North Dakota Hunters Educators Association




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NDG&F February 27th Newsletter


Spring Turkey Drawing Held, Licenses Remain

The 2017 spring wild turkey lottery has been held and hopeful hunters can check individual results by accessing the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at

A total of 891 licenses remain in 12 units. The governor’s proclamation allows a maximum of two licenses, and hunters who did not apply in the first drawing are also eligible.

Licenses remain in unit 03, Benson and Ramsey counties and portions of Pierce County; unit 06, Bowman County; unit 13, Dunn County; unit 19, Grant and Sioux counties and portions of Morton County; unit 25 McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward Counties; unit 30, portions of Morton County; unit 31, Mountrail County; unit 44, Slope County; unit 45, Stark County; unit 47, Eddy, Foster, Kidder, Sheridan, Stutsman and Wells counties; unit 51, Burke County and portions of Renville, Bottineau and Ward counties; and unit 99, Mercer and Oliver counties.

Licenses are issued on a first-come, first-served basis beginning March 15. Applicants can apply online, or print an application to mail at the Game and Fish website. In addition, applications can be requested by calling 701-328-6300. Only North Dakota residents are eligible to apply.

The spring turkey season opens April 8 and continues through May 14. 


Important NDHEA info regarding Mentored Hunts and Family Shooting events

NDHEA is pleased to be offering assistance with funding for Mentored Hunts and Family Shooting Events!

Family Fun Shoot/Mentored Hunt policies

click here to download a copy of the policies

Request for Participation (RFP) to conduct an event

click here to download the RFP form


Coyote Catalog Available for Hunters, Landowners

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department have reopened the Coyote Catalog to connect coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who want fewer coyotes in their areas.
The Coyote Catalog is an online database similar to the one the Game and Fish Department uses to connect deer hunters with farmers and ranchers.
“We’ve had a lot of success matching deer hunters with landowners,” said NDGF Director Terry Steinwand. “We hope the Coyote Catalog works out just as well.”
NDDA officials estimate livestock producers in North Dakota lost more than $1 million last year to coyotes. At the same time, coyotes are a popular furbearer species for hunters and trappers.
“I encourage landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyote depredation, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “Hunting and trapping are valuable tools in managing these predators.”
Goehring and Steinwand said the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services should be the first contact for landowners experiencing coyote depredation of livestock.
Landowners can sign up on the NDDA website at Required information includes county and contact information.
Hunters and trappers can sign up at the NDGF website at
Periodically throughout the winter, hunters or trappers will receive information on participating landowners, and they can then contact landowners to make arrangements.
Although the Coyote Catalog does not guarantee a good match for every participating landowner or hunter, Goehring and Steinwand said it has great potential to focus hunting or trapping pressure in areas where farmers and ranchers are experiencing coyote depredation problems.
Anyone who registered for the Coyote Catalog in the past must register again to activate their names on the database.
The Coyote Catalog will remain active through March 31, and then start up again next winter.


Information Sought in Illegal Taking of White-tailed Deer in Emmons County

North Dakota Game and Fish Department district game warden Erik Schmidt is searching for answers in the illegal shooting of four white-tailed deer in Emmons County during opening weekend of pheasant hunting season.
Schmidt said two mature bucks, one a 4x4 and the other a 5x5, were found in a bean field 1.5 miles east of Strasburg. A doe and fawn were found in a stubble field 5 miles southwest of Linton. It is believed all four were shot late evening Oct. 11, or early morning Oct. 12.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Report All Poachers telephone number at 800-472-2121, or contact Schmidt at 701-220-7160. RAP is offering a $1,000 reward.
The RAP line offers rewards for information that leads to conviction of fish and wildlife law violators. Reporting parties can remain anonymous.


