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North Dakota Game and Fish Department Website Help Center

North Dakota Game and Fish Department Website Help Center

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Hunting and Fishing Licensing and Lottery Tutorials

Watercraft Registration Tutorials

Watercraft Registration Tutorials

Watercraft Registration Tutorials

Hunting Information

General Hunting Information

What can I hunt?

When can I hunt?

Where can I hunt?

  • Note: No hunting is allowed, without permission from the landowner or leasee, on private lands in North Dakota that have been legally posted either with physical signs or electronically
  • Where to hunt

What do I need before I can hunt?

I'm new to hunting, where can I find advice to help me get started?

What are some resources for hunters with disabilities?

I believe someone is poaching. How can I report it?

Licensing and Lottery Information

What is a lottery?

Note - Licenses for the following species are only available by lottery: Deer, Moose, Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn, Turkey, Tundra Swan

What licenses do I need to hunt?

Am I considered a North Dakota resident for licensing and lottery purposes?

Miscellaneous Hunting Information

Where can I find information about CWD (including regulations) and other wildlife and fish diseases found in North Dakota?

What other hunting and trapping education do you offer?

Fishing Information

General Fishing Information

What do I need before I can go fishing?

I am new to fishing. Where can I find advice to help get me started?

What are some resources for anglers with disabilities?

Where can I find complete fishing regulations?

Fishing License Information

What licenses do I need to fish?

Am I considered a North Dakota resident for licensing purposes?

What is this going to cost me?

Miscellaneous Fishing Information

Aquatic Nuisance Species - What are they, and why should I care?

Where can I find information about fish diseases and other issues impacting fish health?

I caught a tagged fish. Where can I report the tag number?

I just caught a monster fish. Is it a state record?

I just caught a big, tasty fish. How do I cook it?

Boating Information

General Boating Information

Where can I launch my boat?

Who can legally operate a boat in North Dakota?

What watercraft must be registered?

How can I register my watercraft or renew my watercraft registration?

Where can I find boating regulations?

Do you have any boating safety classes?

Aquatic Nuisance Species - What are they, and why should I care?

Conservation Information

Conservation in North Dakota Information

What is the Department doing to help conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat?

North Dakota Wildlife Information

What North Dakota species are listed as threatened or endangered?

What are "Species of Conservation Priority?"

What are 'Invasive Species'?

I found an animal that is hurt or appears to be orphaned. What do I do?

What are some of the diseases that effect North Dakota fish and wildlife?

North Dakota Habitat Information

What types of habitat are found in North Dakota?

Miscellaneous Information

Miscellaneous Information

People with disabilities



  • NDGF News Hub - News releases, video, podcast, blogs, social media links and more.

Published research, informational posters and pamphlets, etc.



Aquatic Nuisance Species FAQs

ANS General Information FAQs

Why are ANS such a big deal?

Aquatic nuisance species (ANS) can greatly degrade or ruin habitats and compete with native and/or desirable species for food and space. Not only can recreational fisheries suffer, but so can industries and communities that rely on lakes or rivers for their water supply. Once established, the cost of controlling ANS would far exceed the minimal costs required to keep from spreading it into or within North Dakota. See our current list of ANS infested waters. If precautions are taken and everyone is in compliance with regulations, the spread can be controlled.

Why is water transport a problem?

ANS can include small plant fragments or seeds, microscopic animals and life stages, and viruses or diseases that can be transported in water. If ANS exist in a water body, whether known or not (many are unseen with the naked eye), and water is pumped into a livewell or exchanged in a bait bucket, these problem species are then potentially present in the water. If an angler fishes another body of water on the same trip (which happens in North Dakota), the ANS could be released into the new lake as water is pumped in and out of the boat or exchanged with bait water. While most individuals typically go straight home and do not fish another lake or river, ANS can still be transported. For example, if infested water is drained into the local storm sewer, it will run into a river or holding pond, which could become a problem in a new water body. To reduce this risk of unknowingly transporting ANS in water, we require that all water be drained from equipment, and we limit the amount of water for live aquatic bait transport.

What are some additional online ANS information resources?

ANS Management FAQs

What is North Dakota Game and Fish doing about ANS?

Prevention is the best approach to ANS, because they are difficult or nearly impossible to remove once established. However, prevention requires that everyone take appropriate steps to ensure full compliance. So, we focus a lot of our resources on teaching ANS prevention methods to boaters, anglers, construction workers, power plants, and anyone using our waters. To reinforce these educational efforts, we have carefully designed regulations that further minimize the likelihood of transporting ANS and water into and within the state. We sample waters annually to detect the presence of new ANS, and to monitor our existing populations, and coordinate within North Dakota and our region to identify new and existing threats.

Why doesn’t North Dakota have mandatory boat inspections?

Although other states may require mandatory boat inspections, setting up a similar program in North Dakota is not feasible at this time. North Dakota’s prairie waters are numerous, generally undeveloped, and utilized infrequently in some cases. An enforceable program with mandatory inspections would require that every boat be inspected before every launch, since it would be impossible to know where every boat had been launched the last time it was used. This would require a very large number of inspection stations across the state and would still impact how North Dakotans use their watercraft. In addition, some states, such as Minnesota, that have large inspection programs still have new waters infested every year. At this time, we feel that North Dakota’s resources are better spent on educating water users and enforcing our current regulations.

How do I make sure I'm doing the right thing?

Good habits go a long way in ANS prevention. Clean, Drain, and Dry all equipment, every time you use it. This includes all recreational and commercial equipment (water pumps, boats, trailers, fishing gear, waders, duck decoys, etc.) that is placed in a waterbody. It takes a while to detect new ANS populations, so treat every lake, wetland, and stream as if it could contain ANS. In addition, report new ANS findings and violations of regulations and talk to other boaters and anglers about ANS prevention. A full list of ANS regulations can be found on our website.

Clean - Inspect and remove any plants or animals that may be present prior to leaving the immediate access area. If possible, also remove excessive mud that may harbor seeds or organisms. It is illegal to have ANS or vegetation on your equipment when leaving a waterbody or when entering North Dakota. Removed weeds can be discarded along the shore, and/or in trash receptacles (if available in parking lot).

Drain - Remove all water from all equipment prior to leaving the immediate access area. Not only is this a regulation, but water can hold microscopic organisms that may grow and damage your equipment over time. Leave drain plugs out and draining devices open during transport into or within North Dakota to avoid a ticket.

Dry - Although not required by North Dakota law, it’s a good idea to allow equipment to dry completely, freeze for 48 hours, or decontaminate before using again. In North Dakota, typical drying times average around 7 days in the summer, but can be longer or shorter based on temperature and humidity (the cooler and more humid, the longer the drying time).

Why aren’t these ANS regulations effective when you enter a water body versus when you leave?

Leaving any drained water, all vegetation, and potential ANS at the waterbody from which it originated reduces the risk of accidentally moving those plants or animals to a new waterbody. If weed and water removal didn’t occur until immediately before entering a new water body, then the potential ANS would be present at the ramp or along the shore and thus could easily find itself washed into a “clean” water body. Further, the transportation of weeds and water could infest other water bodies as the vehicle and boat/trailer travel across the state’s roads where ANS weeds, etc. could blow into uninfected water bodies. Likewise, ANS-infested water could be intentionally or unintentionally introduced into a new water body. Angler’s intentions and plans are always subject to change, thus addressing the problem at its source has the highest likelihood of success.

What are options for decontaminating equipment?

Decontamination of equipment is not required by North Dakota law, but it is a highly recommended step to further reduce the likelihood of spreading ANS. Drying is easier than decontamination since most equipment is only used for a few hours at a time. However, if you cannot allow equipment to dry completely (usually a minimum of 5 days in the summer or up to 30 days in early spring or late fall) or freeze for 48 hours, you can decontaminate using one of several methods.

The most environmentally-friendly option is to use hot water. Hot kitchen tap water (~120℉) left on a surface for 5 minutes or very hot water (140℉) for 10 seconds of contact time are effective at killing most ANS. Adding pressure to hot water, such as at a commercial car wash, further removes mud and scum which may harbor ANS.

What does “when out of water” mean in ANS regulations?

Legally, the acts of pulling plugs, draining, and removing vegetation must occur right on the boat ramp itself or in the immediate parking lot area. Fish cleaning stations located immediately adjacent to parking lots are also acceptable IF not signed as prohibited (some nonpaved areas do not allow draining to prevent excessive mud creation). Please be considerate to other boaters and traffic by using parking lot areas to perform these actions at high-traffic locations.

How do I properly drain to comply with regulations?

Drain all water (pull all plugs, pull stand pipes, etc.) back into the waterbody (immediate area) from which it originated. This must be done at the ramp or parking lot before you leave. You don’t have to run your motor dry, but lower the motor to let gravity drain the lower unit, then raise to transport. The intake screen should also be inspected and free of aquatic vegetation.

Some special ANS rules were implemented specifically for the Red River, Lake Ashtabula and the lower Sheyenne. What are the specific rules and why did this occur?

Adult zebra mussels were discovered in the Red River in 2015, and in Lake Ashtabula and the lower Sheyenne in 2019. Because of this, additional restrictions were put in place.

