Published February 17, 2023

Fishing Tourneys, Deer Baiting Tackled 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

Lawmakers Seek Changes 

BISMARCK – Two of the “hottest topic” bills involving outdoor issues were acted upon in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee late Thursday. Both bills have generated a great deal of interest from hunters and fishermen. 

HB1538 proposed a revision to the way Game and Fish charges fees associated with fishing tournaments, namely youth, charitable, and non-profit organizations, and major fishing events.  

HB1151 seeks to stop the North Dakota Game and Fish Department from imposing bans on baiting for deer. Game and Fish contends hunting over bait piles increases the risk of spreading chronic wasting disease, which results in death to infected animals.  

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee tussled with the fishing tourney fee bill during a lengthy morning session Thursday, eventually postponing a final recommendation until a late afternoon session. The break gave lawmakers time to receive further information about the bill before taking up the matter once again. When the committee reconvened HB1538 received a 10-0 Do Pass recommendation. 

The bill, which now goes to the full House, asks for a major change in the way Game and Fish has been assessing “conservation fees” for various fishing tournaments held in the state. Those fees, said proponents of the bill, unfairly took money away from youth, charitable, and non-profit organizations while causing national tournament fishing circuits to pull out of North Dakota, thereby causing a significant negative economic impact on host communities in the state. 

The bill states “A fishing contest may not include a conservation fee”, and that “ A non-profit veterans organization, charitable organization, educational organization, religious organization, fraternal organization, civic and service organization, and public-spirited organization” may retain 100% of the proceeds of a fishing tournament. Currently, Game and Fish assesses a 10% fee based on the amount of entry fee money charged fishing tournament participants and/or the dollar amount of prizes awarded at the event.

National fishing tournaments that have snubbed North Dakota in recent years cited the state’s exorbitant fees, often thousands of dollars, versus other states that charge a flat fee of $250 or less. 

The very contentious deer baiting bill, HB1151, received a Do Pass recommendation from the committee on an 11-0 vote. The bill asked that Game and Fish not be allowed to prohibit the baiting of deer for hunting. However, it was amended in sub-committee. 

Changes included banning baiting statewide with the exception of the hunting season, keeping bait piles 150 feet away from any property line, and limiting bait to 50 gallons. 

The revised bill also proposes the development of a chronic wasting disease task force to “provide the director and governor recommendations for rules and regulations based on the best available information to minimize the impact of chronic wasting disease on North Dakota's deer, elk, and moose.” 

The bill has been forwarded to the House for further consideration. 

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