Sportsmen Against Hunger Accepting Goose Meat

North Dakota’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program can now accept donations of Canada geese taken during the regular waterfowl hunting season.
Previously, the program could accept snow, blue and Ross’s geese during the regular season, but Canada goose donations were only allowed during the early Canada goose season.
This new opportunity for hunters to donate goose meat is part of a two-year pilot program between the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“In the past couple of years we have heard from many hunters who would like to donate geese taken during the regular season,” said Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand. “We appreciate the Fish and Wildlife Service setting up this pilot program so we can see how well it works.”
North Dakota Community Action Sportsmen Against Hunger program coordinator Sarah Hasbargen said the additional donations accepted during this pilot project will be a much-needed increase to food pantries across the state. “We will accept as much as hunters are able to donate,” Hasbargen said, while mentioning donated goose meat must be received no later than the day after the close of the season.
Provisions for donating goose meat during the regular season are basically the same as for the early Canada goose season. In addition, hunters can also donate meat from geese that were taken during the early season.
Hunters can bring their geese home and clean them prior to delivering meat to a processor, but breast meat brought from home without a wing or head attached to the meat, must be accompanied by written information that includes the hunter’s name, address, signature, hunting license number, date taken and species and number taken.
Hunters may also deliver geese directly from the field to a processor, but identification must remain attached to the bird until in possession of the processor. Since no goose carcasses or feathers are allowed inside processing plants, hunters must be able to ensure proper disposal and clean-up of carcasses.
The list of participating processors is available on the Game and Fish Department website at, and at the NDCAP website,
Hunters interested in donating are encouraged to call the processor before dropping off geese, to have a clear understanding of how processors will accept goose breasts, and their hours of operation.
The North Dakota Community Action Sportsmen Against Hunger is a charitable program that raises money for processing of donated goose and deer meat, and coordinates distribution of donated meat to food pantries in North Dakota. It is administered by the North Dakota Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit agency that serves low-income families across the state.
SFor more information, visit the NDCAP website, or contact Sarah Hasbargen at 701-232-2452.



NDGF Legislative Update

View the status of outdoor related legislation here

NDGF Offers Wild Game Processing Workshop, Spring Turkey Camp

Individuals interested in attending an upcoming wild game processing workshop or spring turkey camp sponsored by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department should sign up quickly as classes are limited.

Participants can register by contacting education coordinator Brian Schaffer at 701-328-6312, or email

Wild Game Processing Workshop

Audience: Anyone 15 years of age and older

Date: Saturday, March 11

Location: Game and Fish District Shop - 3001 E. Main, Bismarck

Time: 1 – 5 p.m.

Cost of Workshop: $25

Learn how to take harvested game from the field to the table. Participants will take home several packages of fresh sausage.

Spring Turkey Camp

Audience: Female hunter education graduates ages 12-15 who have never had a turkey license

Co-sponsor: National Wild Turkey Federation Central Dakota Strutters and Badlands Toms chapters

Date: Saturday/Sunday, May 6-7, must have parent/guardian present

Location: Washburn

Participants and guardians will spend time afield with an experienced turkey hunter. Each participant must apply for a guaranteed youth license in Unit 98 during the spring turkey lottery. The deadline to apply in the lottery is Feb. 8.

In addition to the mentored turkey hunt, participants will experience breakout sessions on wild turkey biology, turkey hunting safety and hunting techniques, firearm handling/shooting instruction, and how to build a turkey call.


Spring Turkey Season Set, Online Apps Available

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering 5,685 wild turkey licenses for the spring hunting season, 130 fewer than last year.

One of the 22 hunting units has slightly more spring licenses than in 2016, five have fewer and 15 remain the same. Unit 21 (Hettinger and Adams counties) is again closed in 2017 due to lack of turkeys in the unit.

Successful spring turkey applicants must purchase a 2017-18 hunting license, as last year’s 2016-17 licenses expire March 31. In addition to the spring turkey license, hunters must have a fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate, and a general game and habitat license. Also, hunters ages 16 and older must possess a small game license, or combination license.

First-time spring turkey hunters ages 15 or younger are eligible to receive one spring license valid for the regular hunting season in a specific unit. To be eligible, the youth hunter must be 15 or younger on opening day of spring turkey season, and have never received a spring turkey license in North Dakota.

Spring turkey applicants can apply online at the Game and Fish Department website, Applications can also be submitted by calling 800-406-6409.

Application forms will also be available by Feb. 1 at vendors and Game and Fish offices. The deadline for applying is Feb. 8. Online or phone applications must be logged before midnight that day.

Spring turkey licenses are available only to North Dakota residents. The spring turkey season opens April 8 and continues through May 14. 


