North Dakota Outdoors: New fishing regulations set to take effect

I don’t necessarily consider myself old, but I do know I’m old enough to remember the drought of the late 1980s and early 1990s when Devils Lake was hardly visible from Minnewaukan, and one day I walked across the parched bottom of Hobart Lake in Barnes County.
Since a wet cycle started in 1993, construction crews have had to build up Interstate 94, which runs through Hobart Lake, because of rising water, and Minnewaukan today is nearly surrounded by Devils Lake.
Anyone who’s lived in North Dakota for even just the last decade or so has seen wet cycles and droughts influence fish populations and our fisheries in a sort of feast to famine roller coaster.
One of those factors, a “feast” in this case, is evident in the new two-year fishing proclamation, which covers April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2014.
Following several dry years in the mid-2000s, and influx of water since winter 2009 has created a situation that has prompted the North Dakota Game and Fish Department to raise the daily limit on northern pike to five statewide.
For several years prior to 2012 the daily pike limit was five at Devils Lake and other waters in surrounding counties, but remained at three in the rest of the state.
leading off with a statewide increase in the daily pike limit from three daily to five.
Greg Power, fisheries chief for the Game and Fish Department, said the intent of the increased pike limit is to provide more of an opportunity for those anglers who like to fish for and keep pike. “This will not affect the population because the pike fishery is in excellent shape,” Power said. “We have a record number of lakes with pike, many with record populations. Pike anglers should be happy the next few years.”
Another noteworthy change involves opening most state waters to darkhouse spearfishing, except for a small number of lakes that contain muskie. Previously, a few dozen lakes were open to spearing, while the bulk of state lakes were closed.
Lakes where darkhouse spearfishing is not allowed are Braun Lake, Logan County; New Johns Lake, Burleigh County; East Park Lake, West Park Lake and Lake Audubon, McLean County; McClusky Canal; Heckers Lake, Sheridan County; Red Willow Lake, Griggs County; Sweet Briar Dam, Morton County; and the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers.
Other noteworthy regulation changes include:
- Sundays during the paddlefish season are now for snag-and-release only.
- Six lakes in southeastern North Dakota now have a 14-inch minimum walleye harvest length. They are: Alkali Lake, Buffalo Lake and Tosse Slough in Sargent County; and Lake Elsie, Lueck Lake and West Moran Lake in Richland County.
- The minimum harvest length for muskie was increased to 48 inches.
- Mott Watershed in Hettinger County and Nelson Lake in Oliver County are added to the list of “no live baitfish” lakes.
- The 24-inch minimum length restriction for northern pike at North and South Golden lakes in Steele County was eliminated.
Another rule that went into effect last year, but is still relatively new, is a requirement that anglers in all cases must now drain their boat’s livewell when leaving a lake or river. Previously, anglers could maintain water in their livewell if they were transporting fish.
Anglers may use ice in a container to transport fish away from a water body.
Pulling plugs and draining water from livewells, baitwells and bilges must be conducted within the access site, which includes parking lots immediately adjacent to the ramp.

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