthusiasts.  As a lake fed by the upper Missouri River, this waterway in particular is a great place to get started if you want to fish for muskies or tigers in North Dakota.  The land and water are pristine and there are upwards of 5 boat launches from all directions.  Lake Audubon is over 16,000 acres with approximately 115 miles of shoreline.  The lake itself is dotted throughout with deep holes, shallows, shores, islands, rocks, and structure galore, making it great for ambush predators. 

The median depth is 19 feet, though the lake does plunge to nearly 60 feet in some locations.  This lake is expansive so there is no fear for larger vessels and no shortage of empty locations.  Local anglers prefer to target walleye and other game fish, so musky anglers would have their pick of the litter when it comes to targets.  The current record for North Dakota comes from Lake Audubon sizing up at a monstrous 54” 46lbs and that was caught in 2007.  You can only imagine how much they’ve grown in such an untouched environment with plenty of forage fish to eat.

Outside of Lake Audubon, the next lake on the list to visit is New Johns Lake.  New Johns Lake is a smaller affair boasting less acreage for fishing at about 680 with only 11 miles of shoreline.  This lake has about a 20-foot average depth with a max depth of 30 feet.  Unlike Lake Audubon, New Johns Lake is a lake dedicated to mainly shoreline fishing, or would be perfect for an experienced troller.  This lake is made up of multiple large basins, surrounded by steep 8–20-foot drops, perfect for long days of trolling.  As is true with Lake Audubon, little angling pressure is notable for either tiger or musky fishing, so experience will likely put a lot of fish in the net.

As is the case with all of North Dakota, both of these lakes are surrounded by unbelievably open spaces associated with the plain’s states in the American West.  You can expect tall grasses, low rolling hills, pasture lands, and untouched state parks.  These frontier states continue to be untouched and lightly populated adding to the natural beauty of the area.  You can expect open skies and miles of scenic territory surrounding both of these beautiful lakes.

As the muskies and tigers are thriving on the local forage and the waters are uniquely untouched so targeting your favorite toothy predator is up in the air as far as what is working.  As you can imagine, it never hurts to start with natural colors matching the local flavor, but if many of these fish may have never seen a bucktail, so shooting for the stars with your favorite neon presentation might not be a bad thing.  These North Dakota lakes offer camping and nature to boot, and plenty of dotted towns in between that welcome travelers, so your experience of frontier fishing will end with a comfortable place to rest your head.  These hidden gems in North Dakota are worth definitely earning high marks in musky and tiger fishing and might be the next adventure you’re looking for.

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