Game and Fish Looking for Info on Apparent Deer Poaching Incident

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is seeking information through the Report All Poachers hotline on an apparent deer poaching that occurred this past fall near the ND Highway 1806 bridge over the Cannonball River in Morton County.

Chief Game Warden Robert Timian said Game and Fish obtained a video of the incident recently, and is releasing it to the public and media in an effort to get more information on this event, and to try to identify the individuals involved in an apparent illegal killing of a whitetail buck. The video is available for viewing and download on the Game and Fish Department’s YouTube channel.

Based on current information, Timian says the incident took place during the fall of 2016, likely on the north side of the Cannonball River west of the ND Highway 1806 bridge over the Cannonball, in the vicinity of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps.

This raw, unedited video is approximately 7 minutes long and shows several individuals entering the river to retrieve a whitetail buck that was struggling in the river, and dragging it to shore where the deer was killed.

Anyone with information on the possible identity of any individual in this video, or any other information, is urged to call the Report All Poachers hotline at 800-472-2121; contact the Game and Fish enforcement division directly at 701-328-6604; or email RAP calls are anonymous, and can lead to rewards for information that leads to convictions.

Game and Fish Seeks Information

North Dakota Game and Fish Department law enforcement officers are searching for information related to the likely illegal possession and taking of a mule deer buck and an antlerless whitetail pictured recently on social media at a location that appears to be in or near the pipeline protest camp in southern Morton County.

Anyone with information should contact the Game and Fish enforcement office in Bismarck at 701-328-6604.

Coyote Catalog Available for Hunters, Landowners

The Coyote Catalog, a statewide effort designed to connect coyote hunters and trappers with landowners who are dealing with coyotes in their areas, is open for the winter.

A partnership between the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the Coyote Catalog can be a good way for hunters and trappers to locate new places to go, according to Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring encourages landowners, especially farmers and ranchers who have problems with coyotes, to sign up for the Coyote Catalog. “Hunting and trapping are some of the many tools available to mitigate predator risk,” Goehring said.

This past season, nearly 40 landowners participated in the Coyote Catalog, along with more than 200 hunters and trappers.

Landowners can sign up on the NDDA website at County and contact information is required.

Hunters and trappers can sign up at the NDGF website,

Anyone who registered for the Coyote Catalog in the past must register again to activate their names on the database.

Throughout the winter, hunters or trappers may receive information on participating landowners, and they should contact landowners to make arrangements.

Goehring and Steinwand said landowners experiencing coyote depredation of livestock should first contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

The Coyote Catalog will remain active through March 31, 2017.

For more information, contact Stephanie Tucker, NDGF, at 701-220-1871;; or Jamie Good, NDDA, at 701-328-2659 or


All Deer Gun Licenses Issued

The 49,000 deer gun licenses that were allocated by proclamation for the 2016 hunting season have all been issued, according to Randy Meissner, licensing manager for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Meissner said according to state law, the number of deer gun licenses issued, including those licenses issued as gratis, cannot exceed the number of licenses authorized by the governor’s proclamation.

The deer gun season opens Friday, Nov. 4 at noon central time.

Archery licenses can still be purchased through the end of the bow season on Jan. 8.


Wetland Conditions Good for Duck Hunting

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual fall wetland survey indicates good but variable wetland conditions for duck hunting throughout the state.

Migratory game bird biologist Andy Dinges said the northeast region has the highest number of wetlands holding water, while the south central and southeast have also seen improvement from last year’s fall wetland conditions. However, the northwest and north central regions of the state will have the fewest wetlands available for duck hunting opportunities since fall 2012.

“In general, wetland conditions are best in northeast, but other regions in the state have average to slightly below average fall wetland conditions,” Dinges said.

Dinges said this year’s moisture conditions began with fairly dry conditions in May, but were aided by steady precipitation throughout much of the state during mid-summer.

“Drying conditions in some regions should provide good loafing areas for waterfowl and cranes along wetlands, but can make hunting difficult in some cases if there is wide mud margin around wetlands,” Dinges added. 

The quality of waterfowl hunting in North Dakota is largely determined by weather conditions and patterns. Dinges said strong reproduction for ducks in breeding areas both in and outside of North Dakota this year makes for good fall hunting potential.

