Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

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.

Spring Pheasant Count Up from Last Year

North Dakota’s spring pheasant population index is up 15% from the same time last year, according to the state Game and Fish Department’s 2020 spring crowing count survey.

R.J. Gross, upland game management biologist, said the number of roosters heard crowing this spring was up statewide, with increases ranging from 1% to 18% in the primary regions holding pheasants.

“We entered spring with a larger breeding population compared to last year,” Gross said. “Hens should be in good physical shape for nesting season and cover should be plentiful from the residual moisture left from last fall.”

However, Gross said there is concern with drought conditions in the western part of the state, and whether insects will be available to chicks for brood rearing.

“I am hopeful for above-average chick survival due to the lush cover and predicted warm temperatures, but we can use some rain,” Gross said. “But we don’t want any severe weather events.”

While the spring number is an indicator, Gross said it does not predict what the fall population will look like. Brood surveys, which begin in late July and are completed by September, provide a much better estimate of summer pheasant production and what hunters might expect for a fall pheasant population.

Pheasant crowing counts are conducted each spring throughout North Dakota. Observers drive specified 20-mile routes, stop at predetermined intervals, and count the number of pheasant roosters heard crowing over a 2-minute period during the stop.

The number of pheasant crows heard is compared to the previous year’s data, providing a trend summary.

Deer Lottery Held, Licenses Remain

North Dakota’s deer gun lottery has been held and individual results are available online at the state Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Chief of administrative services Kim Kary said moving to an online lottery has resulted in reducing the time between the application deadline and the lottery run date.

“It’s a major benefit in moving to an all online lottery application process,” Kary said.

More than 6,200 deer gun licenses remain. Only resident applicants who were unsuccessful in the lottery can apply for remaining licenses.

More than 81,000 individuals applied for a deer gun lottery license, in addition to about 12,600 gratis applicants. The 2020 deer gun proclamation allows for 69,050 deer gun season licenses.

Unsuccessful applicants can apply online for remaining licenses beginning July 1. The deadline for applying is July 22.

Remaining Deer Gun Licenses

(B = Any Antlerless   C = Antlered Whitetail   D = Antlerless Whitetail   F = Antlerless Mule Deer)

Unit Type Available
2H B 110
3A1 B 527
3B1 D 88
3B2 D 117
3B2 F 147
3B3 D 521
3C D 397
3D1 B 28
3D1 D 223
3D2 B 40
3D2 D 154
3E1 D 216
3E2 B 41
3E2 D 180
3F1 B 172
3F1 D 446
3F2 B 1018
3F2 C 96
3F2 D 786
4B D 130
4C D 86
4D D 95
4E D 113
4F D 359
4F F 185

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.

Pronghorn Survey Begins

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s annual aerial pronghorn survey will begin July 1 and is scheduled to be completed within two weeks.

 

During the survey period, people could notice low-flying small airplanes over some parts of western North Dakota.

 

The survey determines pronghorn abundance, herd demographics and fawn production. This data is used to set the number of licenses for fall hunting season.

 

Last year, biologists surveyed 16,664 square miles, counting and classifying 9,201 pronghorn for a population estimate of 9,845 animals. Survey results indicated the fawn-to-doe ratio was 61 fawns per 100 does, which was equal to the long-term average. The buck-to-doe ratio of 38 bucks per 100 does was above the population objective.

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.

Spring Breeding Duck Numbers Tallied

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department completed its 73rd annual spring breeding duck survey in May despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and results showed an index of nearly 4 million birds, up 18% from last year.

 

Migratory game bird supervisor Mike Szymanski said despite most waterfowl surveys in North America being canceled this spring, Game and Fish was able to make adjustments to continue this long-term data set.

 

“Crews were turned into single person crews to make sure there was only one person in a vehicle, and we changed some of the route assignments to accommodate increased driving distances and workloads, but still maintained overlap with our fall wetland survey routes,” Szymanski said. “It was definitely quite a bit more work, and we are grateful that our crew members were up for the challenge.”

 

This spring’s wetland index was the sixth highest on record and the breeding duck index was the 13th highest, both are highs since 2014.

 

For the second year in a row the number of temporary and seasonal wetlands was substantially higher than the previous year, as figures show the spring water index is up 65% from last year. 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.

 

“Not surprisingly, we found really good wetland conditions during this year’s survey,” Szymanski said. “We had an unusually large amount of rain last fall, but have really been drying up since, especially in the western half of the state. The eastern half of North Dakota is still incredibly wet, and wetland numbers in the western half of the state are still in pretty good shape despite some drying.”

 

The breeding population survey results indicate numbers for all primary species, except redheads (down 12%), were stable to up from 2019 estimates. Ruddy ducks were up 87%, green-winged teal were at a record high and up 66% and blue-winged teal were up 58%. Mallards were unchanged. All other ducks ranged from down 2% (pintails) to up 40% (scaup) from last year’s numbers. All species, except pintails, which were down slightly, were well-above the 72-year average.

 

“Conditions that we have seen since 1994 seem to be the new normal with more precipitation and higher duck numbers,” Szymanski said. “This year’s ranking of our breeding population is a pretty good sign as our 13 highest duck counts are all within the last 26 years. When you start getting around the 4 million range, you are talking about very, very good duck numbers. So it is good to see us getting back to the middle of the road for the new normal.”

 

The July brood survey provides a better idea of duck production and insight into expectations for fall, Szymanski said, though hunting success is also influenced by bird movements before and during hunting seasons, and weather patterns during the fall migration.

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.