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Buffaloberry Patch

Article By 
Greg Freeman


Record Fish is a Saugeye

Lab results confirm Dave Faiman’s state record fish is a saugeye.

The Fairview, Montana angler caught the 12-pound record fish on January 16 from the Yellowstone River. Because the fish had identifying characteristics of both species, genetic material was sent to a lab to determine whether the fish was a walleye, sauger or saugeye, which is a cross between the two.

Faiman’s catch broke the previous record by 4 ounces, which was set in 1984.



Mule Deer Survey Shows Increase

Western North Dakota’s mule deer population increased 15 percent from last year, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s spring survey.

However, the 2013 spring mule deer index is still 22 percent lower than the long-term average.

Bruce Stillings, Department big game supervisor, said the increase is a result of no antlerless deer harvested in 2012, and relatively mild winter conditions across much of mule deer range.

Mule Deer

“It’s encouraging, but challenges remain for further population growth, including changes in habitat, energy development, predators and weather patterns,” Stillings said.

The population change from 2012 was not consistent across the entire mule deer range. Stillings said hunting unit 4F in the southern portion of the badlands stayed the same, while the core mule deer range covering hunting units 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E had a healthy increase. The northernmost mule deer unit, 4A, experienced a substantial population decline.

Biologists counted 1,638 mule deer in 306.3 square miles during this year’s survey. Overall mule deer density in the badlands was 5.3 deer per square mile, which is up from 4.6 in 2012, but less than the long-term average of 6.8 deer per square mile.

The spring mule deer index is used to assess mule deer abundance in the badlands. It is conducted after the snow has melted and before trees begin to leaf out, providing the best conditions for aerial observation. Biologists have completed aerial surveys of the same 24 study areas since the 1950s.


Big Trout Stocked in Six Lakes

North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries personnel stocked six lakes with 2- to 5-pound trout from Wyoming.

Jerry Weigel, Department fisheries production and development section leader, said each year

Wyoming Game and Fish provides trout as part of a trade for walleye fingerlings. This year, Wyoming provided surplus brood stock.

A total of 800 rainbows, with a combined weight of 2,100 pounds, were stocked in Camels Hump Dam (Golden Valley County), Dickinson Dike (Stark County), North Woodhaven Pond (Cass County) and Mooreton Pond (Richland County).

In addition, nearly 400 cutthroats weighing 750 pounds were split between Northgate Dam (Burke County) and Kettle Lake (Williams County).

The Game and Fish also stocked nearly 50,000 10-inch rainbow trout from Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery in 50 waters statewide.

Anglers should refer to the fishing tab at the Game and Fish Department’s website,, for a complete stocking report.


Camping Restrictions on Some WMAS

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will continue to implement camping restrictions established last year on some wildlife management areas in western North Dakota and along Lake Sakakawea.

Overnight camping is prohibited on the following WMAs: Antelope Creek, Lewis and Clark, Big Oxbow, Ochs Point, Neu’s Point, Overlook, Sullivan and Tobacco Garden, all McKenzie County; Van Hook, Mountrail County; and Hofflund and Trenton, Williams County.

In addition, the following WMAs are closed to camping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but open to camping Thursday-Monday: North Lemmon Lake, Adams County; Bull Creek, Billings County; Alkali Creek and Spring Creek, Bowman County; Smishek Lake and Short Creek Dam, Burke County; Harris M. Baukol, Divide County; Killdeer Mountains, Dunn County; Camels Hump Dam, Golden Valley County; Indian Creek, Hettinger County; Audubon, Custer Mine, Deepwater Creek, deTrobriand, Douglas Creek and Wolf Creek, all McLean County; Beaver Creek and Hille, Mercer County; Storm Creek, Morton County; Cedar Lake and Speck Davis Pond, Slope County; and McGregor Dam, Williams County.

On those WMAs where camping is allowed Thursday through Monday, all equipment must be removed on Tuesday and Wednesdays when camping is not allowed.

The rules ensure these areas are available for hunters and anglers. Camping restrictions at all WMAs are posted at entry points.


