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Buffaloberry Patch

Article By 
Greg Freeman

MRS Walleye Tagging Study Continues

A multi-year walleye tagging study on the Missouri River and Lake Oahe targets adult walleye, each fitted with a metal jaw tag stamped with a unique number to identify the fish, and a phone number to report the tag.

Year one of a multi-year walleye tagging study on the Missouri River and Lake Oahe is complete, and returns are providing biologists with valuable information.

Scott Gangl, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries management section leader, said more than 9,100 fish were tagged in 2013, the first year of the four-year study, and nearly 1,400 tag numbers were turned in by anglers.

The study area extends from the Garrison Dam in central North Dakota downstream to Oahe Dam in South Dakota, and involves a major collaboration of biologists and researchers from North Dakota Game and Fish, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, and South Dakota State University.

The study is designed to assess walleye movements, mortality and what proportion of the walleye population is harvested annually by anglers.


Gangl said the first year of the study revealed some interesting movement patterns.  For example, fish tagged in North Dakota moved greater distances than those tagged farther downstream. In North Dakota, fish tagged in both Oahe and the Garrison Reach of the Missouri River traveled an average of 40 river miles. Fish tagged in Lake Oahe’s upper and middle zones within South Dakota moved an average of 10-15 river miles, and those tagged in the lower zone moved only about 5 miles. North Dakota fish moved both upstream and downstream after tagging.

Gangl said most of the returns were from May, June and July, and when the bite slowed in August, so did the returns.

The goal of the four-year study is to tag 10,000 walleye in the study area in the Dakotas per year, Gangl said, with up to 4,000 tagged and released annually in the Missouri River and upper Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The study targets adult walleye, each fitted with a metal jaw tag stamped with a unique number to identify the fish, and a phone number to report the tag. Anglers can either keep or release the fish. Anglers practicing catch-and-release can write the tag number down and report it, leaving the tag on the fish when released.

Anglers can report tags by calling the phone number found on tags, which, anglers should note, is a South Dakota phone number. Tag information can also be reported on the Game and Fish Department’s website tag reporting page or by calling 701-328-6300.

Anglers should record the date and location of the catch, whether the fish was kept or released, tag number and length and weight (if the fish was measured). Anglers who report tagged fish can keep the tag, and will receive a letter providing some history on the fish.

Gangl said a small portion of the tags offer a reward to anglers to encourage them to turn them in. These tags clearly marked “Reward.”

Reward tags must be physically turned in to Game and Fish offices in Riverdale or Bismarck, or to a Game, Fish and Parks office in South Dakota.



Fishing Regulation Changes, New License Required

Fishing Regulations Guide Cover

North Dakota’s 2014-16 fishing proclamation is set, with regulations effective April 1, 2014 through March 31, 2016. Anglers are reminded that new fishing licenses are required April 1.

Noteworthy regulation changes include:

  • Expanded the length of the bowfishing season to include April, October and November.
  • Expanded the open water spearfishing season to include October and November.
  • Modified the paddlefish season, including ending each snagging day at 9 p.m.; reducing the notice to close the season to 24 hours; reducing the extended snag-and-release season to four days; all paddlefish snagged and tagged must be removed from the river by 9 p.m.; and changed the days open to snagging harvest to Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Eliminated lake-specific reduced panfish limits for Odland Dam.
  • Reduced the statewide daily and possession limit for crappie to 10 and 20.
  • Added the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers to waters open to darkhouse spearfishing.

Fishing licenses can be purchased online at the Game and Fish Department website. A new state law requires residents age 18 or older to prove residency on the application by submitting a valid North Dakota driver’s license number or a North Dakota nondriver photo identification number.

Anglers may notice an increase in license fees required to fish in North Dakota, which were established and set by the 2013 state legislature.