In addition to other statewide ANS rules, along the Red River or any of its tributaries upstream to the first vehicular bridge or crossing, and in Lake Ashtabula (a Sheyenne River impoundment) and the Sheyenne River (downstream of Lake Ashtabula) and any of its tributaries upstream to the first vehicular bridge or crossing, downstream to the Red River, all water must be completely drained from bait containers, including bait buckets, before leaving the river/lake. Dumping unused bait into a lake, river, or on shore is illegal everywhere in North Dakota; unwanted bait should be disposed of properly by placing in the garbage. These additional restrictions are in place because zebra mussel larvae are microscopic, and the risks of unknowingly spreading them in water are dramatically increased with a known, reproducing population. These same rules will go into place for any future Class I ANS infested waters.

How can I transport game fish I caught?

The best option is to bring ice in a cooler to transport your fish to a fish cleaning station or home. You can also keep your fish in your livewell as long as all water is drained. Water used in livewells may contain microscopic ANS larvae or seeds, so the regulations to drain apply to livewells the same as any other areas such as bilges that may hold water.

Similarly, game fish cannot be transported in a bucket of water. Only live legal aquatic bait may be transported in containers of water 5 gallons or less (except from the Red River, where no water may be transported).

These same rules apply to tournaments. If a tournament has an approved live-release format, weigh-ins and fish released will need to occur at the boat ramp site where boats launch and exit. Fish will not be allowed to be transported in water in livewells to off-site weigh-in stations

Why do I have to purchase live aquatic bait in North Dakota?

There are several reasons why no live aquatic bait may be imported into the state without a permit, including concerns about the movement of ANS, water, illegal species, and fish diseases. Legal live aquatic bait includes fathead minnows, creek chubs, sticklebacks, leeches, native frog, salamander and crayfish species (Note: white sucker are also legal live baitfish, but only for use in the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers). These species were selected because they are native species, tend not to overproduce in North Dakota lakes, and are desired by anglers. Many species used in other states as live bait are not native to North Dakota, or could disrupt the ecosystem if they are illegally dumped and establish a population. In addition, fish diseases and ANS may be transported on bait, as bait, or in water associated with live aquatic baits.

How can I transport legal live aquatic bait such as minnows?

Legal live aquatic bait may be transported in water in containers that are 5 gallons or less in volume, with the exception of the Red River where it is legal to transport legal live aquatic bait in water to the Red River, but not away from it. The container size applies to every container, no matter how many anglers are using it. However, each angler can have their own bait container, even when party fishing.

Larger containers with 5 or less gallons of water are not allowed, as they are not commonly used, pose a greater risk of spreading ANS, and make enforcement difficult. This includes livewells/baitwells in watercraft. All water must be drained from equipment before leaving the water access site, including livewells/baitwells.

These regulations apply to bait transport only, not to keeping bait alive at home. The goal is to reduce the risk of transporting microscopic ANS, larvae, or seeds in bait water while allowing for the use of legal live aquatic bait. By limiting the amount of water transported, the risk of transporting ANS is reduced, hence the elimination of transporting in livewells that typically hold about 30 gallons of water instead of the 1-2 gallons typical of a bait bucket.

What should I do if I find a zebra mussel on my boat dock or lift?

If you find a zebra mussel on a boat dock or lift that has been in a waterbody with no confirmed population of zebra mussels, please take a picture and report the finding at  If possible, preserve the specimen in isopropyl alcohol.  When removing a dock/lift from a confirmed zebra mussel infested waterbody, zebra mussels may be attached at varying densities. If you plan to move the dock/lift from the lake front, remove all attached zebra mussels, crush to kill them and properly dispose of mussels in the trash.  It is illegal, thus do not transport docks/lifts with live or dead zebra mussels away from an infested waterbody.

What should I do if I see or catch an ANS?

Report any ANS you see by calling Game and Fish (701-328-6300) or filing an online report. If possible, take pictures and note the area and situation in which the ANS was observed. If you observe ANS or vegetation on equipment leaving a waterbody or in transport, ask the owner/operator to clean the equipment. If this is not possible, call the Report All Poachers line (701-328-9921) with detailed information.

What are the ANS classifications?

There are three different classifications of ANS in North Dakota that range from prohibited (Class I) to listed (Class III). See the ANS list for classifications by species.

Prohibited (Class I) – ANS that are highly invasive but are limited or nonexistent in North Dakota. It is illegal to possess these species alive or dead. Example includes zebra mussels. Anglers should immediately return these to the water in which they were caught.

Regulated (Class II) – ANS that are established in North Dakota, may have limited commercial use, and management options are difficult or nonexistent. Permits are required to import or utilize these species, and generally only research permits are granted. Example includes curlyleaf pondweed. Anglers should return these to the water in which they were caught.

Listed (Class III) – ANS that are established in North Dakota, may be widespread, or have viable management options. Permits are required to import and rear these species for commercial use. Examples include common carp and silver carp. Anglers may keep these fish, but transport rules for game fish apply and it is recommended that you immediately kill these species upon catching.

Chronic Wasting Disease FAQs

CWD General Information FAQs

What is chronic wasting disease?

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It belongs to a family of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), or prion diseases. Although CWD shares certain features with other TSEs, like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease), scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, it is a distinct disease apparently affecting only deer, elk and moose. It causes damage to portions of the brain; creating holes in the brain cells and causing a sponge-like appearance.

Where is it found?

The origin of CWD is unknown and it may never be possible to definitively determine how or when CWD arose. It was first diagnosed in a Colorado elk research facility in 1967 and a few years later in a similar Wyoming research facility. It was later discovered in wild elk and deer near those facilities in Colorado and Wyoming.

The known distribution of CWD in wild deer, elk, and moose includes Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

CWD also has been found in farmed elk or deer herds in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and South Korea.

CWD has also been found in wild moose and reindeer in Scandinavia.

CWD was first detected in North Dakota in a mule deer buck taken in the fall of 2009 in the southwestern part of the state. See for more information.

How common is it?

CWD has unfortunately become more prevalent in recent years. In Wisconsin, CWD infects about 25-30 percent of the deer in its core management zone. In other areas, percentages of infected animals range from 0-30 percent in deer and wild elk. The number of animals diagnosed with CWD has steadily increased in recent years. It has also been found in numerous new locations where the disease was not previously detected.

What wildlife species are affected by CWD?

Most members of the cervid family are known to be naturally susceptible to CWD: elk, mule deer,  white-tailed deer and moose. Susceptibility of other members of the deer family (Cervidae) and other wildlife species is variable and depends on the nature of and route of exposure.

What are the signs of CWD?

CWD is a slowly progressing disease; signs typically are not seen until the animal is 12-18 months of age and may take as long as 3 or more years. CWD attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, become weak and eventually die. Clinical signs identified include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, listlessness, teeth grinding, lowering of the head and drooping ears. It should be remembered that many of these signs can be a result of other diseases.

How is CWD transmitted?

Prions have been found in bodily secretion such as feces, urine and saliva, and in tissues such as neurologic tissue (brain, spine peripheral nerves), lymphatic tissues, heart, spleen, kidney, lung, soft palate and skeletal muscle. Experimental and circumstantial evidence suggests infected cervids transmit the disease laterally (animal-to-animal). In wild populations, decomposition of carcasses, scrapes, rubs and shared feeding sites play a role in transmission as well as social behavior. CWD and other wildlife diseases seems more likely to occur in areas where deer, elk or moose are crowded or where they congregate at man-made feed and water stations. Artificial feeding of deer, elk and moose compounds the problem. Prions exist in the environment for years to decades. Recent research indicates that prions can be aerosolized and lead to infection also.

What is the progression of the disease?

Post-infection prions can be detected in as early as a few months in lymphatic tissue. The prions progressively move from the lymphatic system into the neurologic system. Prions have been found in lymph nodes of infected wild fawns as young as 5 months old and in the obex (brainstem) at 9 months old. Clinical signs will not start to appear for 10-18 months post infection, but may not show up for years. Although clinical signs may not be outwardly apparent, prions are shed throughout the duration of the infection. Infected animals if not harvested or removed will eventually succumb to the disease.

What causes CWD?

CWD is caused by a prion, an abnormal form of cellular protein that is most commonly found in the central nervous system and in lymphoid tissue. The prions cause sponge-like lesions in the animal's brain. These abnormal prions tend to accumulate in certain parts of infected animals, i.e., brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleen. It is this accumulation that leads to eventual cell death, which leads to clinical signs. CWD is not caused by a virus, bacteria or nutritional imbalance.

Is there a treatment for infected deer and elk?

There is currently no effective treatment or vaccine for a cervid that has CWD. An animal displaying clinical signs consistent with CWD should be euthanized. Removing infected animals will help prevent spread of disease or infection.

Is CWD transmissible to humans?

Currently there are conflicting experimental studies regarding the potential for CWD to infect people. Researchers have found no naturally occurring link between the disease and any neurological disease that affects humans including the human TSE disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Between 1997 and 1998, three cases of sporadic CJD occurred in the U.S. in young adults. These individuals had consumed venison, which led to speculation about possible transmission of CWD from deer or elk to humans. However, review of the clinical records and pathological studies of all three cases by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, did not find a causal link to CWD.

The prions are known to accumulate in certain parts of the infected animal -- brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, meat and lymph nodes. Consumption of these parts is not recommended. Furthermore, health officials advise caution. Hunters are encouraged not to consume meat from animals known to be infected. Hunters should take common sense precautions when field dressing and processing deer or elk taken in areas where CWD has been diagnosed.

Is CWD transmissible to domestic livestock?

There is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to livestock or animals other than deer and elk. Numerous experiments and investigations are currently being conducted.

Some people claim that prions are “spontaneous” and are not passed via contact between individuals or picked up from the environment. Is this true?