Sage Grouse Counts Remain Low

Results from North Dakota’s spring sage grouse survey indicate the number of strutting males observed remains well below management objectives. Therefore, the sage grouse hunting season will remain closed in 2013.

Aaron Robinson, North Dakota Game and Fish Department upland game bird biologist, said biologists counted a record low 50 males on 11 active strutting grounds in May. Last year, 72 males were counted on 12 active leks in the southwest.

“The most plausible reason why the population declined so dramatically this year was the severe drought the southwest experienced last summer,” Robinson said. “Sage grouse live in very arid areas, and in severe drought and heat, chicks are not able to find insects, which account for almost 100 percent of their diet while they are growing. This vital source of protein is necessary for development of young chicks and drought typically reduces the availability of insects.”

Sage Grouse

Due to the abnormal rainfall and dry conditions from last summer, Robinson said the potential for a successful nesting season this year is slim with limited residual grass cover.

“We have learned from our recent research conducted in North Dakota that sage grouse rely heavily on residual grass cover for concealment during nesting season,” he said. “Without grass cover, mortality of females on nests increases and the probability that the nest will be depredated also increases. The outlook for a favorable hatch this year does not look optimistic.”

Sage grouse management in North Dakota has followed a specific plan developed by a diverse group of participants. The plan outlines hunting harvest objectives for the species, with a recommendation that the hunting season close if the spring census indicates fewer than 100 males in the population. If the spring breeding population increases above 100 males, Game and Fish Department biologists will evaluate if a hunting season is plausible given the threats facing the species in North Dakota.

Sage grouse are North Dakota’s largest native upland game bird. They are found in extreme southwestern North Dakota, primarily in Bowman and Slope counties.


Some North Dakota Lakes Suffer Winterkill

Although this past winter stretched beyond the norm, snowfall throughout most of the state was far from record-setting. Therefore, the number of lakes suffering a fish kill was not extreme.

Scott Gangl, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader, said approximately 30 winterkills were confirmed. “Fortunately, the majority of these were considered minor/partial kills, meaning there are still desirable fish to catch in those lakes,” he said.

However, Gangl mentioned a number of lakes scattered across the state that appear to have suffered a significant kill. These include Powers Lake (Burke County), Warsing Dam (Eddy County), Juanita (Foster County), Schlecht-Weixel (LaMoure County), Stanley Reservoir (Mountrail County), Buffalo Lake (Pierce County), Fenster Lake (Ramsey County), Island Lake and School Section Lake (Rolette County), Coal Mine Lake and Wolf Lake (Sheridan County),  and Harvey Dam (Wells County).

“The severity of a die-off may vary by lake, but usually there are some fish left in the lake,” Gangl said. “Most of the lakes that experienced winterkill are prone to die-offs. So while there was some disappointment in losing good fisheries, there weren’t many surprises.” 


Fisheries personnel will restock lakes that experienced winterkill. “We are stocking with hatchery-raised fish, or fish transported from another lake,” Gangl said. “These fish may take awhile to grow to catchable size, but in two to three years there should be populations of fish for anglers to catch.”

Anglers can contact the local Game and Fish Department fisheries district offices to get more information on the status of these lakes, or to report fish kills that may not be on the list.


Family Fishing Days at Bismarck OWLS

Family fishing days return to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site.

The catch-and-release only fishery is stocked with trout, bluegill, largemouth bass, catfish and other species.


Family fishing days are Saturdays and Wednesdays through the end of August. Fishing equipment can be checked out at the OWLS Pond, located adjacent to the Department’s Bismarck office, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Fishing rods and basic tackle are available for use free of charge.

Trained volunteers or Game and Fish staff will be in the area to answer questions and check out equipment, but there will be little or no direct supervision. Children who aren’t old enough to get to the pond on their own should not be left unattended.

The OWLS area is fairly primitive, but includes a picnic shelter and benches upon entering the site, and a portable restroom. The area has no running water. Users should bring water, sunscreen, folding chairs and appropriate clothing.

The Game and Fish Department is seeking volunteer instructors to assist with the program. Individuals at least age 18 with an interest in teaching kids to fish should contact the Department at (701) 328-6300.

