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.

Public Reminded of Administrative Rules Hearing

Those planning to attend the public hearing to address proposed rule changes to North Dakota Administrative Code Title 30 are asked to contact the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to 5 p.m., Tuesday, June 16.


The hearing is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., Thursday, June 18 at the agency’s main office in Bismarck. Attendees can call 701-328-6305, or email ndgf@nd.gov.


The purpose and explanation of the proposed rule changes, along with the proposed rule language, may be reviewed on the Department’s website at gf.nd.gov. Written or oral comments on the proposed rules must be received by June 28, 2020 for consideration.


Anyone planning to attend the public hearing and needs special facilities or assistance relating to a disability should contact the Game and Fish Department, at the above phone number, at least seven days before the public hearing.

Walleye Tagging Studies

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department continues to conduct walleye tagging studies across the state.


At Lake Sakakawea, the state’s largest fishery, Department fisheries biologists are in the second year of a four-year walleye tagging study. The goal on Sakakawea is to tag about 3,000 walleyes per year, a target fisheries biologists more than met this year when they fit 3,188 fish with metal jaw tags.


Another project was conducted at Lake Josephine in Kidder County where nearly 500 walleye were tagged.


In both waters, the respective tagging studies will provide Department fisheries biologists with several pieces of information, including angling mortality, that will help to properly manage the fisheries and maintain good fishing into the future.


Anglers can help both tagging studies by reporting any tagged fish they catch on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov, or by calling 701-328-6300.

Portion of Channel A Closed to Fishing

The lowest three-quarters of a mile of Channel A as it enters Devils Lake is closed to fishing effective immediately due to safety concerns as U.S. Highway 2 is under construction west of Devils Lake.

This area is closed to both shore and boat fishing, and includes where Channel A crosses Highway 2 and the train bridges. “Closed to Fishing” signs will be posted in this area.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department director Terry Steinwand said the closure is not COVID-19 related. “There are legitimate concerns from local officials about public safety, including vehicles parked illegally along the highway, as well as with people crossing the road and traversing the bridge,” Steinwand said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation highway project consists of closing the westbound lanes of US 2 and moving traffic to be head-to-head on eastbound lanes as construction work is being done to widen the highway from Devils Lake to Church’s Ferry.

“Safety is our number one priority,” says NDDOT Devils Lake district engineer Wyatt Hanson. “We want motorists, pedestrians and construction workers to be safe in the construction area as we work to get the project completed this summer.”

This stretch of the channel will be closed to fishing indefinitely.

Game and Fish Revokes Fishing Tournament Permits

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has revoked all fishing tournaments for April and May due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tournament sponsors were notified of possible rescheduling options if conditions, including public safety and open calendar days, present itself.

In addition, organizers of other permitted North Dakota fishing tournaments scheduled June through October are advised of the possibility of having their permit revoked if the COVID-19 conditions persist.

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.”