Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Game and Fish Pays $700,000 in Property Taxes

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department recently paid more than $700,000 in taxes to counties in which the department owns or leases land. The 2019 in-lieu-of-tax payments are the same as property taxes paid by private landowners.


The Game and Fish Department manages more than 200,000 acres for wildlife habitat and public hunting in 51 counties. The department does not own or manage any land in Traill or Renville counties.


Following is a list of counties and the tax payments they received.

Game and Fish Reminds Anglers to Keep Social Distance

With a pleasant weekend in the forecast and a lot of North Dakotans anxious to do something outside, the State Game and Fish Department reminds anglers to practice social distancing, whether it’s on shore, from a boat or on the ice.

“We encourage people to get outside and fish and enjoy the outdoors,” said Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand, “but we also need to practice the recommendations for minimizing the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

Especially for anglers at popular shore-fishing locations, Steinwand said a good rule of thumb is that if you can reach out with a fishing rod and touch the person fishing next to you, you’re too close. “In other situations, we urge people to follow the 6-foot separation guideline as well,” Steinwand added.

Over the next several weeks, Game and Fish will keep an eye on popular shore-fishing areas to assess the level of activity. “We depend on the public’s awareness and willingness to cooperate,” Steinwand said, “but we’ll be monitoring, and if it appears that the recommendations are not being followed, we might have to consider closing access to those high traffic areas because of the risk involved.”

To this point, Game and Fish has not restricted access to its public outdoor facilities such as wildlife management areas and fishing waters, but its office buildings are currently closed to public traffic. “We are continuing to handle phone calls and online traffic,” Steinwand said, “so anyone who needs help or has questions can call or email us.”

Game and Fish Offers Up the Outdoors

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department encourages hunters and anglers to make mindful decisions on outdoor activities by following guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Customer, volunteer and employee well-being is of top priority. Earlier this week, Game and Fish canceled upcoming public gatherings such as the National Archery in the Schools state tournament. In addition, late-season ice fishing tournaments have canceled events to minimize crowding, and several hunter education classes scheduled to begin in the next few weeks were canceled or postponed.

Students enrolled in any classes scheduled to start in March or April can find information on class status on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.

With social distancing in mind, the Game and Fish Department encourages hunters and anglers to purchase licenses online, rather than making an in-person visit. The same philosophy applies to watercraft registrations. Contact a local Game and Fish office for assistance with a purchase or registration.

During this time of uncertainty, Game and Fish is offering several suggestions for students and parents to consider while K-12 schools and some businesses are closed due to public health concerns:

  • Use free time to take the state’s boating safety course. 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 pass the boating course. And parents, it’s not just for kids. Some insurance companies give adult boat owners who pass the course a discount on boat insurance. The course is available for home study, and there is also an online version.
  • New fishing licenses are needed starting April 1. Take care of that important detail online now so you’re not scrambling to get that license just prior to your first fishing trip of the open water season.

Since it’s important to avoid crowds, North Dakota’s outdoors is a great place for recreation. You can put a boat on the Missouri River right now, or still get in some ice fishing on lakes where ice is still safe for travel. If you’re just looking for some exercise, take a hike on one of the department’s 229 wildlife management areas.

Stay connected with Game and Fish by following us on FacebookInstagram and YouTube.

A different type of census

You won’t find a U.S. Census taker out on the ice knocking on fish house doors looking to ask a few questions.

But it is possible that anglers at Stump Lake this winter, and Lake Audubon last year, did get a tap on the door from a clipboard-carrying surveyor. These are two large bodies of water where the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is trying to gather useful information on angler use and fish harvest.

In the winter, creel clerks travel out on the ice to talk to anglers. In summer, clerks primarily set up shop at boat ramps and conduct interviews as anglers come off the lake.

Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, says North Dakota fisheries have three primary components – fish, habitat and anglers.

“As anglers are one of the main components of a fisheries management plan, we on occasion want to sample these people to gather information on fishing pressure, the number of fish caught, released and total harvest,” Gangl said in an article published in the February 2019 edition of North Dakota Outdoors magazine. “Creel surveys are another monitoring tool that allows us to gather information that helps in the management of a fishery.”

The interviews are short, simple and to the point. Surveyors ask what species anglers are primarily fishing for, how long they’ve been fishing, and what they’ve caught.

“The more interviews the creel clerks can conduct, the better our catch-rate information,” said Jason Lee, Game and Fish north central district fisheries manager. “We try to randomize to some degree when we’re out checking on anglers, to get a look at the entire fishing day, rather than just focusing on the sundown walleye bite.

“This gives us an overall idea of how well they’re enjoying their fishing experience,” Lee added. “Without angler help with the creel surveys, Game and Fish wouldn’t have any of this valuable information. “In general, anglers have been great about taking a few minutes out of their trip, or at the end of their trip, to talk to creel clerks about what they caught, their experiences and if they harvested any fish.”

While North Dakota’s more popular waters, such as the Missouri River System, Lake Audubon and Devils Lake, are surveyed routinely, but not every year, Gangl said the Game and Fish does survey other smaller waters when answers to questions are needed.

No matter the location of the creel survey, or time of year, Gangl said the opportunity to simply talk with anglers, to put a face with the agency managing the fisheries, is important.

“A big benefit is that we, as an agency, get to interact with the angling population on things other than biology,” he said. “We learn how far anglers are traveling to fish certain waters and we get to gauge their satisfaction. We don’t have a lot of control over what makes people happy, but they are generally happy when they are catching fish.”