The OWLS pond is open to fishing year-round during daylight hours. There are no bait restrictions and anglers must practice catch-and-release. The area is designed for wheel chair accessibility. Pets, glass bottles and alcohol are not permitted on the site.


Summer BOW Set

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program is accepting registrations for the annual summer workshop August 9-11 at Lake Metigoshe State Park, Bottineau.


Enrollment is limited to participants age 18 or older. Workshop fees of $135 cover instruction, program materials, use of equipment, all meals and lodging.


Participants can choose from more than 30 programs, including archery, canoeing, introduction to firearms, fly-fishing, kayaking, global positioning system, plant identification, and tracking and trapping.

BOW workshops are designed primarily for women with an interest in learning skills associated with hunting, fishing and outdoor endeavors. Although open to anyone age 18 or older, the workshops are tailored primarily to women who have never tried these activities or who are beginners hoping to improve their skills.

Women interested in attending a workshop can access an information brochure and enroll at the Game and Fish website, More information is available by contacting Nancy Boldt at (701) 328-6312, or email


Threat of Exotics in State Waters Continues

With more than 400 water bodies covering the state, outdoor recreationists are once again reminded to help prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota.

Robert Timian, State Game and Fish Department enforcement division chief, said ANS violations include both warnings and citations. “Warnings serve a purpose in some occasions, but citations will become more commonplace this summer,” he said. “We need to continue to send a message that we are serious about the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota.”


Current law states all water must be drained from watercraft prior to leaving a water body, including livewells. This means fish, including bait, cannot be transported in a livewell containing water. However, bait buckets and/or any container of 5 gallons or less in volume can be used to transport legal live baitfish or other bait in water. All other fish species may not be held in water and/or transported in bait buckets/containers when away from a water body. Transportation of fish in or on ice is allowed.

In addition, no aquatic vegetation, or parts thereof, shall be in or on watercraft, motors, trailers and recreational equipment when out of water. Time out of the water needed to remove aquatic vegetation at the immediate water access area is allowed.

All built-in structures to boats, including livewells and bait compartments, and containers (bait buckets) used to transport legal live bait, must also be free of aquatic vegetation.

Public participation will ensure ANS is not transferred from one lake to another.


Danzig Dam Gets Makeover

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Save Our Lakes program is renovating 800 feet of shoreline along Danzig Dam in Morton County.

The SOL project includes lowering the water level to remove 15,000 cubic yards of sediment, which will deepen the shoreline and create better access for shore anglers. Additionally, a water control structure is being installed to enhance opportunities to address ongoing water quality issues.

While the project completion is expected in June, it is anticipated the water level within the reservoir will remain low until next spring. Also, fish eradication is planned for later this summer to remove undesirable species.


First Fish Certificate

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department reminds parents to capture their little angler’s first catch on a 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.

First Fish Certificate

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


Game and Fish Pays $539,000 in Property Taxes

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department paid more than $539,000 in taxes to counties in which the Department owns or leases land. The 2012 in-lieu-of-tax payments are the same as property taxes paid by private landowners.

The Game and Fish Department manages more than 200,000 acres for wildlife habitat and public hunting in 51 counties. The Department does not own or manage any land in Traill or Renville counties.

Following is a list of counties and the tax payments they received.









$    156.91


$    823.81























































































Golden Valley






Grand Forks







Boat North Dakota Course

Kids ages 12-15 who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft this summer must take the state’s boating basics course.

State law requires youngsters ages 12-15 to pass the course before they operate a boat or personal watercraft with at least a 10 horsepower motor. In addition, major insurance companies give adult boat owners who pass the course a premium discount on boat insurance.

The course is available for home-study from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office. Two commercial providers also offer the course online, and links to those sites are found on the Department’s website at

While the home-study course is free, students will be charged a fee to take it online. The online provider charges for the course, not the Game and Fish Department. The fee stays with the online provider.

Upon completion of the online test, and providing a credit card number, students will be able to print out a temporary certification card, and within 10 days a permanent card will be mailed.

The course covers legal requirements, navigation rules, getting underway, accidents and special topics such as weather, rules of the road, laws, life saving and first aid.

For more information contact Nancy Boldt, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, by email at; or call (701) 328-6300.

Boat Course