Not all prion diseases are the same- some are inherited, some arise spontaneously, and some are transmissible between individuals. The prion that causes CWD is transmitted from animal to animal. Numerous, good scientific studies have established this. The CWD prion can be spread from infected to non-infected animals through direct contact or through contamination of shared resources or environments. Some of the dozens of research studies include:

CWD Management FAQs

How do you test for CWD?

The only sure and practical way to diagnose CWD is through microscopic examination of the brain stem or lymphatic tissues of a cervid using immunohistochemisrty (IHC). A more rapid test using ELISA on lymph nodes is reliable as a screening method for the disease. A test for live animals, involving the removal of tonsils or rectal lymphatic tissue is currently in experimental and research stages. Testing for CWD is done by federally-approved laboratories; there is no quick test that you or your meat processor can perform to determine if your animal has CWD.

Some claim that CWD has always been present in our deer herds. They feel that just because we’re now testing for it and finding it, that wildlife managers are overreacting, and CWD won’t really have a major impact on our deer populations. Is this true?

All evidence of the last few decades indicates that this is not true. CWD follows a classic epidemiologic pattern where it shows up in an area, and slowly spreads from that “hotspot” while also increasing in prevalence within that population. The last 10-20 years of disease surveillance across the country has established this.

The spread of CWD within a population is slow and insidious. It can take a long time to reach a threshold, above which, actual impacts are observed. What has emerged in the last few years is that CWD-related mortality is now recognized as the major cause of population declines in some herds. We aren’t at that threshold in North Dakota yet and our aim is to never get there. Some research papers documenting this:

What should you do if you see a deer or elk that looks sick, emaciated or lethargic?

Note the location and as much information as possible about the animal and situation. Call the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at 701-328-6300 immediately. Arrangements will be made to investigate the report.

Farmed deer and elk: What is the ND Department of Agriculture, State Board Of Animal Health’s role in CWD?

The North Dakota Board of Animal Health initiated mandatory inventory of all game farms in 1993 and mandatory CWD surveillance, reporting and testing in 1998 of any farmed elk or deer of more than 12 months of age that dies from any cause. In September 2017, after nearly 20 years of mandatory testing with no positive farmed animals identified, the Board of Animal Health voted to make testing voluntary for some producers. Producers who ship animals across state lines must continue to test. Producers who are located within 25 miles of a CWD positive wild deer must continue to test. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department takes the risk of CWD very seriously. The Game and Fish Department will continue to work with the farmed deer and elk producers, as well as the BOAH, to minimize the risk of CWD to both wild cervids and farmed deer and elk. Before any farmed deer or elk can be imported into the state, it must pass a five-year herd health risk assessment, which includes a review of the herd history approved by the BOAH. If approved, animals must meet other requirements before importation, including veterinary inspection for general health and tuberculosis and brucellosis testing.

Are we trying to keep deer populations low in areas with CWD, and will we ever try to exterminate all deer in these areas?

Maintaining a lower deer density is one approach to slowing the spread of CWD within an area and reducing the likelihood of an infected deer dispersing and introducing CWD to a new area. In order to do this, Game and Fish has issued more licenses in 3F2 than otherwise would have been the case over the past several years. Hunter success has remained steady in that unit, but we need hunters to help maintain lower densities.

Game and Fish has and will continue to use lessons learned from other states, as well as the best available scientific evidence to make decisions on how to address the issue of CWD in North Dakota. There are few examples where depopulation of a wild deer herd was feasible or effective, and we have no current plans to take this approach. However, wildlife management is dynamic. If a new scenario was to occur that would potentially warrant depopulation in order to save the rest of the herd, all management options would be considered.

CWD and Hunting FAQs

What if I am hunting in a unit, state, or province not listed in the CWD proclamation?

North Dakotans hunting in a state or province that has not identified CWD, or hunting in an area within a state or province not listed in the CWD proclamation, are asked to follow the guidelines listed below as recommendations to minimize any potential spread of disease.

What common sense precautions should hunters take when handling or processing deer and elk?

There is no scientific evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans. However, as a general precaution, North Dakota Game and Fish and health officials advise that hunters take the following common sense precautions when handling and processing deer or elk in areas known to have CWD:

  1. Avoid sick animals. Do not shoot, handle, or consume any animal that appears sick; contact your local wildlife agency personnel.
  2. Wear rubber/latex gloves when field dressing carcasses.
  3. Minimize handling the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of any deer, moose or elk. Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.
  4. Thoroughly wash hands, knives and other tools used to field dress the animal. Disinfect tools by soaking them in a solution of 50 percent unscented household bleach and 50 percent water for an hour. Allow them to air dry.
  5. Avoid contact with any animal that appears sick and do not consume.
  6. Bones and unprocessed remains should be disposed of through burial, landfill or incineration.

If I shoot a deer in a unit where there are carcass transportation restrictions in place, how do I tag the meat for transport?

Note: See current CWD proclamation for restrictions.

Game and Fish would prefer that you take the tagged head with you out of the field and bring it to one of the drop-off stations in the unit so it could be tested.

If that’s not convenient, tag the deer as required, then take two photographs using a cellphone with location, date and time stamp turned on. Take one photograph of the entire animal at the kill site with tag attached, and a second photograph of a closeup of the tag so that the tag information is readable. If a hunter leaves the head in the field at the kill site, after taking photos and saving them, the ear or antler with the tag attached must be cut off and accompany the meat or carcass while in transport. The photographs of the tagged deer must be shown to any game warden or other law enforcement officer upon request.

Game and Fish is prohibiting hunting big game over bait in areas with CWD. Why does Game and Fish also not prohibit food plots? Deer also congregate in farm fields. Why doesn’t Game and Fish do something about that?

It is impossible to eliminate the risk of CWD. Instead, we have to consider what we can do to reduce risk, keeping in mind that we only have control of a few things that occur on the landscape. Both have risk, but a bait pile has more risk for disease spread because it concentrates deer in a smaller area. It is reasonable to point out that deer will congregate in a farm field, around a silage pile, etc., but we as hunters can only control what we do. By prohibiting hunting over bait, we reduce the number, duration, and intensity of congregations. This does not solve the problem of CWD, but at a landscape level, it has meaningful effect in reducing the risk of spreading CWD within an area.

Why doesn’t Game and Fish just prohibit hunting over bait statewide before CWD spreads across the entire state?

A statewide ban would be a more proactive option for reducing the risk of CWD spread within an area compared to a regional ban. However, the Department must balance the risk of CWD with the wishes of hunters outside CWD positive areas. Previous discussions have concluded that there is not enough public support to implement a statewide baiting ban.

Deer Hunting FAQs

Deer Hunting Lands FAQs

Can I hunt road rights-of-way?

Do not hunt on road rights-of-way unless you are certain they are open to public use. Most road rights-of-way are under control of the adjacent landowner and are closed to hunting when the adjacent land is posted closed to hunting.

Can I hunt on a section line if it is posted on both sides?

No. If the land is posted on both sides, the section line is closed to hunting, but is still open for travel.

Can I retrieve a wounded deer from posted land?

If the deer was shot on land where you had a legal right to be and it ran on posted land, you may retrieve it. However, you may not take a firearm or bow with you. The department suggests contacting the landowner as a courtesy prior to entering.

What if the landowner says I cannot retrieve a deer from posted land that was shot on land where I had a right to be?

Contact a game warden.

Can I drive off a trail on private land to retrieve a deer?

Unless prohibited by a landowner or operator, you may drive off-trail on private land once a deer has been killed and properly tagged. You must proceed to the carcass by the shortest accessible route, and return to the road or trail by the same route. However, off-trail driving is prohibited in all circumstances on state wildlife management areas, Bureau of Land Management lands, national wildlife refuges, national grasslands, federal waterfowl production areas and state school land.

Deer Hunting Manner of Take FAQs

Can I use a bow to fill my regular deer gun license?

Yes. You may use any legal firearm or bow during the regular deer gun season.

Can I use a gun to fill my bow license?

No. Archery licenses may be filled only with bow and arrow.

Can I carry both bow and gun afield during deer gun season if I have both licenses?

Yes, but only if you are going to fill your gun license. No firearms, except handguns, may be in the hunter’s possession while hunting with a deer bow license. However, handguns may not be used in any manner to assist in the harvest of a deer with an archery license.

Are muzzleloading handguns legal for deer hunting?

Yes. They must be .50 caliber or larger.

Are the .22-250 and .243 legal for deer hunting?

Yes. Centerfire rifles of 22 caliber or larger are legal.

May I carry a pistol when I am hunting with a deer rifle?

Yes, but the handgun must meet minimum requirements listed in the deer hunting regulations to be legal for taking deer.

How do I carry a revolver in a vehicle when hunting?

The cylinder of a revolver must be completely unloaded.

How do I carry a muzzleloader in a vehicle when hunting?

Remove the cap from a percussion gun or the powder from the flash pan of a flintlock.

Deer Hunting Miscellaneous FAQs

What if I have an antlerless deer permit and I shoot a deer with two-inch spikes, but I could not see them when I shot?

Game wardens have some leeway about what is an antlered deer. However, it is always a hunter’s responsibility to fully identify your target before shooting.

I shot a deer, but it is rotten. What can I do?

You must take possession of the animal by tagging it. A license only allows you the opportunity to hunt. It is not a guarantee to harvest a deer, or to the quality of the animal.

What should I do if I find a wounded deer?

Contact a game warden. Do not shoot the deer unless you want to tag it, or are instructed by the warden to do so.

Is camouflage blaze orange acceptable for the deer gun season?