“Hunters should always scout because of ever changing conditions and distribution of waterfowl,” Dinges said, “and should also be cautious driving off-trail to avoid soft spots, and while encountering areas of tall vegetation that could be a fire hazard.”

The fall wetland survey is conducted mid-September, just prior to the waterfowl hunting season, to provide an assessment of conditions duck hunters can expect. 


Remaining Fall Turkey Licenses Available Sept. 27

The 2016 fall wild turkey lottery has been held and more than 850 licenses remain in seven units. Unsuccessful applicants who applied online will have a refund issued directly to their credit card.

Beginning Sept. 27, all remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters are allowed a maximum of 15 licenses for the fall season.

Resident and nonresident hunters will be able to apply online, or print out an application to mail, at the Game and Fish Department website, Paper applications will also be available at license vendors.

The fall turkey season runs from Oct. 8 – Jan. 8, 2017.

Licenses remain for the following units: Unit 03, Benson and Ramsey counties and a portion of Pierce County, 15 licenses; Unit 13, Dunn County, 185; Unit 25, McHenry County and portions of Pierce and Ward counties, 338; Unit 30, a portion of Morton County, 165; Unit 31, Mountrail County, 23; Unit 45, Stark County, 50; and Unit 51, Burke County and portions of Renville, Bottineau and Ward counties, 93.


Governor Proclaims Sept. 24 Hunting and Fishing Day

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed a proclamation establishing Sept. 24 as Hunting and Fishing Day in North Dakota.

The proclamation references the state’s hunting and fishing traditions, and how hunters and anglers help generate revenue and support conservation through license fees and direct spending.

The Hunting and Fishing Day proclamation is published on the Game and Fish website,

North Dakota’s Hunting and Fishing Day coincides with National Hunting and Fishing Day, an event held for more than 40 years to highlight the role hunters and anglers play in supporting conservation and scientific wildlife management.


Whooping Crane Migration

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. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of 2-3 birds, and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets are often mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.

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. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

Whooping crane sightings should be reported to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, 701-848-2466, or Long Lake, 701-387-4397, national wildlife refuges; the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck, 701-328-6300, or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers, and identify times and migration routes. 


Schmidt Bottoms Shooting Range Opens

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has reopened its public shooting range at Little Heart (Schmidt) Bottoms on the Oahe Wildlife Management Area in Morton County, following recent completion of road repair work.

The range, 12 miles south of Mandan on ND Highway 1806, is open from sunrise to sunset daily.

If any changes to the status should occur, Game and Fish will notify the public through the media and on its website,


Game and Fish Summarizes Upland Game Brood Survey

North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey conducted in late July and August indicates total birds and number of broods are down statewide from 2015.

Aaron Robinson, upland game management supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, said the survey shows total pheasants are down 10 percent from last year. In addition, brood observations were down 7 percent, while the average brood size was down 8 percent. The final summary is based on 276 survey runs made along 105 brood routes across North Dakota.

“Compared to last year, our late summer roadside counts indicate pheasant hunters are going to have to work harder to find more pheasants in most parts of the state, with fewer young roosters showing up in the fall population,” Robinson said. “As always, there will be local areas within all four pheasant districts where pheasant numbers will be both better and below what is predicted for the district.”

Statistics from southwestern North Dakota indicate total pheasants were down 21 percent and broods observed down 19 percent from 2015. Observers counted 21 broods and 168 birds per 100 survey miles. The average brood size was 5.5.

Results from the southeast show birds are down 4 percent from last year, and the number of broods up 1 percent. Observers counted eight broods and 62 birds per 100 miles. The average brood size was 5.0.

Statistics from the northwest indicated pheasants are up 129 percent from last year, with broods up 161 percent. Observers recorded 12 broods and 93 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 6.1.

The northeast district, generally containing secondary pheasant habitat, with much of it lacking good winter cover, showed two broods and 14 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 3.9. Number of birds observed remained the same, and the number of broods recorded was up 5 percent.

The 2016 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 8 and continues through Jan. 8, 2017. 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.

Sharptails, Huns

North Dakota hunters will find fewer sharp-tailed grouse in the field this fall, while Hungarian partridge numbers are similar to last year.

