Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Guide and Outfitter Exam Scheduled

The next guide and outfitter written examination is Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department office in Bismarck.

Preregistration is required no later than Sept. 11 by calling the Department’s enforcement office at 701-328-6604. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the North Dakota Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be followed. Details will be provided upon registration.

In addition to passing a written exam, qualifications for becoming a guide include a background check for criminal and game and fish violations; certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and standard first aid; and employment by or contract with a licensed hunting outfitter.

Hunting outfitter eligibility requirements include the guide qualifications, as well as an individual must have held a hunting guide license for two years; and must have proof of liability insurance.

The test is given periodically to anyone interested in becoming a guide or outfitter in the state.

Record Lakes Stocked with Walleye Fingerlings

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel are finishing stocking a record 180 lakes across the state with more than 11 million walleye fingerlings.

Fisheries production and development supervisor Jerry Weigel said the number of lakes bested the previous high by nearly 30 waters.

“There is record water across the state, so timing of a near record walleye production could not have come at a better time,” Weigel said. “Valley City and Garrison Dam national fish hatcheries contributed to make this happen. Both hatcheries have been outstanding in helping address our demand for walleye fingerlings.”

Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery set a record for the most pounds shipped of these 1- to 1.5-inch fingerlings, with more than 8,400 total pounds.

Given the record walleye production, coupled with a record number of lakes stocked resulted in a lot of driving time for fish haulers.

“Just in the first seven days of this year’s walleye production, haulers traveled more than 8,200 miles and stocked over 150 lakes with 7.6 million fish,” Weigel said.

Crews had near perfect conditions with most lakes at or near record water levels, with flooded vegetation for the young fish to hide and plenty of food for them to eat, which bodes well for future fishing opportunities.

“One of the biggest challenges this year was access to some lakes,” Weigel said. “As a result of last fall’s record rains, a lot of local roads in central and eastern North Dakota remained flooded and often closed, thus making navigating some roads more challenging.”

Later this fall, fisheries personal will sample walleye lakes to assess success of this year’s walleye stocking, as well as what Mother Nature provided.

One common observation fish haulers noted while traveling across the state, Weigel said, was the high amount of fishing taking place, both from shore and from boats.

“It’s a great time to fish for walleye,” he added. “Statewide, there are a lot of opportunities, and a good chance of success. This is especially true if you live in rural North Dakota where a lot of varied fishing opportunities exist.”

For a complete list of all fish stockings, visit the fishing link at the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov/fishing.

Zebra Mussels Discovered in Lake LaMoure

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department confirmed the presence of invasive zebra mussels in Lake LaMoure after a local game warden reported the finding earlier this week.

Aquatic nuisance species coordinator Ben Holen said follow-up sampling confirmed well-established populations of zebra mussels of various ages, especially near the dam. It is unknown how the small, sharp-shelled mussels were introduced, and there is no known method to completely rid a lake once they become established.

The 430-acre lake, located in LaMoure County in southeastern North Dakota, is a popular boating and fishing destination.

Holen reminds water recreationists that everyone plays a role in stemming the spread of mussels to uninfested lakes. “This situation shows how important it is for boaters, anglers, swimmers and skiers to be aware of aquatic nuisance species and to take precautions to prevent their spread,” he said.

Prevention is the best way to avoid spreading ANS. They often travel by hitchhiking with unsuspecting lake-goers. “Always clean, drain and dry boats and other equipment before using another lake,” Holen said. “Also, don’t transfer lake water or live fish to another body of water. This can help stop the spread of not only zebra mussels, but most aquatic nuisance species that may be present.”

Since Lake LaMoure eventually flows into the James River above the city of Oakes, Game and Fish Department staff will also increase zebra mussel surveillance on the lower James. In addition, for the remainder of the summer, ANS watercraft inspections will increase at Lake LaMoure.