No. You must wear both a hat and outer garment above the waistline totaling at least 400 square inches of solid daylight fluorescent orange.

I hunt with a bow. When do I have to wear orange?

During the regular deer gun season you must wear orange. During the muzzleloader season, however, bowhunters do not need to wear orange.

Can I transport someone else's deer?

Yes, but you will need a transportation permit from a game warden. The license holder, person transporting the animal, and the carcass must be presented to the game warden before the permit is issued.

If I see a collared deer during deer season am I okay to shoot it?

Yes. Radio-collared deer can be legally harvested during the deer season. Hunters are asked to contact the Game and Fish Department after harvesting a collared deer.

Should I be concerned about chronic wasting disease?

The threat of CWD is a serious concern to North Dakota and its natural resources. CWD affects the nervous system of members of the deer family and is always fatal to the animal. CWD will not likely be fully understood without the assistance, cooperation, and commitment of big game hunters and their families throughout the nation. As we learn more about the disease and its impacts on wildlife, we will keep the public informed. More information on CWD, including deer head drop-off locations this fall for the Game and Fish Department’s ongoing research project, is available here.

Deer Hunting - Harvest Surveys FAQ

Why is hunter harvest data important?

Hunter harvest data provides the basis for monitoring hunted big game populations across North America. Monitoring harvest allows biologists and managers to determine if current levels of harvest are sustainable, evaluate where in the state harvest is occurring, and determine hunter success rates.

How does the Department use data collected from harvest surveys?

Information provided by hunters is used to develop deer harvest estimates for all hunters throughout the state. Harvest estimates are then combined with other information such as aerial deer surveys, hunter observation surveys, input from landowners and Department field staff to develop annual recommendations for setting the following season’s license numbers.

How does the Department collect harvest data?

For archery, gratis and deer-gun seasons the Department uses a probabilistic sampling design whereby surveys are sent to a stratified random sample of hunters according to the gender, species, and unit of the deer tag drawn. For muzzleloader and youth deer seasons, questionnaires are sent to every hunter. Selected hunters receive a questionnaire survey in the mail shortly after the deer season closes, and generally a follow up questionnaires is sent after 3 to 4 weeks to those hunters who have not returned their initial survey.

Why does the Department send out surveys instead of using check stations?

A lot of states have voluntary, or even mandatory, reporting of deer harvest from successful hunters through physical check stations or via internet and telephone check-in systems. Although these reporting methods likely provide more data than questionnaires sent to a randomly selected sample of hunters, they come with important disadvantages.

Performing statistical assessments of harvest data from check stations is more difficult because: (1) the number of hunters that receive a license but do not go hunting is unknown, (2) the number of unsuccessful hunters is not known, because they are only required to report if they harvest a deer, and (3) the number of successful hunters who choose not to report the results of their hunt is not known. Therefore, harvest data from check stations potentially comes with additional problems not present in a probabilistically designed survey.

The surveys the Department uses measure unsuccessful hunters directly, and if there is bias from non-reporting, it can be dealt with by measuring the form and extent of non-response, or through statistical procedures (e.g. weighting). In addition to assessment disadvantages, physical check stations are costly to run and can be an inconvenient burden to hunters if the station is located far away from where the deer was harvested. Given the disadvantages associated with check stations the Department believes surveys provide a better estimate of deer harvest, are more cost-effective, and are more convenient for hunters.

Isn't the Department missing out on important data by not sampling everyone?

No. Under a probabilistic sampling design, the Department does not need to collect everybody’s hunting activity, because it is assumed that the portion of hunters in the sample are representative to the rest of the hunters across North Dakota (this assumption is evaluated every couple of years). This allows the Department to estimate harvest for unsampled hunters based on harvest statistics from hunters who returned questionnaires. However, in order to ensure accurate estimates with low variability, more than 20,000 hunters are sampled each year, or about 40% of North Dakota deer hunters (2018).

Why doesn't the Department send surveys out earlier in the season?

Deer surveys have been sent out in the same systematic way for almost 50 years. Making the survey available at the start of the season would represent a departure in the way the survey has been administered in the past. The concern is that this could introduce some sort of response bias in the results that manifests as an artificial increase or decrease in deer harvested. This would make it difficult to compare harvest data to past trends, thus invalidating one of the largest long-term data sets on deer harvest in North America.

Why do hunters need to complete a survey even if they didn't shoot a deer?

Knowing if a hunter did not shoot a deer is just as valuable as knowing if they did. In fact, it is sometimes more desirable to know when and where hunters were unsuccessful, because this may suggest lower deer populations in those units. Moreover, there is other valuable information about hunting activity in addition to success, such as participation and effort. Participation data is used to estimate harvest for unsampled hunters, and effort data is used to compare harvest relatively across different hunting units and past years (i.e. total deer harvested per total days of hunting).

Why aren't these surveys being done online?

The Department is currently (2019) working with the Biology Department at the University of North Dakota to find the best way to make deer surveys available online. Some hunters may have received these surveys as part of an ongoing research project. Preliminary findings suggest North Dakota hunters respond well to online surveys. Once the Department has a good understanding of how new modes of delivering surveys affect response rates and reporting biases, these new harvest surveys will be implemented more widely.

Hunter Education FAQs

Hunter Education Requirements FAQs

When does a person need hunter education in North Dakota?

Persons born after 1961 must complete a certified hunter education course and show proof of certification when buying or applying for hunting licenses (official courses offered by other states and Canadian provinces meet these requirements).  Exceptions: Persons under age 12 who hunt only with their parent or legal guardian; persons who hunt exclusively on land of which they are the record title owner or operator; and those who obtain an Apprentice Hunting License.

Do persons born in 1961 who do not need hunter education to hunt in North Dakota need it for other states?

Most states have hunter education requirements, some more stringent than ours. Contact that state for more information.

I am taking hunter education and finish it after the deer application deadline. May I submit my application and send in the hunter education number later?

No. State law requires that you submit the number when applying.

Does a certificate from another state meet the requirements for getting a North Dakota hunting license?

North Dakota recognizes valid hunter education certificates issued through other state conservation or wildlife agencies. Classes taken through 4-H, FFA or NRA do not meet North Dakota requirements. In addition, while some other states recognize complete website based classes such as “,” or “,” these classes do not meet North Dakota requirements.

Hunter Education Classes FAQs

When are hunter education courses available?

Generally, hunter education classes are taught from winter through summer. See our Online Services page for course availability.

Is there a fee for the class?

Classes are free. In a few instances, there is a small facility/room rental fee that students pay when attending the first class. In such cases, this is noted in the comments section when signing up.

If I registered for a class and can’t make it, can Game and Fish delete my registration?

No, registered students must delete their own registration. You will need your Social Security number and date of birth.

How do I find out about classes in my area?

Courses are taught by volunteers. As volunteers establish the dates and get ready to teach a course, they notify the hunter education program and the course gets posted on the Game and Fish Department website's Online Services. Listed courses are then open for public enrollment.

Do students need to bring anything to the class?

All materials are provided at the first class, but students should bring a pencil or pen to write with.

Is there an online course?

Game and Fish has what is called a “home study” course. It is not entirely online, as it requires attending the first and last sessions of the course, as specified by the volunteer instructor. The other four sessions are basically completed online. Students must attend a minimum of four hours classroom time, in addition to passing 14 online quizzes. The final written and practical exams must take place with the instructor during the final class session. For more information on the home study course see our course description page.

Is there a waiting list for classes that are full?

No, Game and Fish does not maintain waiting lists for classes.

Is attendance at all the class sessions required?

There is a minimum hour requirement you must meet in order to get certified. The majority of classes are set up to meet this requirement and do not allow for missed classes. If you know you cannot make one of the classes, speak with your instructor immediately on the first night of the class or before, to find out if you can still get certified. It is up to the instructor whether a student can miss a class and still become certified.

Licensing FAQs

Licensing General Information FAQs

Why is a social security number needed when I purchase or apply for fishing and hunting license?

North Dakota is required by state and federal laws related to collection of child support, to record social security numbers from persons obtaining hunting, fishing, or other recreational licenses. The social security number serves as your principal identification number to determine license eligibility and preference in North Dakota. This information is kept confidential; however, it may be provided to law enforcement agencies and the State Disbursement Unit to enforce child support obligations. The citations for these laws are North Dakota Century Code 20.1-03-35 and 42 US Code 666 (a)(13) and (16).

What is meant by "it will be kept confidential"?

It will not be released for unauthorized use. It will not be released under the state open records law. The law makes any willful unauthorized disclosure by authorized personnel of confidential SSN and related records a felony. This means that those involved in collection of the numbers or handling these documents and numbers may face felony charges if they willfully disclose SSN for unauthorized use. An example would be a store clerk who provides SSN information to someone not authorized to have it.

How should license agents protect the SSN information they collect for license?

As of January 1, 2008, only the last four digits of an applicant's social security number have to be printed on paper applications.

I am disabled. How do I obtain a permit to shoot from a vehicle?

  • You must have a physician or chiropractor certify that you are unable to walk for the purposes of hunting or taking wildlife or have lost the use of an arm at or below the elbow.
  • Obtain from the Game and Fish Department the following form: "Request for Permission to Shoot from a Stationary Motor Vehicle" (form number SFN 6096);
  • Have your doctor or chiropractor fill out the physician’s statement on the form and send it to the Department for approval or disapproval by the director.
  • Obtain from the Game and Fish Department the following form: "Request for Permission to Shoot from a Stationary Motor Vehicle" (form number SFN 6096);
  • Complete the shoot-from-a-vehicle form and send it to the Department for approval or disapproval by the director.