Robinson said late July and August roadside counts show sharptails are down 23 percent from 2015, while partridge are up 2 percent.

“Sharp-tailed grouse hunting will be slower than last season in most of the state, and all indications are that hunters will see significantly lower numbers in the west,” Robinson said. “In general, grouse hunting will be fair to good. Partridge will be similar to last year, with harvest still considered a bonus while pursuing other game birds.”

Statistics show observers recorded 2.4 sharptail broods and 18.6 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 4.7.

For partridge, observers recorded 0.8 broods and 11.1 birds per 100 miles. Average brood size was 9.6.

The 2016 grouse and partridge seasons open Sept. 10 and continue through Jan. 8, 2017.


Game and Fish Allocates Eight Bighorn Sheep Licenses

The State Game and Fish Department is allocating eight bighorn sheep licenses for the 2016 hunting season, based on data collected from a recently completed summer population survey.

Two licenses are available in Unit B1, two in B3 and three in B4. In addition, one license as authorized under North Dakota Century Code was auctioned in March by the Midwest Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, from which all proceeds are used to enhance bighorn sheep management in North Dakota.

Game and Fish Department wildlife chief Jeb Williams said the bighorn population hasn’t had any recent setbacks this summer from bacterial pneumonia, which prompted Game and Fish to close the hunting season in 2015.

“There are currently good numbers of mature rams on the landscape, and we are going to take advantage of providing as much hunter opportunity as possible with the situation that we have,” Williams said. “We feel good that we are able to provide this opportunity as impacts from the die-off have lessened substantially since 2014, but it is also very unpredictable.”

Big game biologist Brett Wiedmann said license numbers are determined by assessing the age structure and total number of rams in the population. The July-August survey showed a minimum of 103 rams in the badlands, an increase of 18 percent from 2015.

“Overall, we are very encouraged by the results of the summer survey,” Wiedmann said. “In fact, the ram count was the highest on record.”

Wiedmann said the annual survey results for ewes and lambs would not be completed until next spring. Biologists count and classify all bighorn sheep in late summer, and then recount lambs the following March, as they approach one year of age, to determine recruitment.

Game and Fish announced in February that the status of the bighorn sheep hunting season would be determined after completion of the summer population survey. Now that the survey is complete and total licenses are determined for each unit, the bighorn lottery will run and successful applicants will be contacted to select a hunting unit by Sept. 6.

Prospective hunters were required to apply for a bighorn license earlier this year on the bighorn sheep, moose and elk application. A total of 10,380 people applied for a bighorn sheep license. 


Swan Hunt Lottery Held, Licenses Remain

North Dakota’s swan lottery has been held and more than 180 licenses remain. Only hunters who do not have a swan license for the 2016 season can apply, as regulations limit hunters to one license per year.

Beginning Sept. 7, all remaining licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Resident and nonresident hunters will be able to apply online, or print out an application to mail, at the State Game and Fish Department website, Hunters may also request an application by calling the department’s Bismarck office at 701-328-6300. The license fee is $10 for residents and $30 for nonresidents.

The statewide tundra swan hunting season is Oct. 1 – Jan. 1, 2017.  


Spring Breeding Duck Numbers Tallied

 The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual spring breeding duck survey conducted in May showed an index of 3.4 million birds, down 5 percent from last year.

“The spring migration was well ahead of normal as open fields and warm temperatures allowed early migrants to pass quickly through the state,” said migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski.

Survey results indicated all species, except ruddy ducks (up 19 percent) and gadwall (up 4 percent), decreased from their 2015 estimates, while shovelers remained unchanged.

Mallards were down 9 percent, pintails down 17 percent and canvasbacks down 18 percent. However all species, with the exception of pintails and canvasbacks, were above the long-term average (1948-2015).

Szymanski said the number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was substantially lower than last year, with the spring water index down 50 percent. “However, conditions coming out of May into June were much wetter than what we observed during the week of the survey,” Szymanski added. “Frequent rains have since filled many wetlands that are beneficial for breeding ducks.”

The water index is based on basins with water, and does not necessarily represent the amount of water contained in wetlands or the type of wetlands represented. Szymanski said the July brood survey will provide a better idea of duck production and insight into expectations for this fall.

