by Doug Leier

It's hard to believe when I glance at the calendar that it's May, and not June or maybe July.

The early arrival of spring-like temperatures after a milder winter can do that. So while open water fishing has been viable since mid-March, between work, school and other responsibilities not everyone has yet made their initial fishing excursion.

Free Fishing DaysI know die-hard anglers who would question why anyone would let these fine months and weeks pass without fishing, but shether planned or not, some anglers may not even wet a line until June. Regardless, whenever that first trip occurs, a new fishing license is needed.

For North Dakotans, a resident North Dakota fishing license is a mere $10 for the entire season. For senior citizens a license is just $3, and a husband and wife can enjoy fishing for $14, with each also needing the $1 certificate. Visitors to North Dakota from other states have several options, including a season-long individual license for $35, or temporary licenses for three or seven days for even less.

Those reading who don't fish or don't pay attention to the license cost might be surprised at the steady price paid compared to groceries, gas, milk and most everything else which has seen marked increase over the past years. A resident fishing costs the same today as it did in 1995

Even with this inexpensive ticket to fish all across North Dakota until March 31, 2013, we still provide a weekend of free fishing for state residents the first weekend of June, which this year falls on June 2-3. On that Saturday and Sunday North Dakota residents may fish without a license during free fishing days.

Some may wonder why with such reasonable license costs that a free fishing weekend is warranted, but my response is, "why not?"

With approximately 150,000 resident and nonresident anglers in North Dakota, there's still room to add more to the group and what better way than a free test drive, so to speak? Picture a scenario with a class reunion, family or other gathering at a local lake or reservoir. Or, or a dad cleaning out an old shed and finding a couple of fishing poles on a post-card perfect Saturday. On this weekend, dad doesn't have to worry about buying a license to take a young daughter or son (children 15 and under do not need a license) out to try out those old rods.

Whether it's a bullhead, pike or perch the best way to get a kid hooked on fishing is to put a rod and reel in their hand. The chance that experience will give birth to a life-long angler is worth a weekend of free fishing.

And one last idea to help catch a new angler is the Game and Fish Department's specially designed First Fish certificate. First Fish has no qualifying weights or measurements. The only requirement is the successful landing of a North Dakota fish.

Certificates are available to all who request them, and have ample room for all the important information, such as name, age, lake and a short fish story, plus a blank space for a photograph big enough to contain the smile of the happiest little angler.

Free certificates are available by contacting the Game and Fish Department at (701) 328-6300, or send an e-mail to [email protected]