Licensing Deer Hunting FAQs

How do I obtain a disability permit to take any deer while gun hunting?

  • You must have a physician or chiropractor certify that you are unable to step from a vehicle without aid of a wheelchair, crutch, brace, or other mechanical support or prosthetic device, or you are unable to walk any distance because of a permanent lung, heart or other internal disease that requires you to use supplemental oxygen to assist breathing (North Dakota Century Code Section 20.1-03-11, subsection 6);
  • Contact the Department for a copy of the form "Disability Permit to Take any Type of Deer While Gun Hunting" (form number SFN 6538).
  • Have your doctor or chiropractor fill out the form. Return the form to the Game and Fish Department for approval or disapproval by the director.

What deer licensing provisions have been made for North Dakota residents who are on active duty with the United States Armed Forces?

North Dakota residents who were on federal active duty with the United States Armed Forces under Title 10, stationed outside of the state and received the expeditionary medal or campaign badge during the previous year Deer Gun season and make application by June application deadline, are eligible to purchase one white-tailed Deer Gun license of their choice in the unit of their choice. Applicants are required to include documentation showing their award or qualification for the award with their application. Applications received after the June deadline will be issued based on licenses available.

North Dakota residents who are members of the United States Armed Forces stationed outside this state, who show proof of North Dakota residency, including a driver’s license number or a nondriver photo identification number from this state, and who pay the appropriate licensing fee, to be issued a regular deer gun season license without having to participate in the lottery.

What licenses do I need for deer gun season?

A fishing, hunting, and furbearer certificate, the general game and habitat stamp or a combination license, and the deer license. Gratis license holders need only the gratis license.

If my 10-, 11-, 12- or 13-year-old receives an antlerless whitetail license, will he/she remain eligible for a youth season license at age 14?

Yes, they are still eligible for a once-in-a-lifetime statewide any-deer license.

How do I apply for an apprentice deer license?

Access the online services page. Follow the regular application procedure, and leave the “hunter safety number” field blank.

I did not harvest a deer with my youth season license. Can I hunt the regular deer gun season with this license?

Yes, but you are subject to the restrictions listed on the license.

I was unsuccessful in filling my mule deer buck license in a restricted unit during the youth season. Can I hunt the remainder of the state during the regular gun season?

No. You are restricted to the same unit as during the youth season.

When is the earliest my son/daughter can apply for a youth season license?

The calendar year when he/she turns age 14.

My son/daughter turns 14 after the youth season opens but before the end of the calendar year. Is he/she eligible to apply for and hunt in the youth season?

Yes, this was a recent change by the state legislature.

One antlerless whitetail license, valid statewide.

My son/daughter turns 11 this year but after the youth season is over. Is he/she eligible to apply for and receive an antlerless white-tailed deer license?

Yes, legislation allows youth age 10 who turn age 11 during the same year as the respective big game season to receive a license.

When can youth hunt (antlerless whitetail) with a firearm?

Only during the youth deer season.

How do I apply for a youth deer license?

Applications are available in early May along with other deer license applications.

Is a youth deer license considered a youth season license?

No. A youth season license is defined as a deer gun license for 13-, 14- or 15-year-old first-time deer hunters that is valid statewide for any deer, with the exception of antlered mule deer (issued by lottery) in select southwest units.

Can I use my first season license during the muzzleloader season?

No. The first season license may be used only for the regular deer gun season.

I can’t find my deer license. What should I do?

Deer hunters who can’t find their deer license should contact the Game and Fish Department to make sure they have their tag before the season opens. The Department must be contacted by phone at 701-328-6300 or email, to authorize the online purchase for a replacement tag. Printable applications are not available.

Licensing Miscellaneous FAQs

How do I obtain a Federal Duck Stamp?

What licenses do I need to hunt on an Indian reservation, and whose rules do I follow?

If you hunt within the reservation exclusively on tribal lands, only a reservation license is required and tribal regulations apply. If you hunt on land owned in fee-title by a non-Indian within the reservation, a state license is required and all state laws, licenses and regulations apply.

I received a lottery license, and I own land in another unit. Can I hunt on my land in the other unit with my lottery license?

Only if the unit in which your land is located adjoins the unit for which you have the lottery license.

What is the apprentice hunting validation (license)?

An individual born after December 31, 1961, who is 12 years of age or older and who has not completed a state-certified hunter education course, may be issued an apprentice hunter validation. An apprentice hunter validation is valid for only one license year in a lifetime. An individual in possession of an apprentice hunter validation may hunt small game and deer only when accompanied by an adult (at least 18 years of age) licensed to hunt in this state whose license was not obtained using an apprentice hunter validation. An apprentice hunter validation holder must obtain all required licenses and stamps. For purposes of this section, "accompanied" means to stay within a distance of another individual that permits uninterrupted visual contact and unaided verbal communication.

How do I purchase or apply for an apprentice license?

An apprentice hunter must purchase the small game license and apply for a deer license through the Game and Fish Department’s electronic licensing system. If the apprentice hunter wants to continue hunting beyond the initial trial year, the hunter must then complete a certified hunter education course.

To purchase an apprentice small game license, access the online services page. Follow the regular licensing procedure, and leave the “hunter safety number” field blank.

Licensing Gratis FAQs

My spouse and I each have a gratis license for different pieces of land. Can we hunt on each other’s land?

Yes, but only if each other’s land is located within the same hunting unit.

If I apply for both a gratis license and a lottery license, does the gratis application affect my lottery chances for either first or second lottery?

No, applying for gratis does not affect your chances of getting drawn in the general lottery.

If I apply for a deer gun lottery license and also apply for a gratis license, how does winning a lottery license affect getting a gratis license?

If you are drawn in the general lottery, your gratis application is disqualified.

If I apply for both a gratis and a lottery license and don't get the lottery license, does this affect my points for the next year?

If you are unsuccessful in the general lottery, you will receive a preference point.

Who has the rights to apply for a gratis license in a contract for deed?

The seller. The person who holds contract, or the seller, does hold title rights until the land is paid for. The buyer cannot apply for the gratis until the contract is paid in full and the buyer then holds the title.

Posting Land FAQs

Posting Land General Information FAQs

Are landowners required to use the electronic posting application to post their lands?

No. Electronic posting is an additional option for landowners to post land to prohibit hunting access. Landowners can still use traditional posting with physical signage.

I prefer to use my existing signs or physical signs. Can I still try the electronic posting system?

Yes. Land can be posted with physical signs and electronically.

I only post some of my land. Can I leave some lands unposted and use electronic posting on others?

Yes. Landowners can use any of the options to post land or leave land unposted.

Posting Land Electronically FAQs

Do I need to post my land every year?

Yes. To ensure land or portions of land have not been sold or leased to another individual, it is necessary to post annually. The electronic posting system will allow a renewal option to import the previous year’s posting records.

Is there a deadline to post lands electronically?

Yes. The deadline to post land is July 1. Print material and published digital content will be distributed and made available to hunters prior to the hunting seasons that begin in August.

What is the signup period to post land electronically?

The signup period for electronic posting will begin February 1 and expire July 1.

If I purchase land after the signup deadline can I use the electronic posting system?

No, landowners who wish to post land after the deadline would need to use physical posting methods.

Can nonresidents post lands electronically?

Yes. You must upload a copy of your driver's license from your state and wait for it to be validated.

Can I post land electronically that I rent?

Yes. An individual authorized by the landowner may post lands electronically.

Is there a penalty for an unauthorized posting of land electronically.

Yes. An individual posting electronically without permission may be found guilty of identity theft, deceptive writings and/or posting without permission offenses.

What are the penalties for hunting on posted land or electronically posted land?

The penalty is a class B misdemeanor for the first offense and a class A misdemeanor for a subsequent offense within a two-year period.

Can I change my posting designation after submitting electronically posted land records?

Yes. Posting designations may be changed up to the deadline of July 1.

Can I turn off or unpost land posted electronically after the deadline?

Yes. Lands may not be added but may be turned off or designated as “not posted” after the deadline. The print material will not reflect these changes and digital content may not be reflected immediately.

What information is available when I post electronically?

Current law requires the name of the individual that posted the land. The electronic posting system offer options to include email, phone number and/or alternate point of contact.

Will the printed paper maps have a point of contact?

No. Contact information is only available in the online mapping applications.

I purchased land recently and I can’t retrieve my records.

The electronic posting system relies on county tax parcel information. It may be possible the current records are not available from the county.

I entered information to search land parcels and do not get results.

Land records must be searched by selecting a county and entering a section, township and range.

  • Ensure to select the county from the menu.
  • Ensure that a section number (1-36) is entered; a township number (129-164) is entered; and a range number is entered (47-107).
  • If you have land in another section, try searching that section.
  • Determine if the results are showing the previous owner. It may be possible the county tax records are not current.
  • The electronic posting application is limited to rural or unincorporated tax parcels.
  • Land may be posted by another individual. Refer to the Enrolled – Posting map on the MyAccount page for details.
  • The information for the specific parcel may not be available from the county tax records.

What tools are available to identify electronically posted lands?

There are multiple map applications available on the Department’s website and digital PDF documents that can be saved to a device or printed to be used in the field. The map applications can be accessed by a computer or smart phone. These applications offer features to identify a point of contact, work offline or without cellular service and determine your location on the maps. For more information on the tools available visit the Department’s website at

I don’t have a computer or smartphone. How can I find lands posted electronically?