“The total breeding duck index is still in the top 20 all time, so there is still a lot of potential for good production this year,” he added. “Hopefully improved wetland conditions since the May survey will carry through into increased wetland availability for duck broods.”

USFWS Says Moose May Warrant Future Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that a subspecies of moose found in North Dakota and three other states could warrant federal protection. 

The finding opens a full status review by the USFWS to determine whether moose could be listed under the Endangered Species Act. State Game and Fish Department officials emphasize the finding merely initiates a status review of moose in the Upper Midwest, and it will not affect any current state regulations in the foreseeable future.

The announcement concerns the population of the moose subspecies found only in the Midwest, including Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin in addition to North Dakota. Jeb Williams, Game and Fish Department wildlife division chief, said the Department will be providing data to show that the state’s moose population has been doing quite well for years.

Williams mentioned if data on North Dakota's moose population had been considered in the petition's finding, it's possible the state's moose population would have been excluded from the process. “This can be a long and confusing process, but North Dakotans need to understand that nothing will change in the interim and we believe our moose population will continue to do well,” Williams said.

Currently the state’s highest moose densities are found in the northwest, while numbers in what was once considered traditional habitat in the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Hills, remain low. Overall, the statewide population is stable to increasing. North Dakota held its first moose hunting season in 1977 and 10 licenses were made available to hunters.

The season has run uninterrupted since then. For 2016, the Game and Fish Department allocated 202 moose licenses, up 70 from 2015. The Department continues to monitor moose that die from causes other than hunting, to determine any effects of disease and to gain a better understanding of why they died.

In addition, a three-year moose research study is ongoing in the Kenmare area and on the Missouri River bottoms southeast of Williston. The research is focusing on annual survival, cause-specific mortality, reproduction rates, annual and season movements and home range use, as well as seasonal habitat selection.

Williston Angler Snags Record Paddlefish

Grant Werkmeister of Williston snagged a record 131-pound paddlefish on May 7, about 20 miles southwest of Williston near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has confirmed that Werkmeister’s 71-inch paddlefish is the heaviest fish caught in North Dakota, breaking the previous record of 130 pounds set in 2010. North Dakota’s paddlefish snagging season was open May 1-13.

Rainbow Smelt Die-off Occurring in Lake Sakakawea

A fish kill affecting adult rainbow smelt is ongoing in portions of the upper half of Lake Sakakawea, according to Dave Fryda, Missouri River System fisheries supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Fryda said the cause of the die-off has been documented numerous times in North Dakota in the past. “The vast majority of the dead and dying smelt have physical signs of Columnaris bacteria,” said Fryda, “we’ve recovered infected fish from White Earth Bay downstream to Deepwater Bay and Van Hook Arm.”

Columnaris bacteria are present in all water bodies, and outbreaks typically occur when rapid water temperature changes occur at a time when the fish are stressed, such as after spawning. “The smelt recently spawned in Lake Sakakawea, and were recovering from that stress when we experienced near record-high temperatures last week which boosted the water temperature in the shallow bays where the smelt spawned,” Fryda added.

Smelt affected by Columnaris often develop visible skin irritations that have the appearance of fuzz or mold. Although there is no known cause for concern when in physical contact with these fish, the department suggests to leave the fish alone.

Lake Sakakawea has not had a widespread smelt die-offs since the mid- to late 1980s, a time when the overall smelt population was very high. Fryda said the current smelt population is the highest it’s been for decades, so that is likely part of the reason the bacteria has spread over such a wide area.

The overall significance of this year’s die-off will likely be minimal, however, Fryda said the effects on the population won’t be known until later this summer when fisheries crews assess the adult smelt population. 


Catchable Trout, Catfish, Pike Stocked

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel recently stocked more than 40 local fisheries with catchable trout, catfish and pike.

Approximately 23,000 11-inch rainbow trout, 800 adult catfish, 750 5-pound pike and 600 1- to 5-pound cutthroat trout were recently stocked in rural and city ponds and lakes.

Fisheries production and development section leader Jerry Weigel said while the state’s fisheries are at historic highs, many are not as easily accessible to youngsters, older adults and disabled anglers.

“These stockings put catchable fish in waters that are accessible,” Weigel said. “Many have fishing piers, and are a great opportunity for a first-time angler to catch fish.”

