Dakota Trails - North Dakota Outdoor Sports

​North Dakota’s free ice fishing weekend is Dec. 30-31.

North Dakota’s free ice fishing weekend is Dec. 30-31.

Resident anglers may fish that weekend without a license. All other ice fishing regulations apply.

Those interested in darkhouse spearfishing that weekend must register with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to participating. Registration is available by visiting the Department’s website, gf.nd.gov, or through any Game and Fish office. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.



Ice Awareness for Anglers, Hunters

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is urging winter anglers and late-season hunters to use extreme caution when venturing out on ice.

Ice thickness is never consistent, especially early in winter, and can vary significantly on the same body of water. Edges become firm before the center.

A few reminders include:

  • ·         Snow insulates ice, which in turn inhibits solid ice formation, and hides cracks, weak and open water areas.
  • 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.
  • Ice thickness is not consistent and can vary significantly even in a small area. Ice shouldn’t be judged by appearance alone. 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.

These tips could help save a life:

  • 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.

Anglers Asked to Report Winterkill

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries biologists are asking anglers to report any lakes that may have experienced winter fish mortality.


Fisheries management section leader Scott Gangl said some winterkill is expected every year, with the severity depending on winter weather. Despite the heavy snow that covered much of the state in December, he doesn’t anticipate major widespread fish kills.

“Our biologists found acceptable levels of oxygen in most lakes during their mid-winter sampling,” Gangl said. “However, we expect some lakes to winterkill. Our staff will be busy spawning fish in the coming weeks, so anglers can help by notifying us of any lakes where they encounter dead fish.”

Biologists will begin sampling suspected winterkill lakes later this spring once fish spawning operations are completed to document the severity of any die-offs.

Anglers should report fish mortality in any North Dakota water by contacting the Game and Fish Department’s main office in Bismarck at 701-328-6300, or the local Game and Fish district office.

Have You Seen? Winter Waterfowl Survey

Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey


This weeks North Dakota Outdoors Webcast – (Winter Waterfowl Survey) 01/12/2017 is up and available for your viewing right here or here: https://youtu.be/CMkgF5DEEZE

Learn about the nationwide winter waterfowl survey and find out how waterfowl numbers are doing this winter in North Dakota in this week’s webcast.

Don’t forget to check out the Game and Fish Department YouTube channel for more videos right here or here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz6aHsV0xgNrjPwTwI6eJNw

Have You Seen? Winter Wildlife



This weeks North Dakota Game and Fish Department weekly webcast is now available online right here and here:

The mild winters of the last few years are a fond memory to many of us faced with this year’s seemingly endless snow and frigid temperatures. For our wildlife that snow, piling higher and higher each storm, is more than just an inconvenience. It can present insurmountable challenges. Learn more in this week’s webcast.

Visit the Game and Fish Department YouTube channel for more videos here:


Wildlife Stressed, Snowmobile Riders Stay Clear

With significant snow storms dropping record to near-record snowfall on much of the state the past several weeks, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds snowmobile enthusiasts to stay clear of wildlife and its habitat so animals do not suffer additional stress.

photo by Craig Bihrle, ND     Game and Fish

Wildlife chief Jeb Williams said North Dakota’s wildlife population has already suffered significantly this winter.

“Any undue stress makes it worse,” Williams said.

Snowmobiles cannot be used to flush, chase or pursue wildlife. Running snowmobiles near, through or around winter habitat such as thickets, cattails and wooded areas may inadvertently scare wintering wildlife, causing them additional stress or injury.

Snowmobiles can be used off an established trail while fox or coyote hunting, but chasing a coyote through cover or across an open field on a snowmobile is illegal.

Williams said Game and Fish is concerned about the state’s wildlife, especially since it is still early in winter.

“Pheasants seem to be doing okay in some areas, but no doubt suffered losses in other areas,” Williams said. “What this winter will mean in terms of pheasant hunting opportunities next fall is hard to tell. The rest of the winter will be very telling, and good nesting conditions in spring will be critical.”

Reports of dying or dead deer are not uncommon in tough winters, and this holds true this winter as well. Mostly fawns and older deer are affected by the cold and wind. In addition, heavy snow cover prevents deer from accessing their usual food sources, which can result in deer dying because of grain overload – a result of deer switching their natural diet to a diet comprised mostly of corn and/or other grains.

Observers witnessing harassment or chasing of wildlife are encouraged to call the Report All Poachers hotline at 800-472-2121.

Riders are encouraged to use snowmobile trails and avoid situations that could disturb wildlife. Information on the North Dakota trail system is available at the Snowmobile North Dakota website at snowmobilend.org.

Free Ice Fishing Weekend



North Dakota’s free ice fishing weekend is Dec. 31, 2016 and Jan. 1, 2017.

Resident anglers may fish that weekend without a license. All other ice fishing regulations apply.

Those interested in darkhouse spearfishing that weekend must register with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department prior to participating. Registration is available by visiting the Department’s website, gf.nd.gov, or through any Game and Fish office. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.

Ice Fishing Preview for Western North Dakota



Western ND Fisheries Preview


This weeks North Dakota weekly webciast  ”Ice Fishing Preview for Western North Dakota” is now online for your viewing.

One benefit of the cold weather the last couple of weeks is that lakes and ponds are freezing up, and ice fishing season has begun! Watch this week’s webcast for an overview of ice fishing prospects in western North Dakota.

Related Links

Fish House Regulations



Winter anglers are reminded that any fish house left unoccupied on North Dakota waters must be made out of materials that will allow it to float.


A popular question this time of year is if campers qualify as legal fish houses. The answer is the same for any structure taken on the ice – if it’s left unattended, it must be able to float; if it’s not able to float, it must be removed when the angler leaves the ice.

Other fish house regulations include:

  • Fish houses do not require a license.
  • Occupied structures do not require identification. However, any unoccupied fish house must have the owner’s name, and either address or telephone number, displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least three inches high.
  • Fish houses may not be placed closer than 50 feet in any direction to another house without consent of the occupant of the other fish house.
  • All unoccupied fish houses must be removed from all waters after midnight, March 15.

Anglers should refer to the 2016-18 North Dakota Fishing Guide for other winter fishing regulations.

Have you seen this week’s North Dakota Outdoors video? Ice Fishing Regulations



Ice is starting to form on our lakes and ponds, and soon it will be time to break out the ice fishing gear. This webcast discusses some of the regulations currently in place for ice fishing in North Dakota.

Find out more ice fishing regulations right here: https://gf.nd.gov/fishing

More video’s are available right here or http://gf.nd.gov/video