The Game and Fish Department offers printable maps that display public lands, PLOTS and electronically posted lands. The paper maps are similar to the Department’s PLOTS guide publication.

How do I find the individual who that posted the land electronically to request permission?

There are two map applications available. 1) The PLOTS Guide viewer and 2) the ArcGIS Explorer app. Both applications will show electronically posted lands in dark orange crosshatch. Clicking on the feature will display the individual who posted the land and may include additional contact information such as an email, phone number or alternat point of contact.

What are the options to determine posting in areas without cellular access?

There is an application available to upload the statewide PLOTS Guide map and or Electronic Posting map. Both maps include the electronic posting designations. This mobile application does not require cellular service and can work offline. Once uploaded, this application offers the ability to view your location and among lands posted electronically. Another option is to use the digital PDF documents or printable maps.

Is there a cost to use these map applications offered on the website?

No, these applications are free of charge. The Avenza offline map product offers 3 free concurrent map uploads. For more information on the use of the Avenza App, visit the mobile maps section on the Departments website.

Who is eligible to post land electronically?

Only the owner or an individual authorized by the owner can designate land as posted physically or electrically. The penalty for posting property without permission from the owner is a class B misdemeanor.

Watercraft FAQs

Watercraft Registration FAQs

Are boats titled in North Dakota?

No, North Dakota does not title watercraft.

Do the North Dakota Registration numbers stay the same when ownership is transferred?

Yes. The ND - _ _ _ - _ _ registration numbers stay the same when ownership is transferred.

How long is my registration good for?

We have a 3-year registration cycle. All watercraft expire at the same time. If you register or renew within the 3-year period, the fees are prorated.

Why did I get new registration decals when I transferred the boat in my name, but the current registration is still good?

The decals are numbered and are nontransferable. You receive a new decal number that coordinates with your registration.

Where do I get the ND registration number?

You can buy them, make them, or custom order them. However; regulations state the numbers and letters must be in contrasting color to the hull in plain vertical block letters at least 3 inches in height excluding any border, trim, outlining or shading, and must be maintained in a legible condition so that it is clearly visible in daylight.

Can I have 2 names on the registration?

No, each watercraft may be registered to one individual or business.

Do I have to be a ND Resident to register my watercraft in ND?

No. your watercraft must be registered in the state where it is principally used.

Do I need to register a watercraft with an electric trolling motor?

Yes. Watercraft propelled by any kind of motor must be registered.

Do I need to register my canoe, kayak, or other paddlecraft?

No. However, it is common to register them for the purpose of taking them to other states or obtaining ownership documentation.

Are motors titled or registered in ND?


Are boat trailers titled or registered in ND?


Do I need anything for my trailer if I travel out of state with my boat?

Yes. A Utility trailer license issued from the ND Department of Transportation.

What do I need to use the online registration/renewal system?

Renewals: The ND Watercraft Registration number and a credit or debit card. We can also direct debit from checking or savings accounts.

New Registrations: Purchase Invoice, Title, or Registration signed by the previous owner, and online payment.

Can the online registration system be used for new registrations or transfers?


Can I renew more than one watercraft at a time?


What if I need to change my address?

You may change your address while registering or renewing online, or you may update the profile on your account.

Do I need a new registration card if I change my address on a current registration.

Yes. You will need to contact our Licensing Department at 701-328-6335. Initial registration cards need to be destroyed once the updated card arrives.

How will I know my transaction went through online?

You will receive a receipt that includes your 10-day temporary registration. A confirmation email will be sent to the email you have on record. The watercraft in question will be listed as a pending or current on your account page.

How soon after registering online will I receive my new registration card and decals?

Renewals are mailed typically by the next business day.

New Registrations are reviewed for processing. You can expect to receive your registration in 7-10 business days.

What if I lost my current registration decals?

Replacement decals can be purchased online for $10. You need to login to your My account page and click renew watercraft. You will then see the option to purchase replacements. You will receive a new registration card and decals by mail. Destroy your original registration card once the new card is received.

Watercraft Selling FAQs

I’m selling my watercraft, what do I need to do?

  1. Sign the back of your registration card & provide a bill of sale listing the boat, motor and trailer with your name, address, signature, and date.
    • If you are selling to someone out of North Dakota, they need to check the regulations of the state they intend on registering it in.
  2. Change of ownership needs be reported to the department within 15 days.
  3. Decals are nontransferable.

Watercraft Purchasing FAQs

I am purchasing a watercraft, what do I need?

  1. Register the watercraft online with the required documentation and payment.
    1. Purchasing from a Business: Purchase Invoice and proof of Taxes Paid Receipt or Tax-Exempt Document.
    2. Purchasing from an Individual: Registration Card or Title.
    3. *Recommend also getting a Bill of sale indicating the boat, motor and trailer with the names, addresses, signatures, and dates of both parties.
  2. Registration Numbers:
    1. ND Watercraft Registration numbers stay with the watercraft as long as it’s registered in North Dakota, however you will need to remove the previous owner’s decals. Your new decals will need to be applied to a clean, dry surface.
    2. New Watercraft are issued a new ND registration. It is the owner’s responsibility to display the registration number on either side of the bow.
  3. Registration Cards and Decals are mailed to the watercraft owner.
  4. Apply decals and carry the registration card aboard the watercraft.

Watercraft Taxes FAQs

Do I pay sales tax on my watercraft if I bought it from an individual?

Watercraft purchased from an individual not in the business of buying and selling watercraft is considered a casual sale and is not subject to state and local sales tax.

Do I pay sales tax on my watercraft if I bought it from a business?


Where do I pay my watercraft purchase sale tax to?

Office of State Tax Commissioner:
600 E Boulevard Avenue Dept 127
Bismarck, ND 58505-0599

Trapping FAQs

Trapping General Information FAQs

Why is regulated trapping of furbearers important to North Dakota?

Trapping is ingrained in the cultural heritage of North Dakota, as both Native American and European explorers and settlers to this region relied heavily on trapping for survival and income. Today, regulated trapping still is conducted for legitimate purposes and provides many benefits to both people and wildlife. Trapping is a wildlife management tool used by agencies to maintain a balance between people and wildlife. Trapping helps reduce extreme fluctuations in wildlife population cycles and tempers large population die-offs due to disease outbreaks. Trapping provides recreational opportunities and income for people. Fur and meat from trapping furbearers are renewable resources. Trapping removes individual furbearers that cause human-wildlife conflicts, such as livestock depredation, roadway flooding and property damage. Trapping assists in researching and relocation of wildlife. Trapping helps restore threatened and endangered species by controlling predators.

What is the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s policy regarding trapping?

The Department recognizes and supports regulated trapping of furbearers as a versatile, safe, efficient and ecologically sound means of capturing individual animals without impairing the survival of furbearer populations or damaging the environment. The Department also recognizes that trapping does concern some people who oppose trapping, the use of specific trapping devices, or consumptive use of animals.

Does trapping furbearers cause species to become threatened or endangered?

No, trapping is a highly regulated activity primarily intended for populations of furbearers that are common or abundant in their habitats. Trapping regulations are set to sustain populations of furbearers for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

Are trappers and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department concerned about animal welfare?

Yes, both trappers and the Department are concerned about animal welfare. As such, we try to minimize pain or suffering when furbearers are trapped, or used in any other way. Trappers are responsible for ensuring captured animals are restrained and dispatched as quickly and humanely as possible, a responsibility they take seriously. In addition, the Department and its cooperators provide education and suggestions as to how trappers can be as humane as possible during their activities.

How/where can I learn more about trapping?

The North Dakota Cooperative Fur Harvester Education Program offers a 16-hour course covering all aspects of fur harvest in North Dakota, including trapping. The course includes both classroom and hands-on learning activities including trap handling and setting, hound hunting, predator calling, fur handling, furbearer biology, fur harvester regulations and ethics. Students can receive a certification card which will satisfy other states’ requirements for mandatory trapper education. The course is free. See the Fur Harvester Education Program page for a list of course dates. If you’re a trapper who would like to voluntarily share your knowledge and expertise by becoming an instructor, please contact Jeff Long at 701-328-6322.

What do I do if I find an animal in a trap while I am out hunting or hiking?

It is illegal to disturb or tamper with any furbearer captured in another person’s legally set trap during an open season. This includes dispatching live-restrained animals without permission from the trapper. If you determine the traps are set illegally, contact the Department or your local game warden.

Trapping Management FAQs

How are trapping regulations created or changed in North Dakota?

Trapping regulations in North Dakota are created or changed either through the state legislature or governor’s proclamation. Regulations set by the state legislature become state laws and have to be modified through the legislative process. Regulations set by governor’s proclamation can be modified annually without having to go through the legislative process. Trappers can provide input related to furbearer regulations by contacting the Department, their district advisory board representative, or their district legislator. Trapping regulations can change for many reasons, including changes in furbearer populations, trapping technology, trapper participation, or public attitudes.

What are uses for trapped furbearers?

Historically and currently, furbearers have been used for many purposes. Most commonly, pelts are used for clothing (coats, hats, mittens, moccasins, blankets, etc.), banjos, rugs, wall hangings and other folk art. Fur is also used in fine art brushes, water repellent felt for hats, and high quality fishing lures. Some people use the meat of furbearers such as raccoon, beaver, nutria and muskrat as table fare or as a food source for pets. The glands of beaver are used in perfume, and glands and tissues from these and other furbearers are used to make leather preservatives, scent lures, and holistic medicines, salves and moisturizers.

What are trapping BMPs?

