Doug Leier: A quick refresher course in North Dakota fishing regulations and definitions – Grand Forks Herald

Doug Leier is an outreach biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Reach him at [email protected]

WEST FARGO – It was mid-March when the first open water fishing reports from the Missouri River started feeding the spring fishing frenzy of anglers. Some angles have two months of fishing behind them, while others wait for Memorial Day weekend, signaling the kickoff of summer fishing.

First things first. There’s always time to review fishing rules and regulations. While it may be convenient to ask your fishing buddies, bait shop or fishing equipment experts, the best advice is to check the regulations yourself.

Anglers can find the 2022-24 North Dakota Fishing Guide on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website ,, or at Game and Fish Department offices and license vendors throughout the state.

Noteworthy regulation changes for this year include:

  • An increase in the statewide smallmouth/largemouth bass daily limit from 3 to 5 and possession limit from 6 to 10.
  • Allow for the taking of walleye during the darkhouse spearfishing season for the Missouri River System, Devils Lake and Stump Lake.
  • Allow for the use of legal live baitfish at Crown Butte, Kettle Lake, Nygren Dam and Sather Dam.

A new license was required as of April 1, and if you’ve not been fishing, the 2022-23 fishing licenses can be purchased on the Game and Fish website .

If you have ever wondered about some of the specific definitions for North Dakota anglers and waters, here are some of the more important:

  • Game fish are bluegill burbot channel catfish, chinook salmon, crappie (black and white), largemouth bass, muskellunge (pure and hybrid), northern pike, paddlefish, sauger, smallmouth bass, sturgeon (pallid, shovelnose and lake), trout (brown, lake, rainbow and cutthroat), walleye, white bass, yellow perch and zander.
  • Legal live baitfish are fathead minnows, creek chubs, sticklebacks, white suckers and rainbow smelt.

Some of the more common rules and regulations include:

  • Depositing or leaving any litter (including refuse, bottles, cans, etc.) or other waste material in the water, on shore or on the ice is illegal.
  • It is illegal to introduce anything into waters of the state for the purpose of attempting to attract fish (eg chumming, artificial light, acoustic equipment, etc.) that is not attached or applied to a lure.
  • Stocking of any live fish, live fish eggs, live amphibians or other live aquatic organisms into any waters of the state is illegal except with the appropriate license or permit issued by the Game and Fish director.
  • Transportation of any live fish, live fish eggs, live amphibians or other live aquatic organisms is illegal.

Fish may be filled for transport, unless size limits apply, under the following conditions:

  • Each individual portion of the meat removed from a fish is considered a fillet.
  • Two fillets are counted as one fish.
  • The packaging of fish must be done in a manner so that the fillets can be readily separated and counted. If fillets are frozen, they must be packaged so that the fillets are separated and thus can be easily counted without thawing.
  • Gifted fish, including packages of fish, must be accompanied with the following information from the individual gifting the fish: name, fishing license number, phone number, date, species and number of gifted fish.
  • Except for legally gifted fish, it is illegal to possess or transport another individual’s game fish or parts thereof without the license holder accompanying or as otherwise permitted.

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