  • The combination license, which includes general game and habitat, small game, furbearer and fishing, increased from $32 to $50.
  • Resident individual fishing from $10 to $16.
  • Resident husband and wife from $14 to $22.
  • Resident age 65 or older from $3 to $5.
  • Resident totally or permanently disabled from $3 to $5.
  • Resident paddlefish tag from $3 to $10.
  • Nonresident paddlefish tag from $7.50 to $25.50.
  • Nonresident individual from $35 to $45.
  • Nonresident husband and wife from $45 to $60.
  • Nonresident three-day from $15 to $25.
  • Nonresident 10-day from $25 to $35.

In addition, the state legislature passed a law that establishes a $5 fishing license for resident disabled veterans with 50 percent or more service connected disability, or who have an extra-schedular rating, to include individual unemployability, that brings the veteran’s total disability ratio to 50 percent. These licenses are available only from the Bismarck Game and Fish office, and also require written verification of eligibility from the Department of Veterans Affairs office.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is self-funded and only receives revenue from license sales and federal funds.

The 2014-16 North Dakota Fishing Guide is available at Game and Fish Department offices and license vendors throughout the state.


Walleye Restriction in Some Southeast Lakes

Anglers fishing in southeastern North Dakota are reminded of a length requirement when fishing for walleye.

The 2014-16 fishing proclamation includes a 14-inch minimum walleye length restriction on six lakes in southeastern North Dakota – Alkali Lake, Buffalo Lake and Tosse Slough in Sargent County; and Lake Elsie, Lueck Lake and West Moran Lake in Richland County.

Anglers should refer to the 2014-16 North Dakota Fishing Guide for all fishing regulations.


Paddlefish Snagging Season

Paddlefish Snagging

North Dakota’s paddlefish snagging season opens May 1 and is scheduled to continue through the end of the month. However, depending on the overall harvest, an early in-season closure may occur with a 24-hour notice issued by the state Game and Fish Department.

Snaggers need to be aware that mandatory harvest of all snagged paddlefish is required on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On these days, all paddlefish caught must be tagged immediately. All paddlefish snagged and tagged must be removed from the river by 9 p.m. of each snagging day. The use or possession of a gaff hook within one-half mile in either direction of the Highway 200 bridge on the Yellowstone River is illegal at any time during the snagging season.

Snag-and-release of all paddlefish is required on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Those planning to participate during snag-and-release-only days need to have in their possession a current season, unused paddlefish snagging tag. Use or possession of gaffs is prohibited on snag-and-release-only days, and, if it occurs, during the snag-and-release extension period.

Legal snagging hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. One tag per snagger will be issued. Snagging is legal in all areas of the Yellowstone River in North Dakota, and in the area of the Missouri River lying west of the U.S. Highway 85 bridge to the Montana border, excluding that portion from the pipeline crossing (river mile 1,577) downstream to the upper end of the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Management Area (river mile 1,565).

If the season closes early because the harvest quota is reached, an extended snag-and-release-only period will be allowed for up to four days immediately following the early closure, but not to extend beyond May 31. Only snaggers with a current season, unused paddlefish snagging tag are eligible to participate. Only a limited area at the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers is open to this extended season snagging opportunity.

All paddlefish snaggers must possess a paddlefish tag in addition to a valid fishing license and certificate that may be required. Cost of a paddlefish tag is $10 for residents and $25.50 for nonresidents.


Red, Bois De Sioux River Anglers

Anglers fishing from shore on the North Dakota side of the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers must have a valid North Dakota fishing license.

Prior to 2012, either a North Dakota or Minnesota license was allowed.

However, anglers fishing from a boat or on the ice can possess either a valid North Dakota or Minnesota fishing license. Anglers should refer to the 2014-16 North Dakota Fishing Guide for additional information.


2013 Deer Gun Season Summarized

White-tailed Deer

North Dakota deer hunters took approximately 28,600 deer during the 2013 deer gun hunting season.

The State Game and Fish Department made available 59,500 deer gun licenses in 2013, and more than 98 percent were issued. Overall hunter success was 55 percent, and each hunter spent an average of 4.6 days in the field.

Hunter success for antlered white-tailed deer was 62 percent, and antlerless whitetail was 55 percent. Mule deer buck success was 82 percent. No mule deer doe licenses were issued in 2013.

