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Ice fishing looks favorable

By Staff | Dec 29, 2017

Ice fishing in North Dakota is looking very favorable this season with extreme cold temperatures and very low snowfall resulting in clear ice.

Greg Power, fisheries division chief of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, announced this week that the last weekend of December in North Dakota will be a free weekend for ice fishing.

“In an average year,” Power said, “ice fishing accounts for about 25 percent of our annual fishing. Last year resulted in only around 10 percent due to heavy accumulation of snow on the ice. This year conditions are looking excellent.” Powers urged, “Bring your family and friends ice fishing. Any ND resident can fish free this last weekend.”

Things you should know about ice fishing in North Dakota are detailed in the ND Game and Fish Regulations found online. However, ice fishing in North Dakota depends on several things. Last winter, we had tons of snow and bad ice fishing. Conditions that you want are cold weather early on which makes the ice clear. This year we have had those conditions the first half of November but the last half was to warm. Because of cold temperatures currently, it should be a great year due to clear ice conditions. If we do not get lots of snow, December’s cold conditions will make for a good season,

General rules for ice thickness safety are: Less than two inches, stay off the ice. Four inches, it is fairly safe to walk on. ATVs are safe at six inches, and eight to twelve inches for a car, and twelve to sixteen inches thick for trucks. Power said, “As always common sense on current conditions always need to be considered.”

Rules for ice fishing are similar to the regular fishing season. You can use four lines in winter, and two lines in the summer. You can also use tip ups. Any ice hole over ten inches must be marked. There are no special restrictions while you are dark spear fishing. Fish limits are the same as summer fishing; perch 20, walleye 5, and pike 5 daily. Pan fish and crappie limits are 10 daily and Bluegills 20.

If you stay overnight in an ice shack, your daily limit and possession reset at midnight. Portable ice houses and people can stay overnight. Fishing again is allowed starting at midnight. Only 5 fish are allowed in your possession while you are on the ice. Fish must be taken to the shore.

If you plan to release fish, it must be done immediately. In winter it is critical to put fish back in the water before damage happens to eyes and gills.

If you are cleaning your fish on the ice, that is legal. But anglers must remove everything from the ice upon vacating including trash. Cigarette remains, paper and cans must all be removed so water is not polluted in the spring, killing vegetation and fish.

Ice houses in North Dakota do not require licensing of the ice house. In the past, houses have required 3 inch letters with owners name, address and phone number. Starting this year you can go online to NDGF web site and get your own number linked to you and you must have it posted on the ice house. This new numbering can help the state wardens follow up on ice units. You are still allowed to use the three inch letters on your unit.

When discussing ice holes on the lakes, Power said ” People cannot drill holes closer than ten feet to another ice facility. The reason, along with safety, is that you can flood out their ice house. Another rule is not placing another ice house within fifty feet of another, unless you get consent,” said Power. “Please, be considerate and mark your holes. There is no law that says you cannot have a hole larger than ten inches, but you must mark it, and keep it ten feet away from other holes.”

Placing ice holes too close together can result in the other ice hole flooding an ice house.

Your fishing gear may include hook and line, smaller rods, tip ups and some gadgets. Wardens are seeing different gadgets this year that may be illegal. They may function as a tip up and set the hooks for you. These are legal. Gadgets that reel in the fish are illegal.

Remember that the free weekend is extended only to North Dakota residents and it runs December 30 through December 31 at midnight.

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