Skip to main content - The Official Portal for North Dakota State Government

2020 Fishing Contest Administrative Rule Changes FAQ

Effective October 1, 2020 the $5,000 fisheries conservation cap was removed via changes to the Fishing Contest Administrative Rule.

All future tournaments will need to pay the full 10% toward a conservation project.

To provide more insight into the administrative rule change, some questions regarding fishing tournaments are listed below.

Q. What is a fishery conservation project and why is there a requirement to pay out a minimum of 10% fishery conservation project in the first place?

A. In the context of the intent of this administrative rule, fishery conservation projects are intended to reinvest some of the tournament proceeds back into the resource. This typically includes developing fishing opportunities, construction, upgrading and/or maintenance of fishing infrastructure (e.g. boat ramps, courtesy docks, fish cleaning stations, vault toilets, access road and parking lots, etc.) and/or educating the public (especially youth) about fishing.

The minimum of 10% payback requirement to a fishery project has been in place dating back to 1984. Historically, disagreements between some tournament and non-tournament anglers have occasionally led to bad blood between these two groups where one group believes money should not be made off a natural resource while the other believes fishing can be about economic development. Both the Department and past legislative actions recognize(d) these fundamental and sometimes contentious differences have existed for decades. The 10% mandate going toward a conservation project has eased some of the tensions between the two groups. In fact, the combination of the 10% fishery conservation project coupled with the Department’s efforts to apply various tournament protocol (e.g. spread tournaments about, non-tournament anglers have precedent at the ramp, etc.) has helped lessen the conflict between the two groups considerably in the past 15 years.

Q. How is the 10% assessed?

A. According to administrative rule – “A minimum of ten percent of the gross proceeds from entry or participation fees is required to be paid as a conservation fee.”


10% of an entry fee any individual pays to participate/enter a fishing tournament (any contest) goes toward a fisheries conservation project.

If a tournament sponsor has a fishing contest with 100 boats...

  • If the entry fee is $20 (per boat) –
    • 100 boats * $20 = $2000 total in entry fees
      • $2,000 * 10% = a minimum of $200 must go toward a conservation fee
  • If the entry fee is $100 (per boat) –
    • 100 boats * $100 = $10,000 in entry fees
      • $10,000 * 10% = a minimum of $1,000 must go toward a conservation fee
  • If the entry fee is $500 (per boat) –
    • 100 boats * $500 = $50,000 in entry fees
      • $50,000 * 10% = a minimum of $5,000 must go toward a conservation fee
  • If the entry fee is $1,000 (per boat) –
    • 100 boats * $1,000 = $100,000 in entry fees
      • $100,000 * 10% = a minimum of $10,000 must go toward a conservation fee

Q. How does the Department determine where the money goes?

A. To reinvest in the resource, the Department tries to keep the monies at or near the ramp(s) where the tournament occurred. Tournament sponsors are required to submit their 10% (minimum) conservation fee to the Department within 90 days after the completion of the tournament. All tournaments can include a preferred designation where they would like their conservation fees spent. A very popular designation is to support the local entity where their tournament was held with a boating access project – for example, improvements to a boat ramp, courtesy dock, fish cleaning station or some other facility located at that specific recreation site. The Department then works with the identified entity to address their needs. There are times when the conservation monies are used as the local 25% match and the Department then contributes the other 75% for an agreed upon fishing and/or boating project. It is the Department’s desire to keep the monies at or near the ramp(s) where the tournament occurred. Lastly, no tournament conservation monies are used by the Department for administrative expenses. All 100% of the conservation monies go back to the resource.

Q. I’ve heard that North Dakota charges more to hold a tournament than other states.

A. The 10% conservation fee assessed in North Dakota is higher than most other states. With that said, the 10% fee has been in place for more than 35 years with very little attention or concern expressed from tournament organizers.