Hunters with any-antlered or any-antlerless licenses almost exclusively harvest white-tailed deer. Buck hunters had a success rate of 57 percent, while doe hunters had a success rate of 54 percent.


The Department is in the process of determining recommendations for licenses in the 2014 deer proclamation. The proclamation will be sent to the governor’s office for approval in late April.

In addition to harvest rates and winter aerial surveys, the Department monitors a number of other population indices to determine license numbers, including depredation reports, hunter observations, input at advisory board meetings, and comments from the public, landowners and Department field staff.


2013 Bighorn, Moose and Elk Harvests

Harvest statistics for 2013 show that overall hunter success during the 2013 season for bighorn sheep was 100 percent, 91 percent for moose and 50 percent for elk.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department issued three bighorn sheep licenses and auctioned one. All four hunters harvested a bighorn ram.

The Department issued 111 moose licenses last year. Of that total, 111 hunters harvested 101 animals – 85 bulls and 16 cows/calves. One additional license was raffled by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the hunter was unsuccessful in harvesting a moose. Statistics for each unit follow:

2013 Moose Harvest
Units Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
M5 5 1 4 100
M6 15 4 6 67
M8 15 14 1 100
M9 25 22 2 96
M10 51 44 3 92

The Department issued 271 elk licenses last year. Of that total, 255 hunters harvested 127 elk – 77 bulls and 50 cows/calves. One additional license was raffled by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the hunter was unsuccessful in harvesting an elk. Statistics for each unit follow:

2013 Elk Harvest
Units Hunters Bulls Cow/Calf Success Rate
E1 68 11 19 44
E2 116 29 27 48
E3 47 25 3 60
E4 24 12 1 54


RAP Auction

Confiscated hunting and fishing equipment will be sold May 3 at the North Dakota Wildlife Federation’s Report All Poachers auction in Minot. The auction is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the North Dakota State Fair center’s 4-H hall.

Auction items can be viewed between 12-2 p.m. Items include more than 70 rifles, shotguns and handguns; fishing equipment; bows; knives; spotlights; coolers and other miscellaneous merchandise.

More information, including a comprehensive list of items for auction, is available by visiting the Wildlife Federation’s website at

Proceeds from the auction fund the RAP program. The RAP line, 800- 472-2121, offers monetary rewards for information that lead to the conviction of fish and wildlife law violators. The RAP line is available 24 hours a day, and callers can remain anonymous.


James River Bait Restrictions

Anglers and bait vendors should be aware of a regulation that prohibits the taking of minnows or other aquatic bait from portions of Pipestem Creek and the James River.

Because record high flows in the James River in 2011 facilitated the movement of silver carp upstream into North Dakota, it is illegal to take live bait from all of Pipestem Creek below Pipestem Dam, and from the James River between the Jamestown Dam and the South Dakota border, including any tributaries up to the first vehicular bridge or crossing.

The 2014-16 fishing proclamation states “no live bait may be taken from any water body in North Dakota that is infested with aquatic nuisance species.” Silver carp is an aquatic nuisance species that can out-compete native and other game fish in large river systems.


Bluebird and Tree Swallow Workshop Scheduled in Bismarck

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will host a bluebird and tree swallow educational workshop April 14 at the Department’s main office in Bismarck. The 45-minute presentation is free and begins at 7 p.m.

Chris Grondahl, Department outreach supervisor, said participants will learn about bluebird and tree swallow nest box placement, maintenance and biology. “Even though bluebirds require open spaces and cavities in dead or dying trees, nest boxes can help take the place of natural habitat where it is not available,” he said.

While all homeowners are invited to attend, the workshop is geared toward individuals who own acreage outside city limits. “Nest boxes in town can actually become nest sites for nonnative and nuisance house sparrows,” Grondahl said.

Attendees with adequate habitat for bluebirds will receive free nest boxes to place on their property.


Youth Grant Program Application Deadline

Wildlife, shooting, fraternal and nonprofit civil organizations are urged to submit an application for the Encouraging Tomorrow’s Hunters program, a State Game and Fish Department grant program developed to assist recruitment of the next generation of hunters and shooters.

