There are a number of reasons why fishing in North Dakota has been pretty good in recent years, including the cooperative efforts of anglers and bait vendors to ensure that those wetting a line are using legal and clean bait.
Fathead minnows, sticklebacks, and creek chubs are the only legal live baitfish species that can be used in most North Dakota waters. The exceptions are the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers where white suckers can be used and 23 state waters where it is illegal to use any live baitfish.
According to North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries chief Greg Power, legal bait regulations have become more restrictive in the last 25 years in an effort to eliminate bait-bucket transfer of unwanted fish species into state waters. Through the 1990s, the Game and Fish Department routinely chemically renovated numerous lakes annually due to introduction of various unwanted species, including bullheads, suckers and/or carp. Oftentimes, these undesirable species were a result of anglers simply discarding bait. It is illegal to release baitfish into any North Dakota waters.
For the past couple of decades, the department has worked with the wholesale and retail bait industry to help ensure that anglers are buying clean and legal minnows at their local bait shops.
While today’s bait is much cleaner than what may have been purchased 20 years ago, Power said it remains the angler’s responsibility to possess only legal live baitfish when fishing in North Dakota.
For specific regulations regarding bait use and all other fishing regulations, refer to the 2014-16 North Dakota Fishing Guide.