Best Management Practices for trapping is a scientifically rigorous evaluation of traps and trapping systems used for capturing furbearers. Traps and trapping systems are evaluated based on animal welfare, efficiency, selectivity, practicality, and safety. Results from BMP evaluations provide a reference guide to wildlife management agencies, conservation organizations, researchers, individual trappers and others as to what traps and trapping systems may be the best choices for their intended uses. If you would like to know more about BMPs for trapping or the results of their research, visit the website

At what age do I need a furbearer license to trap furbearers?

Residents who are 16 or older need a furbearer license to trap during the open season. Exception, residents of any age may trap on their own land during the open seasons without a license. Nonresidents of any age need a nonresident reciprocal trapping license to trap during the open season, regardless of whether they are trapping on their own land.

Is trapping allowed on WMAs, WPAs, PLOTS, etc.?

Trapping furbearers is allowed on state wildlife management areas, federal waterfowl production areas, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands during the open seasons, unless otherwise posted. Trapping is only allowed on Private Lands Open to Sportsmen tracts with written permission from the landowner. Trapping is only allowed on school trust lands with written permission from the commissioner. Some federal refuges allow trapping with a permit from the refuge manager.

Can I trap in road rights-of-way? For which road rights-of-way do I need written permission?

Most road rights-of-way are the property of the adjacent landowner, and as such trappers are required to obtain written permission from the landowner to trap in road rights-of-way. Exception: road rights-of-way along state highways are largely public land. It is the obligation and responsibility of the trapper to know for sure.

Do I need trap tags on all of my traps? What kind of information needs to be on the trap tags?

Trap tags are only required on cable devices (snares), not cage/box, foothold, body-gripping, or colony traps. Tags on cable devices must display the trappers name, address and telephone number.

What should I do if I trap a nontarget animal like a deer or dog?

Any live, nontarget animals should be released immediately at the original capture site, including nontarget furbearers for which the season is closed. Any dead, nontarget animals, including furbearers for which the season is closed, must be reported within 24 hours and turned over to the Department or a local game warden.

Why are muskrat sets required to be 2 inches below the water or in a covered set in the spring?

Additional placement restrictions for muskrats and other water sets in the spring are required to deter incidental take of nontarget water birds, such as ducks, coots and herons. Spring is a time of increased water bird activity in North Dakota due to migration and breeding behaviors, therefore we want to ensure that trapping activities do not negatively impact these birds.

How do I know if my cable devices meet the breakaway requirement?

Licensed trappers in North Dakota can send a sample (5 or more) of their cable devices into the Department to have the breakaways tested at no charge.

Fishing FAQs

Fishing Regulations FAQs

Why isn't there a closed season or other walleye harvest restriction on Devils Lake or other North Dakota water bodies in the spring?

To answer this question, we must first determine if there is a problem with harvesting big fish. Some argue that allowing spring fishing has the potential to result in over-harvest of big females, which would seemingly hurt reproduction potential for the year. While this perception is common, Game and Fish biologists have not documented any negative effects on walleye reproduction in Devils Lake, or anywhere else in North Dakota, from spring fishing. (Note: the Missouri River System has been open to year-round fishing since 1975 and rest of the state, including Devils Lake, have been open year-round since 1993).

Environmental influences usually play a much greater role on reproductive success. A good example is the walleye reproduction that took place in spring 2009 at Devils Lake. Tremendous winter moisture led to extensive and prolonged spring runoff down the coulees leading into the lake. Fishing was very good in the coulees that spring, with walleye and northern pike caught as far upstream as Cando.

Although fishing pressure and presumably harvest was relatively high, natural walleye reproduction still occurred at a record level. The catch rate of young-of-the-year walleye in fall 2009 was nearly seven times higher than the previously recorded high. Similar (but not as dramatic) results have been noted other years, including 2012 when the young walleye catch rate was the second highest recorded. This dispels the notion that spring fish harvest, at current levels, limits overall reproduction.

While spring fishing again at current levels doesn't pose a reproductive (i.e., a biological) problem, it has created a social problem, at least for some. Spring effort is often directed toward spawning fish because they are concentrated and most vulnerable at that time. While some anglers view this practice as acceptable, others believe the anglers who target big fish in the spring as "taking more than their fair share," which diminishes opportunities for others to catch big walleyes.

However, the early spring period usually accounts for far less than 5 percent of the total open-water walleye harvest. While some believe that spring shore anglers harvest inordinate numbers of large fish, creel surveys have shown that 80 percent of walleye harvested during the spring at Devils Lake are under 20 inches. Due to the low percentage of large fish harvested, a regulation would have to be extremely restrictive to reduce big fish harvest even a small amount.

The Game and Fish Department carefully monitors Devils Lake fish populations, and would consider appropriate regulations if they would result in actual improvements in population structure or health. But when overall regulations would have no effect on the population, the Department leaves the personal decision whether to harvest a fish up to the anglers.

There's a lot of shoreline from which to fish. Why can't I use more fishing lines, like when one goes ice fishing?

Currently a maximum of two lines are allowed for open water fishing. Allowing more than two lines for shore-fishing could lead to overcrowding in areas of limited shore access. At many lakes across the state, shore fishing access is not unlimited and sometimes inadequate, and allowing more lines would tie up areas that are already in short supply. Further, more lines would lead to crowding problems on the hundreds of fishing piers and docks at many lakes across the state.

Is an "umbrella rig" legal to use in North Dakota waters?

An umbrella rig focuses on the presentation of the terminal tackle, often providing numerous plastic lures to assist in attracting fish and is typically used for trolling. The basic design is a central point that you tie to your line, with a number of wire droppers. Each dropper typically has a snap that you can attach a lure of your choice, such as a jig and plastic, spinner or crankbait.

North Dakota fishing regulations allow no more than two lures per line, so up to two plastics, etc. can have hooks and would be legal. However, anything more with hooks would be illegal. The plastics without hooks are not considered a lure, and thus are legal. See schematics for a graphical display.

There are already daily limits in place in North Dakota for all game fish species. Why then does it matter how one goes about harvesting a limit of fish if the total fish that can be taken is already limited?

The daily limit is the maximum that can be harvested by an angler in a single day. However, the method of take is also an important regulation to protect fish population across North Dakota for a number of reasons.

The first of these explanations is simply in context of fair chase. "Fair chase" may be defined as the pursuit or taking of free-range wildlife (fish, in this case) in an ethical manner where the angler does not have an unfair advantage over the fish. A lot of fishing and hunting regulations are in place to ensure fair chase, and our fishing regulations are very specific when it comes to defining the manner of take.

Some of the technological advances in fishing and boating gear could potentially give anglers an unfair advantage over fish. Entrepreneurs are always trying to invent better equipment or methods, and our clear and consistent regulations make it possible for them to design their innovations within the bounds of what most consider as fair chase.

Another factor to consider is that many of our daily limits have stood the test of time, based on how easy it is for anglers to catch fish. The daily limit typically comes in to play when the fishing is really good. When more anglers can catch and harvest a limit of fish, this ensures that the resource is evenly shared among all the anglers and protects the fish population from overfishing.

However, on an annual, statewide basis, most anglers harvest less than a daily limit every time they go fishing. If we allowed more liberal techniques so more anglers could catch and keep a daily limit of fish more frequently, we would start seeing negative impacts to many of our populations. This in turn would necessitate a reduction in the daily limit for some/many water bodies.

The Department feels it is more important to give anglers the opportunity to harvest more fish when the fishing is good while using/following traditional methods versus allowing a wider range of options for catching fish but then reduce the number of fish they catch/keep.

Lastly, there are some methods of fishing that could lead to higher mortality of all fish caught. An extreme example would be the use of gillnets to catch a limit of walleye; by doing so, one would also kill a lot of other fish in the process.

A more realistic example might be our regulation requiring anglers to attend to their lines. Allowing anglers to use overnight set lines and not be in attendance would lead to deep hooking and consequent mortality of some fish, preventing them from being released alive. North Dakota's fishing regulations are designed to minimize this unneeded mortality.

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.

Is there still a fish consumption advisory in place in North Dakota?

Yes, there has been one in place for years. The last update occurred in 2003 and can be found on the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality website

Can I use fish for shore lunch?

At most waters you may do so. However, at waters with minimum size restrictions on a particular species, you may not remove more than gills, entrails, and scales from fish of that species. In these cases, you may do so only after transporting it to your personal, permanent residence. See Fish Size Restrictions in the fishing guide. It's important to note, any fish consumed during the course of a day's fishing count in the individual daily limit.

How do I properly transport cleaned fish? Do these same regulations apply after I get the fish home, and later transport them to another location for consumption or to give away?

The current regulation regarding transportation of cleaned fish reads as follows:

Fish may be filleted for transport, unless size limits apply, under the following conditions:

  1. Each individual portion of the meat removed from a fish is considered a fillet (fish cheeks and pectoral girdles (wings) are not considered as fillets and are legal to transport);
  2. Two fillets are counted as one fish, and;
  3. The packaging of fish must be done in a manner so that the fillets can be readily separated and counted. If fillets are frozen, they must be packaged so that the fillets are separated and thus can be easily counted without thawing.

This applies whether the fillets are fresh or frozen and does not change after the fish reach a permanent residence and are later transported to another location. Also, remember, at no time may a person transport more than his or her possession limit.

Gifted fish, including packages of fish, must be accompanied with the following information from the individual gifting the fish: name, fishing license number, phone number, date, species and number of fish gifted.