Pat Lothspeich, Department outreach biologist, said the intent is to introduce youngsters to a positive shooting or hunting experience. “Hopefully this will increase the chance that young people will continue to participate in these activities in the future,” he said.

White-tailed Deer

The maximum grant allowed is $3,000. The program currently helps fund approximately 40 club and organizational events and projects, with an average grant of $1,550.

Grant funds help cover event expenses, including promotional printing; event memorabilia such as shirts, caps or vests; ammunition and targets, and eye and ear protection.

Past funding has enabled several groups to conduct youth pheasant and waterfowl hunts, while others have sponsored trap and other shooting events, including archery and rifle shooting.


Any club or organization interested in conducting a youth hunting or shooting event can get more information, including a grant application, from the Game and Fish Department website or by contacting Lothspeich at 701-328-6332.

The deadline to apply for a 2014 grant is April 19.


Top Whopper Club Applications for 2013

Whopper Club Applications
(Click for larger image)

BLUEGILL 2 pounds, Froelich Dam; 1 pound, 14 ounces, Sweet Briar Lake; 1-14, Froelich Dam; 1-12, Froelich Dam; 1-11, Froelich Dam.

BROWN TROUT –  12-11, Missouri River; 11-1, Missouri River; 10-8, Missouri River; 9-15, Missouri River; 9-2, Missouri River.

BUFFALO – 39-10, Heart Butte Reservoir; 35-8, Heart Butte Reservoir; 32-6, Jamestown Reservoir; 30-11, Jamestown Reservoir; 27-14, Jamestown Reservoir.

BULLHEAD – 2-3, Lake Tewaukon; 2-3, Lake Hoskins.

BURBOT – 8-3, Missouri River.

CHANNEL CATFISH – 18-0, Red River; 15-8, Red River; 13-0, Red River; 12-6, Red River.

CHINOOK SALMON 12-7, Missouri River.

COMMON CARP – 22-3, James River; 19-5, Bowman-Haley Dam; 17-3, Missouri River; 16-14, Jamestown Reservoir; 16-7, Pipestem Reservoir.


CRAPPIE – 3-4, Jamestown Reservoir (tied state record); 2-10, Jamestown Reservoir; 2-5, Elm Lake; 2-3, Trenton Lake; 2-1, West Moran Lake.

CUTTHROAT TROUT 5-7, Missouri River.

DRUM – 8-0, Heart Butte Reservoir; 6-11, Lake Sakakawea; 6-1, Lake Tewaukon.

GOLDEYE – 3-0, Lake Audubon.

LAKE WHITEFISH 4-8, Lake Sakakawea.

LARGEMOUTH BASS – 5-12, Nelson Lake; 5-5, Dead Colt Creek; 5-3, Nelson Lake; 5-2, Nelson Lake

NORTHERN PIKE – 28-0, Matejcek Dam; 27-8, Lake Darling; 27-5, Lake Oahe; 24-7, Lake Audubon; 24-6, Missouri River.

PADDLEFISH – 125-0, Missouri River; 112-0, Missouri River; 99-0, Missouri River; 98-0, Missouri River; 96-0, Missouri River.

RAINBOW TROUT 9-2, Missouri River; 8-15, Missouri River; 8-8, Missouri River; 8-0, Missouri River; 7-9, Missouri River.

SAUGER –5-0, Lake Sakakawea; 4-6, Lake Sakakawea.

SAUGEYE –12-0, Yellowstone River  (state record)

WALLEYE – 14-7, Lake Sakakawea; 12-8, Missouri River; 11-3, Devils Lake; 11-2, Lake Darling; 11-2, Lake Sakakawea.

WHITE BASS – 4-5, Lake Sakakawea; 4-3, Devils Lake; 4-3, Devils Lake; 4-2, Devils Lake; 3-13, Devils Lake.

YELLOW PERCH – 2-6, Devils Lake; 2-6, Devils Lake; 2-5, Dry Lake; 2-5 Devils Lake; 2-5, Devils Lake.