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Aberdeen SD

Grand River Casino

Devils Lake

ND: A Year in Review

By Doug Leier
North Dakota Game and Fish Department

With all the high visibility world, state and local issues of the new year, I’d wait a couple of weeks before providing a look back at some of the highlights and challenges the North Dakota Game and Fish Department dealt with in 2017.

Game and Fish Deputy Director Scott Peterson covered a number of them in the recent January 2018 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine.

More Wet Than Dry
As drought arrived on the heels of five or six years of rising water levels and increasing fish populations, Game and Fish Department personnel entered 2017 managing more than 425 fisheries.

Not surprisingly, many North Dakota fisheries lost water last year, but not all lakes were affected the same.

In summer 2017, fisheries personnel stocked more than 12 million walleye fingerlings into 130-plus waters around the state, topping the previous high by more than 1 million fish.

North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey indicated total birds and number of broods were down considerably statewide from 2016.

The majority of the state dealt with extreme drought conditions during critical times for pheasant chicks, resulting in poor nesting/brood habitat and more than likely a less than ideal insect hatch.

The survey showed total pheasants were down 61 percent from last year.

2017 Deer season
The Department made available 54,500 licenses to deer gun hunters in 2017.

The license total is much lower when compared to 2001 through 2011 when, thanks to plentiful wildlife habitat on the landscape and a string of mild winters, license totals stretched well beyond 100,000.

Yet, considering the number of deer gun licenses made allocated to hunters the three seasons prior – 48,000 in 2014; 43,275 in 2015; and 49,000 in 2016 – the increase in 2017 continued a trend in the right direction.

Sage Grouse
Department personnel in spring moved 60 sage grouse – 40 females and 20 males – from southern Wyoming to Bowman County, with the hope that they’d nest in southwestern North Dakota. Biologists believed that if some of the females initiated a nest, that would likely anchor them to North Dakota, and in turn do the same for hatched young.

Aquatic Nuisance Species
While high water and strong flows made searching for zebra mussels in the Red River difficult, Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel did find just a few of these invasive species attached to a dock pulled from the river in Wahpeton.

Zebra mussels were first discovered in the Red River in 2015. Although it’s uncertain how well established the population is in the river, fisheries biologists know the mussels pose a threat to other waters around the state.

Bighorn Sheep Licenses
The Game and Fish Department allocated five bighorn sheep licenses to hunters in 2017, after closing the season altogether in 2015 to assess the severity of a bacterial pneumonia outbreak in the population in western North Dakota.

That’s just a short review of what made North Dakota outdoors news in 2017. More details are available on the Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov.

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Nonresident Any-Deer Bow Licenses

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will have 502 any-deer bow licenses available to nonresidents in 2018.

Applicants must apply online at the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. Paper applications are not available. The deadline for applying is March 1.

Up to five applicants can apply together as a party. A lottery will be held if more applications are received than licenses available. Any remaining licenses after March 1 will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

The number of nonresident any-deer bow licenses available is 15 percent of the previous year’s mule deer gun license allocation. The Game and Fish Department issued 3,350 mule deer licenses in the 2017 deer gun license lottery. 

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Tentative 2018 Season Opening Dates

To help North Dakota hunters prepare for hunting seasons in 2018, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department annually provides its best estimate for opening dates for the coming year.
Dates become official when approved by governor’s proclamation. Tentative opening dates for 2018.

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Winter Fishing Regulations

North Dakota anglers are encouraged to refer to the 2016-18 North Dakota Fishing Guide or the state Game and Fish Department’s website for winter fishing regulations.
In addition, anglers can visit the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov, for an extensive list of fishing questions and answers.

Some winter fishing regulations include:
·         A maximum of four poles is legal for ice fishing. However, when fishing a water body where both open water and ice occur at the same time, an angler is allowed a maximum of four poles, of which no more than two poles can be used in open water.
·         Tip-ups are legal, and each tip-up is considered a single pole.
·         Mechanical devices that set the hook are legal; however, the use of any device that automatically retrieves the fish is illegal.
·         There is no restriction on the size of the hole in the ice while fishing. Materials used to mark holes must be in possession of anglers and spearers as soon as a hole larger than 10 inches in diameter is made in the ice.
·         It is only legal to release fish back into the water immediately after they are caught. Once a fish is held in a bucket or on a stringer, they can no longer be legally released in any water.
·         It is illegal to catch fish and transport them in water.
·         It is illegal to leave fish, including bait, behind on the ice.
·         Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal.
·         The packaging of fish (including parts thereof) away from one’s permanent residence must be done in such a manner that the number of fish in each package may be easily determined.
·         The daily limit is a limit of fish taken from midnight to midnight. No person may possess more than one day’s limit of fish while on the ice or actively engaged in fishing. If a situation occurs when an angler engages in fishing overnight, the first daily limit must be removed from the ice by midnight prior to continuing to fish.
·         The possession limit is the maximum number of fish that an angler may have in his or her possession during a fishing trip of more than one day.
·         Licensing of fish houses is not required in North Dakota. However, any unoccupied fish house must have displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least three inches high, either a registration number issued by the department, or the owner’s name and address or name and telephone number. 

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Late-Season Hunting Opportunities

North Dakota waterfowl hunters are reminded the statewide duck and white-fronted goose seasons close Dec. 3. However, duck hunting in the high plains unit reopens Dec. 9 and continues through Dec. 31.
In addition, the season for Canada geese closes Dec. 21, except for the Missouri River Zone, which closes Dec. 29. Light goose hunting closes statewide Dec. 31.
Archery deer, fall turkey, sharp-tailed and ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant and tree squirrel hunting seasons continue through Jan. 7, 2018.

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Some Refuges Open to Late-Season Upland Game

Hunters are reminded that several North Dakota national wildlife refuges open to late-season upland game bird hunting the day after the deer gun season closes.
Arrowwood, Audubon, Des Lacs, J. Clark Salyer, Lake Alice, Lake Zahl, Long Lake, Lostwood, Tewaukon (pheasants only), and Upper Souris NWRs open Nov. 27.
However, portions of each refuge are closed to hunting. Hunters should contact refuge headquarters for information on closed areas and other restrictions: Arrowwood 701-285-3341; Audubon 701-442-5474; Des Lacs 701-385-4046; J. Clark Salyer 701-768-2548; Lake Alice 701-662-8611; Lake Zahl 701-965-6488; Long Lake 701-387-4397; Lostwood 701-848-2722; Tewaukon 701-724-3598; and Upper Souris 701-468-5467; or visit www.fws.gov and click on “National Wildlife Refuges” for details on each individual refuge.
National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters are reminded that use of nontoxic shot is required on all USFWS lands. State regulations found in the North Dakota 2017-18 Small Game Guide apply. Seasons for pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge and ruffed grouse close statewide on Jan. 7, 2018. 

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