Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

Missouri River System Boat Ramp Status

Anglers looking to enjoy the nice weather this weekend by fishing open water on the Missouri River System can check the status of boat ramps at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov.

Game and Fish will post ramp status updates as they occur.

Department personnel encourage anglers to wait their turn at boat ramps, practice social distancing and follow other guidelines for minimizing the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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.

Watchable Wildlife Checkoff on State Tax Form

North Dakota citizens with an interest in supporting wildlife conservation programs are reminded to look for the Watchable Wildlife checkoff on the state tax form.

The state income tax form gives wildlife enthusiasts an opportunity to support nongame wildlife like songbirds and birds of prey, while at the same time contributing to programs that help everyone enjoy all wildlife.

The checkoff – whether you are receiving a refund or having to pay in – is an easy way to voluntarily contribute to sustain this long‑standing program. In addition, direct donations to the program are accepted any time of year.

To learn more about Watchable Wildlife program activities, visit the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov.

Deer Test Positive for CWD

Eight deer taken during the 2019 North Dakota deer gun season tested positive for chronic wasting disease, according to Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

All were antlered deer taken from areas previously known to have CWD – six from unit 3F2 and two from 3A1. Bahnson said six of the eight were mule deer, with two whitetails from unit 3F2. CWD was not detected in any deer harvested in the eastern portion of the state where hunter-harvested surveillance was conducted last fall. In addition, no elk or moose tested positive.

“Only about 15% of hunters submit heads for testing in units where CWD has been found, so the infection rate is more meaningful than the raw number of positive animals found,” Bahnson said. “Approximately 3% of harvested mule deer were infected with CWD in unit 3F2, and roughly 2% in unit 3A1. Our infection rate in whitetails in 3F2 was about 1%.

“Overall,” he continued, “we could probably live with these current infection rates long-term, but they suggest an upward trend and we’ve certainly seen an expansion in the known distribution of the disease. We need to continue to try to limit the spread within our herds as best as we can. CWD is a fatal disease of deer, moose and elk that can cause long-term population declines if left unchecked.”

Bahnson said the eight positive deer put the total at 11 detected since Sept 1. As previously reported, two mule deer taken in September tested positive for CWD – one was harvested during the archery season from deer gun unit 4B and one during the youth season in unit 3A1. CWD was also detected in a white-tailed deer from unit 3F2 that was euthanized in December following a report from the public that it appeared sick and was displaying erratic behavior.

Game and Fish will use its 2019 surveillance data to guide its CWD management strategy moving forward. More information about CWD can be found at the Game and Fish Department’s website, gf.nd.gov/cwd.

 

CREP Enrollment Open

Landowners in southwestern North Dakota are again able to enroll in the state Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture opened a new signup period in early December.

 

In addition, USDA also announced an open signup for the general Conservation Reserve Program, which is open until Feb. 29.

 

The North Dakota Riparian Project CREP, first offered in spring 2017, allows states to identify resource concerns and design custom-built projects along riparian areas.

“Over a 10-year period, approximately $19 million in federal funds from the USDA Farm Service Agency can be used to provide annual rental, incentive and cost-share payments for filter strips, riparian buffers, or pollinator and honeybee habitat,” according to Kevin Kading, private land section supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

 

The state will contribute more than $4.3 million, which is funded from the Game and Fish Private Land Open To Sportsmen program, and the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund.

 

“We’ve worked a long time developing these projects with USDA, and working with other partners and stakeholders,” Kading said. “We feel these are good options for landowners to address a resource concern, and also open up some quality habitat for hunters.”

 

Landowners interested in CREP can enroll acres in portions of Adams, Billings, Bowman, Burleigh, Dunn, Emmons, Grant, Golden Valley, Hettinger, McKenzie, Mercer, Morton, Oliver, Sioux, Slope and Stark counties. The statewide enrollment cap for this program is 20,000 acres.

 

Expired, or expiring CRP is not eligible for the North Dakota Riparian Project CREP at this time, Kading said. Land offered must meet FSA cropping history requirements and be located within the project boundary.

 

There is no minimum acreage requirement for enrolling land into CREP, but any land enrolled in a CREP contract with USDA must also be enrolled in the Game and Fish PLOTS program. Kading said landowners don’t have to allow public access to their entire property, but the PLOTS tract must be at least 40 acres in size.

Landowners will receive payments for allowing walk-in hunting access, and are eligible for additional habitat enhancements, incentives and cost-share.

 

For information regarding the project, landowners should contact a local Game and Fish private land biologist or their local county USDA service center.

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.

Winter Anglers Reminded to Clean Up Ice

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds winter anglers to clean up the ice after fishing. This not only applies to trash, but fish as well.

 

It is not only unsightly, but it is illegal to leave fish, including minnows used for bait, behind on the ice. According to state fishing regulations, when a fish is caught, anglers must either immediately release the fish back into the water unharmed, or reduce them to their daily possession.

 

It is common practice for some anglers to fillet fish on the ice, which is allowed, as long as fish entrails and other parts are removed from the ice and properly disposed of at home.

 

In addition, all trash, including aluminum cans, cigarette butts and Styrofoam containers, must be packed out and taken home.