The North Dakota Game and Fish Department office in Dickinson revealed that the state has seen an abnormally high percentage increase in fishing licenses issued so early in the season.

Greg Power, the fisheries chief at North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the number of local fishing members saw a historic increase in such a small amount of time. With the season only getting started, the numbers could reach an all-time high for the state by the end of the season.

“So far we’re close to 40% ahead of normal,” Power said. “I’ve never seen anything like this with this quick of an increase.”

Power stated the last time fishing hit this much of an significant increase was in 2012, following the Souris River flood in 2011 that caused massive damage in North Dakota, particularly in Minot. However, with numbers continuing to climb, fishing licenses could reach unprecedented numbers by their peak, which on average ranges from mid-to-late May into mid-to-late July.

“In 2012, we saw a real big spike of interest and numbers, peaking at 160 thousand” Power said. “But this might be even bigger than that … already this season we’re a little more than 20 thousand license sales ahead of this time last year.”

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As for the age demographics, while all numbers have risen in license sales, the highest amount of licenses has been seen from younger adults. Specifically coming from ages 16-29. The amount of female fishing licenses have also taken a slight increase in the percentage of fishing licenses sold within the state of North Dakota.

“We normally see about 25% of female fishers,” Power said. “As of right now we are close to about 30%, it’s not up a lot, but it’s definitely an upward trend.”

While many businesses may be staggered by the surprising increase in numbers coming within a short timeframe, Power is not as surprised, based on the current situation created by the pandemic.

“In retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of unemployment out there, and with unemployment raises the amount of fishing nationwide and they’re seeing this is in other states as well …. It’s also a good mental care thing to do, it’s a good stress reliever and in times like this, you really need that.”

While the state has slowly started to re-open and attempt to get back to a normal type of routine, Power stated only time will tell if the numbers will continue to climb, hit an average, or be struck by a rapid decline. However, if numbers continue, historic numbers could be risen from depths unknown.

“Let’s wait another month or two and then see,” he said. “I do think it’s very possible that we could have those numbers, if it keeps up the way it is for sure, the question mainly is if it will continue to be the way it is.”