Q. Was the $5,000 cap always in place?

A. No. Prior (1984-1999) to year 2000 there was no $5,000 cap in place (adopted into administrative rule in 2000) – all tournaments were assessed the full 10%. According to minutes from a 1997 tournament committee meeting (including the Game and Fish Fisheries Chief and representation from the Game and Fish Advisory Board, ND Sportfishing Congress, ND Association of Guides and Outfitters, and Professional angling community) the following was recommended – a) a $5,000 cap be established, b) no more than two (2) national tournaments could be held in North Dakota per year. One North Dakota fishing club opposed the inclusion of the $5,000 cap at the time. To reiterate, the $5,000 cap was adopted into administrative rule in 2000. (Note – in 2003, a North Dakota fishing club asked the Department to rescind the $5,000 cap; no action occurred).

Q. Why was the $5,000 cap removed in 2020?

A. The Department had received numerous public inquiries from both other tournament sponsors and non-tournament anglers as to why there appeared to be preferential treatment for large tournaments with large payouts. The thought process is ALL tournaments should pay the full 10% to be fair. This action addressed the ‘fairness’ issue … treating all tournaments the same.

Q. How many tournaments will be affected by the removal of the $5,000 cap?

A. Of the approximate 160 fishing tournaments the Department currently permits annually, more than 150 contests would see no change. In recent years, five of these tournaments are in-state contests that would exceed the $5,000 former cap. In addition, there are occasionally out-of-state tournaments that are in excess of the $5,000 value.

Q. Were any of these impacted tournaments (above) alerted of this pending change?

A. Yes. The Department followed the required procedures established per NDCC to make changes to Administrative Rules. Public notice concerning this administrative rule change was sent via two separate news releases, where it was printed in every daily and county newspaper in the state, and the same was sent to each radio and television station for their distribution as well. All total, 145 North Dakota media outlets receive our news releases. In addition, this administrative rule change was referenced with two social media posts, was published on the Department’s website for more than a month, a public hearing was held, and copies were sent to persons or entities who expressed an interest in receiving the notice. Also, an effort was made to visit with all in-state tournament sponsors and notify them of this pending change. All sponsors understood the rationale and did not express opposition. In fact, at least a couple of these in-state sponsored tournaments currently or in the past have knowingly paid in excess of the $5,000 cap (sometimes the full 10%) even though it was not a requirement.

Q. According to North Dakota administrative rules dating back to at least 1994, it is stated that tournaments should be non-profit in nature. Why are tournaments that are not non-profit allowed?

A. This is true; however, the director can and has made exemptions if it is determined the contest is not detrimental to the fishery resource or to the public. The requirement of a minimum of 10% going toward a fishery conservation project (along with other measures) has improved the acceptance of all tournaments. In addition, tournaments are required to pay back a minimum of 75% of the proceeds from entry fees to contestants. The remaining 15% of entry fees are allowed to cover administrative costs of holding the tournament.

Q. Will this action result in fewer out-of-state tournament sponsors coming to North Dakota?

A. It is conceivable that some high value tournaments where professional tournament anglers are paid out $100,000-$300,000 may be required to pay $10,000-$30,000 toward a North Dakota fishery conservation project. Ultimately those are business decisions that will be made by tournament sponsors.

Q. How about the economies of small town North Dakota if these out-of-state tournaments no longer come to North Dakota?

A. First, it must be reiterated that ultimately these are business decisions that must be in full compliance with payback rules (i.e. “A minimum of seventy-five percent of any entry or participation fee paid by the contestants for fishing activities must be returned to the contestants as cash or merchandise … A minimum of ten percent of the gross proceeds from entry or participation fees is required to be paid as a conservation fee … The tournament applicant may retain a maximum of fifteen percent of the gross proceeds from entry or participation fees for expenses incurred in putting on the contest.)”. In many cases, if a North Dakota water body is a destination priority for the sponsors, a business strategy including a funding mechanism will be found that follows the same rules as all other tournaments.

Secondly, there are not that many out-of-state tournaments that are permitted in North Dakota. Thus, these impacts would typically occur in only a few towns/cities annually (and in some years none).

Lastly, some residents have expressed their concern that when a town (especially those with limited lodging) hosts an out-of-state tournament during the ‘good’ fishing season, it greatly limits the options for the average North Dakota angler to travel to and fish the same area at that time. In these cases, there is also a negative economic impact to the local community.

Printable Version (pdf 1.3m)