·         Barnes – Blumers Pond (rainbow), Hatchery Kids Pond (rainbow)

·         Bottineau – Strawberry Lake (rainbow)

·         Bowman – Lutz Dam (rainbow)

·         Burleigh – Cottonwood Park Pond (pike), McDowell Dam (cutthroat, rainbow), OWLS Pond (cutthroat, rainbow)

·         Cass – Casselton Pond (rainbow), North Woodhaven Pond (rainbow)

·         Cavalier – Langdon City Pond (rainbow)

·         Golden Valley – Beach City Pond (rainbow)

·         Grand Forks – Ryan Park Pond (rainbow)

·         Hettinger – Castle Rock Dam (rainbow), Mott Watershed Dam (rainbow)

·         McKenzie – Watford City Park Pond (catfish, rainbow)

·         McLean – Camp Loop Pond (rainbow), Custer Mine (rainbow), Lightning Lake (rainbow), Riverdale City Pond (rainbow)

·         Mercer – Hazen Creek (rainbow)

·         Morton – Gaebe Pond (catfish, rainbow), Krieg’s Pond (catfish, rainbow), Little Heart Pond (rainbow), Nygren Dam (rainbow), Porsborg Dam (cutthroat, rainbow)

·         Mountrail – Stanley Pond (catfish, rainbow)

·         Oliver – Oliver County Sportsmen’s Pond (rainbow)

·         Ransom – Mooringstone Pond (rainbow)

·         Renville – Glenburn Pond (rainbow)

·         Rolette – Lake Udall (rainbow)

·         Stark – Belfield Pond (catfish, rainbow), Dickinson Dike (catfish, cutthroat)

·         Stutsman – Little Britches Pond (rainbow), Streeter Lake (rainbow)

·         Grand Forks -- Turtle River (rainbow)

·         Ward – State Fair Pond (rainbow), Velva Sportsmen’s Pond (rainbow)

·         Williams – East Spring Lake Pond (pike), Kettle Lake (rainbow), West Spring Lake Pond (catfish, rainbow)

In addition, rainbow trout were also stocked into larger waters. Anglers should refer to the fishing tab at the Game and Fish Department’s website,, for a complete stocking report.


2016-18 Fishing Regulations Set, New License Required

North Dakota’s 2016-18 fishing proclamation is set, with regulations effective April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2018. Anglers are reminded that new fishing licenses are required April 1.

Noteworthy regulation changes include:

  • A free fishing weekend was added for North Dakota residents during the ice fishing season. In the coming winter, the free weekend will be held Dec. 31 – Jan. 1, 2017.
  • The statewide possession limit for bluegill, yellow perch and white bass was reduced from 80 to 40 each.
  • All drain plugs that hold back water must be removed, and all draining devices must be open on all watercraft and recreational bilges and confined spaces, during out-of-water transport.
  • All water must be completely drained from bait containers, including bait buckets, upon leaving the Red River, or any other waters designated as infested with Class 1 prohibited aquatic nuisance species.
  • Sweet Briar Dam and Braun Lake are open to darkhouse spearfishing, and Larimore Dam and Wood Lake are closed to darkhouse spearfishing.
  • Markers must be in the possession of anglers and/or spearers as soon as a hole greater than 10 inches in diameter is made in the ice.
  • Largemouth bass and northern pike length restrictions are eliminated on Red Willow Lake and largemouth bass length restrictions removed on North and South Golden lakes.
  • Fishing rods must be easily visible and within a maximum distance of 150 feet of participating anglers.
  • One snapping turtle may be harvested annually between July 1 and Nov. 15.

Fishing licenses can be purchased using a computer or smartphone by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website,, or at license vendors that are linked to the department’s online licensing system. Since participating vendors will need to sell licenses electronically, paper license booklets are no longer available at license vendors.

Not all vendors that sold licenses in the past will still sell licenses. A list of vendors participating in electronic licensing sales is available on the department’s website.  Vendors on the list as of April 1 will be linked to the department’s online licensing system.

Licenses may also be purchased by calling the department’s instant licensing telephone number at 800-406-6409 any time day or night. A service charge is added for licenses purchased through the instant licensing telephone number.