Lake LaMoure, and the James River in Dickey County, are now considered Class I ANS Infested waters. They join Lake Ashtabula, lower portion of the Sheyenne River, and the Red River as zebra mussel infested waters. Emergency rules will go into effect immediately to prohibit the movement of water away from the lake, including water for transferring bait. Notices will be posted at access sites.

Zebra mussels are just one of the nonnative aquatic species that threaten our waters and native wildlife. After using any body of water, water recreationists must follow North Dakota regulations:

  • Remove aquatic vegetation before leaving the water access and do not import into North Dakota.
  • Drain all water before leaving the water access.
  • Remove drain plugs and devices that hold back water and leave open and out during transport.
  • Do not import bait. For Class I ANS Infested waters, bait cannot be transported in water. In all other areas, bait must be transported in a container that holds 5 gallons or less. Remember that it is illegal to dump unused bait on shore or into the lake.

In addition to North Dakota regulations, the Department strongly recommends that all equipment be cleaned, drained and dried every time it is used.

  • Clean – remove plants, animals and excessive mud prior to leaving a water access
  • Drain – drain all water prior to leaving a water access
  • Dry – allow equipment to dry completely before using again or disinfect. This includes boat docks and boat lifts brought from other waters/states.

For more information about ANS in North Dakota, visit https://gf.nd.gov/ans.


Zebra mussels are dime-sized mollusks with striped, sharp-edged, two-part shells. They can produce huge populations in a short time and do not require a host fish to reproduce. A large female zebra mussel can produce 1 million eggs, and then fertilized eggs develop into microscopic veligers that are invisible to the naked eye. Veligers drift in the water for at least two weeks before settling out as young mussels, which quickly grow to adults and reproduce within a few months.

After settling, zebra mussels develop byssal threads that attach their shells to submerged hard surfaces such as rocks, piers and flooded timber. They also attach to pipes, water intake structures, boat hulls, propellers and submerged parts of outboard motors. As populations increase, they can clog intake pipes and prevent water treatment and electrical generating plants from drawing water. Removing large numbers of zebra mussels to ensure adequate water flow can be labor-intensive and costly.

Zebra mussels are native to the Black and Caspian seas of western Asia and eastern Europe and were spread around the world in the ballast water of cargo ships. They were discovered in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in 1988 and quickly spread throughout the Great Lakes and other rivers, including the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas and Hudson. They were first discovered in North Dakota in 2015 in the Red River. Moving water in boats has been identified as a likely vector, as has importing used boat lifts and docks.

Anglers Should Keep Fish Caught in Deep Water

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel encourage anglers to keep fish caught from depths of more than 25 feet, rather than practice catch-and-release.

Scott Gangl, Game and Fish fisheries management section leader, said while catch-and-release is often encouraged under the right conditions, fish reeled in from this depth will likely die if released.

“Fish caught from deep water have a lower chance of surviving after you release them because of the extreme change in water pressure,” Gangl said.

Change in water pressure will cause the swim bladder to expand, Gangl said, which means fish can no longer control balance. In addition, he said other internal injuries are likely, such as ruptured blood vessels or internal organs. Because of these other internal injuries, biologists discourage fizzing, the practice of deflating the swim bladder.

This can happen in any deep water body such as Devils Lake, Lake Oahe and Lake Sakakawea, Gangl said, but it is especially noteworthy for this time of year in Lake Sakakawea.

180516 walleye

“As water warms during summer, fish tend to move to deeper, cooler water,” he added. “This is particularly true for walleye in the big lake, where walleye follow their primary forage of rainbow smelt to deeper depths as summer progresses.”

Anglers fishing at least 25 feet deep should make the commitment to keep what they catch, and once they reach their limit to stop fishing at that depth.

“Our simple message is for anglers to keep fish that are caught from these depths, or to fish in shallower water when practicing catch-and-release,” Gangl said.

Put Garbage Where it Belongs

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds outdoor recreationists to keep it clean this summer by packing out all trash.


