Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

White Suckers Only Legal in Bois de Sioux, Red Rivers

The state Game and Fish Department reminds anglers that live white suckers are not legal baitfish anywhere in North Dakota, except in the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND Game and Fish


Although anglers can use live white suckers on the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers, and tributaries up to the first vehicular bridge, they are illegal elsewhere. Fathead minnows, sticklebacks and creek chubs are the only legal live baitfish outside of the Bois de Sioux and Red rivers. Dead white suckers which have been preserved by freezing, salting or otherwise treated to inactivate reproductive capabilities are legal bait.


The transportation of live white suckers, other than in Richland, Cass, Traill, Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties, is illegal.


Anglers are also reminded that live baitfish, or other live aquatic bait such as leeches, cannot be transported from another state into North Dakota.




Three adult zebra mussels found last week on Sorlie Bridge in Grand Forks serve as a reminder for local entities and water recreationists to thoroughly check for new aquatic nuisance species infestations when pulling and storing fishing piers, boat docks and lifts prior to ice up.


North Dakota Game and Fish Department ANS coordinator Fred Ryckman said the adult mussels were found on Red River sampling equipment by staff from the U.S. Geological Survey.


“This does not come as a surprise to us since earlier this summer one zebra mussel adult was found in Fargo, and many veligers were found along the entire length of the Red River,” Ryckman said. “This definitely serves as a reminder to look for zebra mussels now during winter prep work.”


Zebra mussels will attach to hard surfaces, such as fishing piers, boat docks and lifts, especially the undersides or other areas not exposed to direct sunlight. Ryckman said the three adults on Sorlie Bridge were attached to an aluminum pipe approximately three feet below the surface of the water.


If mussels are found, citizens are requested to leave the suspicious mussel attached, take a digital picture, and report findings immediately to a local Game and Fish Department district office. Pictures of zebra mussels are available on the 100th Meridian Initiative website at 100thmeridian.org/.


Game and Fish implemented two new emergency rules because of this year’s findings along the Red River, each designed to prevent the spread of zebra mussels outside the river.


The emergency rules are as follows:


  • ·         Anglers may no longer transport live bait in water away from the Red River. That means all water must be drained from bait buckets as anglers leave the shore, or remove their boat from the water. Anglers must properly dispose of unused bait away from the river, as dumping bait in the water or on shore is illegal. In the rest of the state, anglers can transport live bait in water in containers of 5 gallons or less in volume.
    • ·         All boats and other watercraft must have their plugs pulled when exiting the river, and plugs must remain pulled when the watercraft leaves the access area. In addition, all boats entering North Dakota must have their plugs pulled. This rule would also apply on any other waters where Class I ANS, including zebra mussels, are discovered in the future.


These new regulations and are in addition to other statewide aquatic nuisance species rules that are already in place. These include:


  • ·         water must be drained from watercraft, including from livewells and bilges, prior to leaving a water body;
  • ·         bait buckets and/or any container of 5 gallons or less in volume can be used to transport legal live baitfish or other bait in water;
  • ·         fish species other than minnows in containers of 5 gallons volume or less may not be held in water and/or transported in bait buckets/containers when away from a water body;
  • ·         no aquatic vegetation, or parts thereof, shall be in or on watercraft, motors, trailers and recreational equipment when out of water;
  • ·         all water must be drained from all watercraft and recreational, commercial, and construction equipment bilges and confined spaces, livewells and baitwells, when out of water or upon entering the state.