Published December 13, 2021

Game and Fish Briefs

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

Free Ice Fishing Weekend 

North Dakota’s free ice fishing weekend is Dec. 25-26. 

Resident anglers may fish that weekend without a license. All other winter fishing regulations apply. 

Fishing regulations and information on fishing waters is available on the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website

Winter Fishing Regulations 

Anglers are encouraged to refer to the North Dakota 2020-22 Fishing Guide or the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s website for winter fishing regulations, plus fishing questions and answers

Some winter fishing regulations include: 

  • A maximum of four rods is legal for ice fishing. 
  • Tip-ups are legal, and each tip-up is considered a single rod. 
  • 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. 
  • All live aquatic bait, such as fathead minnows, must be purchased or trapped in North Dakota. 
  • Aquatic bait that is frozen, salted, preserved or cut into pieces is legal. 
  • Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal. 
  • 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 fishes overnight, the first daily limit must be removed from the ice by midnight prior to continuing to harvest fish. 
  • The possession limit is the maximum number of fish that an angler may have in possession during a fishing trip of more than one day. 
  • It is illegal to introduce anything into the water for the purpose of attempting to attract fish (chumming, artificial light, etc.) that is not attached or applied to a lure. 

Fish House Regulations 

Winter anglers are reminded that any fish house left unoccupied on North Dakota waters must be made of materials that will allow it to float. 

Other fish house regulations include: 

  • Fish houses do not require a license. 
  • Occupied structures do not require identification. However, any unoccupied fish house must have an equipment registration number issued by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, or the owner’s name, and either an address or telephone number, displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least 3 inches high. 
  • Fish houses may not be placed closer than 50 feet in any direction to another house without consent of the occupant of the other fish house. 
  • All unoccupied fish houses must be removed from all waters after midnight, March 15. 

Anglers should refer to the North Dakota 2020-22 Fishing Guide for other winter fishing regulations. 

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