North Dakota Fishing Questions

July 11, 2012 by  

Doug Leier

Even though fishing season is open year-round in North Dakota, judging by phone calls and emails the month of July sees a good share of fishing activity.

Whether it’s planning an annual fishing outing with friends and family, part of an anniversary or community celebration, or simply an individual with questions, there are a few regulations that might be overlooked by some anglers.

Why can’t we “party” fish?

North Dakota regulations do not allow for “party” fishing (or party hunting for that matter), meaning each angler can catch and keep only their own daily limit. The philosophy behind this is that each individual should have their own opportunity to experience and enjoy the outdoors … and catch and harvest their own fish.

There are always concerns that less experienced anglers, especially youth, are taken on fishing trips so older anglers can catch and keep additional limits … and thus ruin the enjoyment of fishing for those who aren’t allowed to catch their own fish. Also, North Dakota fishing regulations are based on past and present fishing experiences and success rates. If regulations allowed for party fishing, overall limits might need to be reduced.

Can I put game fish in a five-gallon bucket with water and transport them live?

No. Only legal bait and legal live baitfish can be transported. Since fathead minnows remain as a legal live baitfish, there is no alternative other than allow some water, in bait buckets, to transport minnows to a water body for fishing. In the case of game fish, there are viable alternatives to transport them home or to a fish cleaning station and they do not need to remain alive.

Can I transport home some small fish I caught from a lake and use them as aquarium fish?

No. It is illegal to transport any fish in water away from the water body from which it was caught, except for legal baitfish.

Can I use parts of fish I caught for bait?

The use of nongame fish as cut fish or bait is legal. Cut fish is defined as a nongame fish that has been reduced to sections, pieces or parts thereof. Heads and entrails of nongame fish are considered cut fish. Nongame fish, yellow perch eyes, and trout and salmon eggs which have been preserved by freezing, salting or otherwise treated to inactivate reproductive products are also legal bait. Use of other game fish or game fish parts as bait is illegal.

Why can’t I release fish held in a livewell at the end of a fishing outing?

If allowed, fish that were stressed (e.g. on stringers, possibly not in a functional livewell, etc.) would experience delayed mortality after being released. The fish may swim away but may not be healthy and eventually die.

Further, if the release of a fish (or two) at the end of the day was allowed, it could possibly lead to high-grading or culling. High grading is the practice of selectively harvesting fish – catching a fish, reducing it to creel (e.g. in a livewell), and then later releasing the fish after catching additional fish of a more preferable size. High grading has been against the law for at least the past 60 years in North Dakota. Allowing for some release of fish after being reduced to creel, would at the very least, complicate enforcement and at its worse, greatly confound the overall fishing regulations.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]


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