2020-21 Licenses Needed April 1

North Dakota anglers, trappers and hunters are reminded that new licenses for the 2020-21 season are required starting April 1.


Licenses can be purchased online by visiting the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. Once the license is processed, users will have the option to print a hard copy and/or download the license to a smart phone or mobile device, which is helpful when asked to show proof of license while hunting or fishing in rural areas that lack cellular service.


Licenses can also be purchased at more than 140 vendor locations throughout the state, or by calling 800-406-6409. The 2020-21 small game, fishing and furbearer licenses are effective April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.


In addition, Senate Bill 2293, passed by the 2019 state legislature, created an aquatic nuisance species program fund in the state treasury. Along with an ANS fee on motorized watercraft that went into effect Jan. 1, this state law also establishes a $2 surcharge on each resident fishing license and combination license, except for the resident 65years of age or older license, permanently or totally disabled license, or a disabled veteran license; and establishes a $3 surcharge on each nonresident fishing and each nonresident waterfowl license. The ANS surcharge on licenses is in effect with the 2020-21 license.

2020-22 Fishing Regulations Set, New License Required

North Dakota’s 2020-22 fishing proclamation is set, with regulations effective April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022. Anglers are reminded new fishing licenses are required April 1.


The 2020-22 North Dakota Fishing Guide has a new look. The 52-page document offers the same information, but in a much more user-friendly format. Anglers can find the guide online at the state Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov, or at Game and Fish Department offices and license vendors throughout the state.


Noteworthy regulation changes include:

  • Fish may be filleted for transport, unless size limits apply, under the following conditions:
  1. Each individual portion of the meat removed from a fish is considered a fillet (fish cheeks and pectoral girdles (wings) are not considered as fillets and are legal to transport),
  2. Two fillets are counted as one fish, and
  3. 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.
  • Lake Ashtabula and Whitman Dam are added to the list of waters where darkhouse spearfishing is not allowed.
  • The smallmouth bass daily limit is increased from 3 to 5 in the Missouri River and lakes Sakakawea, Oahe, Audubon, Darling, Ashtabula and Heart Butte.
  • Area and time for paddlefish extended snag-and-release days is expanded.

The 2020-21 fishing licenses can be purchased online by visiting the Game and Fish website. Resident licenses are available March 15, while nonresident fishing licenses are available April 1.


In addition, Senate Bill 2293, passed by the 2019 state legislature, created an aquatic nuisance species program fund in the state treasury. Along with an ANS fee on motorized watercraft that went into effect Jan. 1, this state law also establishes a $2 surcharge on each resident fishing license and combination license, exception for the resident 65 years of age or older license, permanently or totally disabled license, or a disabled veteran license; and establishes a $3 surcharge on each nonresident fishing and each nonresident waterfowl license. The ANS surcharge on licenses is in effect with the 2020-21 license.

Deadline to Remove Fish Houses

Anglers are reminded all unoccupied fish houses must be removed from all waters beginning March 15 until ice-out.


Fish houses may be used after March 15 if they are removed daily.


Anglers are advised to use caution while accessing area lakes because mild weather conditions can quickly result in unstable ice conditions that can make removing a fish house with a vehicle difficult or dangerous. Ice conditions can vary from region to region, between lakes in the same region, and even on the same lake.

Game and Fish Violations Tallied for 2019

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s enforcement division has tallied the number of hunting, angling and boating citations for 2019, and failure to carry a license was the number one violation.

Game wardens issued more than 2,300 citations last year. Counties with the most violations were Ramsey (227), Williams (215) and McKenzie (188).

The most common violations and number issued were:

  • Licensing (496): failure to carry license (240); and hunting/fishing/trapping without proper license (213).
  • Fishing (475): exceeding limit (158); aquatic nuisance species violations (153); and fishing with excessive lines (48).
  • Boating (422): inadequate number of personal flotation devices (206); failure to display boat registration (49); and use of unlicensed/unnumbered boat (49).
  • General (289): hunting on posted land without permission (67); loaded firearm in vehicle (54); littering (37); and use of motor vehicle in restricted area (37).
  • Small game (280): using shotgun capable of holding more than three shells (74); failure to leave identification of sex on game (33); and hunting in unharvested field (28).
  • Miscellaneous (160): minor in possession (40); criminal trespass (35); and possession of a controlled substance (28).
  • Big game (91): tagging violations (27); chronic wasting disease violations (19); and failure to wear fluorescent orange (17).
  • Wildlife management areas/refuge (76): failure to obey posted regulations (31); tree stand violations (17); and possession of glass beverage containers (14).
  • Furbearer (25): harassing with motor vehicle (5); hunting/trapping in a closed season (5); and untagged snares (4).

A synopsis of 2019 violations is printed in the February issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS, the Game and Fish Department’s official magazine.

Keep Fish Caught in Deep Water

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists are encouraging ice anglers to keep fish caught from deep waters.


Catch-and-release fishing, no matter the time of year, is discouraged for fish caught in 30 feet or more of water because fish reeled in from those depths have a greater chance of dying if released.


Fish caught in deep water won’t likely survive because of the extreme change in water pressure, which causes the swim bladder to expand. Fish can no longer control their balance in the water column when this happens. Other internal injuries, such as rupturing of organs and bleeding, are also likely for fish caught from deep waters.


Devils Lake ice anglers commonly catch yellow perch in 30-45 feet of water during the winter months. This practice also translates to other deep water bodies around the state.


Game and Fish recommends that anglers targeting fish in deeper water make the commitment to keep what they catch. And once they reach their limit, anglers should stop fishing at that depth to avoid killing more than their limit of fish.