Ice Fishing Questions Answered

Doug Leier

By Doug Leier

Questions about fishing have been frequent this winter and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has a full section on its website ( to help inform anglers. Here are a few common questions that have come up this season.

Why doesn’t the Game and Fish Department pay for opening access to lakes in winter when they drift shut?

With approximately 450 water bodies and likely more than 1,000 access sites during the ice fishing season, it simply is unrealistic for the Department, or even the state, to reopen these sites after every windstorm. The Department has estimated that in winters tougher than normal, it would take several million dollars to try and keep up with the snow drifts, and that calculation is based on only 450 access sites. After just one day of high winds, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to open all access, with the potential they could all blow shut a few days later. It would be wasteful spending.

When spending the weekend in my fish house, why can’t I keep more than a daily limit?

It is illegal to possess more than a daily limit while on the water (fish taken or received from midnight to midnight). It would be impossible for wardens to enforce daily limits if this regulation was not in place. If a situation occurs when an angler engages in fishing for more than a day without returning to their permanent residence, the first daily limit must be removed from water/ice (e.g., placed in cooler on shore, put in a vehicle off the water and so on.) prior to continuing to fish for another limit the next day.

There is a regulation that a fish house used for ice fishing must float. What is meant by that?

Specifically, the rule states: “Any structure used as a fish house shall be constructed of material that will allow it to float and to be readily removable from the ice at any time.” It must be noted, however, that only structures used as fish houses that are left unoccupied must meet this requirement. If your fish house is not left on the ice, then this is not a requirement. For those who leave their fish house on the ice, the requirement applies and thus the house must be made of floatable material such as wood and/or spray foam insulation. The Game and Fish Department does not inspect and determine if a fish house will or will not float. However, it’s important to understand that if a fish house breaks through the ice and sinks to the bottom, or is abandoned on a lake and sinks when the ice melts, the owner is not only responsible for retrieving it but may also be fined. Owners of commercially made fish houses should check manufacture’s specifications on whether the structure is made to float.

Why can’t we “party” fish?

Each individual should have their own opportunity to experience and enjoy the outdoors, and catch and harvest their own fish. There are always concerns that less experienced anglers, especially youth, are taken on fishing trips so older anglers can catch and keep additional limits, thus ruining the enjoyment of fishing for those who aren’t allowed to catch their own fish. Also,

North Dakota fishing regulations are based on past and present fishing experiences and success rates. If regulations allowed for party fishing, overall limits might need to be reduced.

The full section of frequently asked questions is available at:

Leier is an Outreach Biologist with the NDG&F Dept.

Featured Photo: General questions, and those relating to weather impacts, often surface during the winter when ice fishing is the dominant outdoor activity in North Dakota. NDG&F Photo.

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