Doug Leier: A few highlights for this year’s fishing changes in North Dakota

photo : inforum


West Fargo

One advantage for North Dakota anglers is our fishing season for game fish is alll year.

That said though, there is a beginning and end to the fishing license period, and that occurs April 1, as it does for hunting and trapping licenses. So, if you want to fish starting April 1, you need to get that new 2018-19 license.

Another benchmark for April 1 this year is that a new fishing proclamation goes into effect. North Dakota’s fishing regulations cover a two-year period, so this year’s changes apply through March 31, 2020.

With that in mind, here’s a few highlights from this year’s changes. You can find full details of the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide available at North Dakota Game and Fish Department offices and license vendors throughout the state, as well as online at the department website,

• The season for taking of nongame fish with a bow will now be open year-round.

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

• The beginning of the darkhouse spearfishing season changes from December 1 to whenever ice-up occurs. When ice-up occurs in North Dakota is unpredictable. However, whenever it does occur, ice conditions continue to improve with no significant melting, thus safety concerns such as opening large holes in the ice are reduced. This is not true in the spring, when warm weather can create unsafe conditions … therefore the closing date of March 15 will remain in place.

• Paddlefish snagging days will begin at 7 a.m. (was 8 a.m.) and close at 7 p.m. (was 9 p.m.). Also, the season length will be shortened to 21 days (May 1 — May 21). These changes are an effort to both extend the paddlefish season to more than a few days, and to improve safety conditions due to snagger congestion at the Confluence area.

• The statewide daily and possession limit for bluegill is reduced to 10/20 respectively (was 20/40). The number of quality bluegill fisheries in North Dakota is limited. Reducing the harvest somewhat, should help maintain the size of bluegill in some lakes. Bluegill populations are more in line with crappie where populations can be managed over a longer time, versus yellow perch populations which are tied closely to weather patterns and fluctuations in water levels.

• Walleye length restrictions are eliminated on North and South Golden, Alkali (Sargent Co.), Lueck and West Moran lakes, and Tosse Slough. While minimum length restrictions for these lakes have been in place for a number of years, all biological data collected from angler use and population surveys indicates the restrictions have not yielded positive results. Therefore, these regulations are no longer necessary.

Fishing licenses for the 2018-19 season can be purchased online at the state Game and Fish Department website,, or at license vendors who are linked to the department’s online licensing system.

Licenses may also be purchased by calling the department’s instant licensing telephone number at 1-800-406-6409. A service charge is added for this option.

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