All garbage, including used fireworks, should be placed in a proper trash receptacle. If trash cans aren’t available, or are full, take the trash and dispose of it at home.


It is not uncommon to see garbage piling up around full trash containers. Styrofoam containers are not biodegradable, but are often found wedged in cattails, drifting or washed up on shore.


Tires, mattresses and kitchen appliances have found their way to public use areas. This illegal dumping is costly to clean up and takes a significant toll on the environment. Not only does it spoil the beauty of the land, it destroys habitat, has the potential to pollute North Dakota waters and can injure wildlife.


Littering violations should be reported by calling the Report All Poachers at 701-328-9921.

WMA Regulations Prohibit Fireworks, Camping Restriction Lifted for Holiday

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds citizens that possession or use of fireworks on state wildlife management areas is prohibited.


The primary objective of a wildlife management area is to enhance wildlife production, provide hunting and fishing opportunities, and offer other outdoor recreational and educational uses that are compatible with these objectives. Only activities that would not disrupt the intentions of how these areas are managed are encouraged, and a fireworks display is not compatible.


In addition, the Game and Fish Department will lift the Tuesday-Wednesday no-camping restriction for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday week, which will allow overnight camping June 30 and July 1 on those WMAs that otherwise have this two-day restriction in place.


A complete list of WMA regulations is available on the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov.

Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest

While contest guidelines for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Watchable Wildlife Photo Contest have change little from previous years, photographers are reminded to follow the guidelines for submitting their work.

Photographers who want to submit photos to the contest should go the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov/photo-contest. Then it is a matter of providing some pertinent information about the photo and uploading it.

Doing so helps both with ease of submitting photos for the photographer and managing those images for Department staff.

The contest is now open and the deadline for submitting photos is October 2. For more information or questions, contact Patrick Isakson, Department conservation biologist, at pisakson@nd.gov.

The contest has categories for nongame and game species, as well as plants/insects. An overall winning photograph will be chosen, with the number of place winners in each category determined by the number of qualified entries.

Contestants are limited to no more than five entries. Photos must have been taken in North Dakota.

By submitting an entry, photographers grant permission to Game and Fish to publish winning photographs in North Dakota OUTDOORS, and on the Department’s website.

Practice Patience at Boat Ramps

Boaters are reminded to exercise patience, practice physical distancing and plan accordingly when heading to a lake or river this summer.


The state Game and Fish Department receives a number of complaints every year about overly aggressive behavior at boat ramps. A few simple reminders will help ensure a fluent transition when launching and loading a boat.



  • Don’t pull onto the ramp until your boat is ready to launch.
  • Prepare for launching in the parking area. Remove covers, load equipment, remove tie downs, attach lines and put in drain plug, before backing onto the ramp.
  • When ready, pull into line to launch. Wait your turn. Be courteous.


  • Don’t block the loading area with your boat until your tow vehicle is ready to load. Wait until you are clear of the launch area to unload gear.
  • As soon as your trailer is in the water, load and secure your boat to the trailer.
  • Remove boat and trailer from the water as quickly as possible.
  • Get clear of the ramp. Pull into the parking area to finish securing your boat, unloading gear, draining all water and inspecting for and removing any vegetation. Remember to leave plugs out when transporting boat.

Boat North Dakota Course

North Dakota state law requires youth ages 12-15 who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft by themselves with at least a 10 horsepower motor must first pass the state’s boating basics course.


Two commercial providers offer the course online, and links to those sites are found on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. The online provider charges a fee for the course.


Upon completion of the online test, students can print a temporary certification card, and within 30 days a permanent card will be mailed.


The course covers legal requirements, navigation rules, getting underway, accidents and special topics, such as weather, rules of the road, laws, life saving and first aid.


All boaters are encouraged to take the course. Some insurance companies give adult boat owners who pass the course a discount on boat insurance.


For more information contact Game and Fish at ndgf@nd.gov; or 701-328-6300.