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Doug Leier, Published February 12 2013

Leier: There's still plenty of time for ice fishing

As February begins you’ve noticed the days, both in front and in back, are adding sunlight and the balance of winter begins to shift toward spring.

But even though the spring snow goose season is on the way, there’s still likely a good month or more left for ice fishing – and perhaps some of the best ice fishing of the season at that.

One of the big considerations this time of year is when to pull a permanent fish house off the lake. Legally, of course, fish houses must be removed from all waters by midnight on March 15. It’s a good idea, however, to watch the weather and remove those houses early if a prolonged warm spell is in the forecast. In such cases, fish houses can either get frozen in solidly when melted ice refreezes, or the ice can continue to deteriorate to the point that it becomes dangerous to approach with a vehicle.

Even if you do take a fish house off early, they can be used after March 15 if they are removed daily.

Some 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 the owner’s name, and either address or telephone number, displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least three 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.

I should also mention the battle against aquatic invaders continues year-round, and anglers are reminded that regulations designed to reduce the spread of aquatic nuisance species also apply in winter.

It’s important to reiterate that only legal live bait can be transported in water in a container of up to five gallons in volume. Fish cannot be transported in water, although a daily catch can be packed in snow.

If you haven’t made it out ice fishing yet this winter, here’s a few more reminders on regulations:

A maximum of four poles is legal for ice fishing.

Tip-ups are legal, and each tip-up is considered as a single pole.

It is only legal to release fish back into the water immediately after they are caught.

Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal.

Any dressed fish to be transported, if frozen, must be packaged individually. Anglers are not allowed to freeze fillets together in one large block. Two fillets count as one fish.

The daily limit is a limit of fish taken from midnight to midnight, and no person may possess more than one day’s limit of fish while actively engaged in fishing. The possession limit is the maximum number of fish that an angler may have in his or her possession during a fishing trip of more than one day.


Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov. Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com