Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Early Ice Awareness for Hunters, Anglers

Hunters and anglers are reminded to be cognizant of early ice conditions before traveling onto and across North Dakota waters.

Game and Fish Department education coordinator Brian Schaffer said there haven’t been enough days when the high temperature has remained below freezing to produce stable ice. “There are already small and mid-sized waters that show the appearance of safe ice, but looks can be deceiving,” Schaffer said.

And with deer season opening Friday, Nov. 8 at noon, an estimated 60,000 hunters will be in the field the next two weeks. Schaffer said even though deer might be able to make it across smaller waters, it doesn’t mean hunters can.

“Hunters walking the edges will not find the same ice thickness in the middle, as the edges firm up faster than farther out from shore,” Schaffer added, while urging hunters to be cautious of walking on frozen stock ponds, sloughs, creeks and rivers.

A few reminders include:

  • Snow insulates ice, which in turn inhibits solid ice formation, and hides cracks, weak and open water areas.
  • Ice can form overnight, causing unstable conditions. Ice thickness is not consistent, as it can vary significantly within a few inches.
  • Avoid cracks, pressure ridges, slushy or darker areas that signal thinner ice. The same goes for ice that forms around partially submerged trees, brush, embankments or other structures.
  • Anglers should drill test holes as they make their way out on the lake, and an ice chisel should be used to check ice thickness while moving around.
  • Daily temperature changes cause ice to expand and contract, affecting its strength.
  • The following minimums are recommended for travel on clear-blue lake ice formed under ideal conditions. However, early in the winter it’s a good idea to double these figures to be safe: 4 inches for a group walking single file; 6 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle; 8-12 inches for an automobile; and 12-15 inches for a pickup/truck.

While heading onto North Dakota lakes this winter, Schaffer offers these life-saving safety tips:

  • Wear a personal flotation device and carry a cell phone.
  • Carry ice picks or a set of screwdrivers to pull yourself back on the ice if you fall through.
  • If someone breaks through the ice, call 911 immediately. Rescue attempts should employ a long pole, board, rope, blanket or snowmobile suit. If that’s not possible, throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug or other buoyant object. Go to the victim as a last resort, but do this by forming a human chain where rescuers lie on the ice with each person holding the feet of the person in front.
  • To treat hypothermia, replace wet clothing with dry clothing and immediately transport victim to a hospital.

Early Canada Goose Season Announced

North Dakota’s early Canada goose season is set, and bag limits and licensing requirements are the same as last year.

 

However, one major change from last year is that the state Game and Fish Department has restructured the Canada goose hunting zones.

 

Migratory game bird management supervisor Mike Szymanski said the new structure addresses depredation issues and provides additional hunting opportunities.

 

“Basically, our worst Canada goose-landowner conflicts are in the eastern half of the state and getting those extra days back in September gets some more harvest pressure on those birds,” Szymanski said.

 

The Canada goose hunting season is divided into three zones – Missouri River, western and eastern. The Missouri River Canada goose zone has the same boundary as last year, while the western zone has the same boundary as the high plains duck unit, excluding the Missouri River zone. The eastern zone has the same boundary as the low plains duck unit.

 

The early season opens on Aug. 15 in all three zones. Closing dates are Sept. 7 in the Missouri River zone, Sept. 15 in the western zone and Sept. 21 in the eastern zone.

 

The early Canada goose season has a limit of 15 daily and 45 in possession.

 

Limits and shooting hours for the early season are different from the regular season, while the zone boundaries will remain the same. Shooting hours during the early season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.

 

Residents need a $5 early Canada goose license and a general game and habitat license. Also, residents age 16 and older need a small game license. Nonresidents need only a $50 early Canada goose license, and the license is valid statewide without counting against the 14-day regular season license.

 

A federal duck stamp for hunters age 16 and older, and Harvest Information Program certification, are both required beginning Sept. 1. Those who HIP registered to hunt the spring light goose season in North Dakota do not have to register with HIP again, as it is required in each state only once per year.

 

Waterfowl rest areas, closed to hunting during the regular season, are open during the early season. Most land in these rest areas is private, so hunters may need permission to hunt.

 

The early hunting season is intended to reduce local Canada goose numbers. Despite liberalized regulations the past several years, with longer seasons, large bag limits and expanded shooting hours, the statewide population remains high, with numbers well above population goals.

 

For additional information and regulations, hunters should refer to the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.