This regulation makes it easier for enforcement officers to count the number of fish. The intent of this regulation is to deter and prevent anglers from "over-bagging" and "double-dipping" and to assist game wardens in enforcing daily and possession limits.

After filleting a fish in a boat or on shore, why can't I throw a fish carcass back into the water body from which it was caught?

It is illegal to litter due to sanitation and aesthetic concerns. Not all parts of the fish sink, and body parts may wash up a shoreline. If everyone chose to throw carcasses into the water, areas around ramps and popular shore-fishing spots could become a big mess. Some facilities have modern fish cleaning stations that should be used. Otherwise, fish carcasses should be disposed of properly (e.g. double bagged and placed in dumpsters, buried, etc.). This includes filleting on the ice; the carcasses cannot be left on the ice or in the water.

Why can't I release fish held in a livewell at the end of a fishing outing?

If allowed, fish that were stressed (e.g. on stringers, in livewells, etc.) would experience delayed mortality after being released. The fish may swim away but may not be healthy and would eventually die. Further, if the release of fish at the end of the day was allowed, it could possibly lead to high-grading or culling. High-grading is the practice of selectively targeting fish – catching a fish, reducing it to creel (e.g. in a livewell), and then later releasing the fish after catching additional fish of a more preferable size. High-grading is and has been against the law for at least the past 60 years in North Dakota. Allowing for some release of fish after being reduced to creel, would complicate enforcement, and greatly confound the overall fishing regulations, as additional restrictions may be the result.

Can I put game fish in a 5-gallon bucket with water and transport them live?

No; only legal bait and legal live baitfish can be transported in water. Since fathead minnows, sticklebacks, and creek chubs remain as a legal live baitfish, there is no alternative other than to allow some water, in bait buckets, to transport minnows to a water body for fishing. In the case of game fish, there are viable alternatives to transport them home or to a fish cleaning station, and they do not need to remain alive.

Can I transport home some small fish I caught from a lake, and use them as aquarium fish?

No. It is illegal to transport any fish in water, away from the water body from which it was caught, except for legal baitfish.

The introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species in North Dakota remains a concern.

Are people understanding the ANS rules and are they complying with them?

Every year Game and Fish biologists spend a large amount of time looking for ANS in the state's waterways. Even so, the threat of introducing and spreading aquatic nuisance species falls heavily on anglers and other water users.

The fishing and boating public are much more aware of ANS now compared to just a few years back. In a 2014 angler survey, 90 percent of the respondents indicated they were aware of ANS; this compares to 71 percent in 2008. Further, nearly three in four respondents this year stated that ANS was a problem/threat, compared to 63 percent in 2008 and only 35 percent in 2003.

Public awareness and concern has increased substantially in recent years, likely due to a committed information/education campaign by the Department and others. In addition, new ANS rules have elevated its importance, and compliance with these rules/regulations are improving each year.

Bait FAQs

Can I use parts of fish I caught while fishing for bait?

Nongame fish, which have been frozen, salted, preserved or cut into pieces (to include heads, entrails, etc.) are legal bait. In addition, yellow perch eyes, and trout and salmon eggs are also legal bait. Use of other game fish or game fish parts as bait is illegal.

Where should I dispose of leftover legal bait fish when I'm done fishing?

According to existing regulations, "…it shall be illegal to deposit or cause to be deposited any fish … upon the ice, in the water, or upon the shore of any water body in North Dakota." And, "stocking of any live fish … into any waters of the state is illegal."

As such, anglers should discard their bait at a fish cleaning station if one is located nearby. If not, unwanted bait can be double-bagged and deposited into local garbage cans. If not available, bait should be taken home and discarded appropriately (e.g. garbage can, buried, etc.).

Can I use dead fathead minnows on no-live-baitfish lakes?

Yes. However, understand that absolutely no live baitfish may be used or in possession while on these waters. Live fatheads in a minnow bucket in a vehicle while someone is shore-fishing means they are in one's possession and thus would be illegal.

If I trap my own bait, can I keep nongame (rough) fish?

No. Trapping bait is legal for all who have a valid fishing license. However, only legal live bait fish may be taken, not rough (nongame) or game fish.

Can I bring nightcrawlers, waxworms or leeches from Minnesota or another state into North Dakota?

Terrestrial bait such as nightcrawlers and waxworms can be legally transported into North Dakota. However, that is not the case for aquatic bait such as leeches and minnows. Regulations specify "no live aquatic organisms may be imported into the state by anglers."

Winter Fishing FAQs

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

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

With approximately 420 water bodies and likely more than 1,000 access sites to these water bodies during the ice fishing season, it simply is unrealistic for the Department or even the state to reopen these sites after every wind storm. 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 up 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, etc.) prior to continuing to fish for another limit the next day.

Fishing Management FAQs

How does the North Dakota Game and Fish Department decide what species they are managing? It seems like walleye receive the most attention?

Actually a lot of factors help determine what species are managed in which lakes. First and foremost, the water body itself will dictate its potential. Size of the lake, depth and habitat types are a few important variables. Also, history of the lake, including past species performances (if it has one) and other opportunities in the area come into play. Public demand for a species is also a factor.

Over the past few decades, walleye, northern pike and yellow perch rank highest for the majority of North Dakota anglers, so that does go into the decision making. There's no doubt that walleye are in the highest demand. For example, 80 percent of open-water anglers responding to a recent preference survey indicated walleye as their number one species of choice, and virtually all open-water anglers ranked walleye as one of their top three choices. However, we still have lakes that are more suitable for other species such as rainbow trout and largemouth bass, and we do manage them accordingly.

Why doesn't the Game and Fish Department stock more fish into my lake (any lake)?

Stocking more fish doesn't always mean better fishing. The Department attempts to sample most of North Dakota's fishing lakes at least once every year, and some twice, to gather information that helps biologists decide if and how many fish to stock into that lake. One of the first things that biologists look at is whether fish reproduce naturally, and if stocking is even necessary. In a lot of instances, stocking additional fish when natural reproduction is sufficient doesn't increase the number of fish in the lake, or eventually the number that anglers catch. A good case in point is the Garrison Reach of the Missouri River and Lake Oahe. For the past 30-plus years, this lengthy water body often offers phenomenal walleye fishing, yet there has been virtually no walleye stocking. Every fish caught from this water body is a product of natural reproduction.

The Department readily stocks fish in lakes where natural reproduction is not sufficient to maintain the fishery. When the biologists decide how many fish to stock, they try to balance the number of stocked fish with the lake's available space (habitat) and food. Raising fish in a lake is not unlike gardening. Typically there is an optimum amount of seed to plant to get a maximum yield. If you put more seeds in the ground than needed, you might get a lot of plants, but you wouldn't necessarily get more to eat. Gardeners will often even thin the number of sprouts to get healthier plants and a more bountiful harvest. Fisheries biologists attempt to do the same thing by planting the right amount of fish in a lake to meet current conditions.

Are cormorants really a problem, and if so, what can the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the public do to help alleviate the problem?

The North American population of double-crested cormorants has grown dramatically in the past few decades, and these birds have caused serious economic and recreational damage in many states. North Dakota is no different, as trout and panfish populations have been severely reduced in some lakes. Cormorants can and do eat more than a pound of fish per day, and when a large flock of these birds concentrates on a fishing lake, they can cause significant damage in a short period of time. However, it should be noted that cormorant problems are typically localized and they certainly do not impact all fishing lakes in the state.

Because cormorants are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act, the public is not allowed to harvest (shoot, etc.) cormorants for any reason. The Department has been able to obtain a depredation permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that does allow some control of cormorants.

Unfortunately, much more needs to be done before cormorants are no longer a serious threat to some fish populations. What is needed is more federal regulation relaxation in years to come to allow for thoughtful cormorant population reductions.

What can the Game and Fish Department do regarding shore fishing opportunities? There are a lot of boat ramps but shore fishing sites can be very hard to find.

Shore anglers are an important component to the North Dakota fishing experience. Unfortunately, over the decades, there are fewer sites to shore fish. Many lakes have a road and access to an immediate area around a boat ramp (often the rest of the land surrounding a lake is privately owned) and thus shoreline opportunities can be limited. To increase shore-fishing opportunities, the Department has worked with local communities to establish earthen and/or metal fishing piers.

Whether it’s riprap, cattails or a steep cut-bank, shoreline fishing access can be difficult and problematic. Fishing piers can help overcome some of these obstacles. However, while the Department is in favor of piers and ways to improve shore fishing opportunities, there are several factors that hinder further growth and expansion of these types of fishing pier projects. First, there is no source in the state/region that builds these floating fishing piers and so they are not readily available. What that means is Department staff needs to be involved in all phases of creating a fishing pier. Another issue that can come into play are the costs of the pier – each new pier can run $35,000- $40,000 thus there are budgetary considerations. Further, once a fishing pier is in place, maintaining a pier can also be expensive. A recent survey found that nearly half of all of our fishing piers had some form of damage and the ‘fixes’ are often costly. Lastly, one of the main obstacles the Department face is finding a local cooperating entity that has the proper equipment to accomplish the installation and removal of the pier each year.

In the future, the Department will continue to install fishing piers in areas where their use justifies the expense of a pier and a cooperator (e.g. county park boards, wildlife clubs, etc.) to maintain the pier is found.

Barotrauma FAQs

What is barotrauma?

“Barotrauma” is the term used to describe any of the number of injuries, or trauma, a fish may receive from rapid changes in atmospheric (i.e. barometric) pressures. For fish caught by anglers, these rapid pressure changes occur when fish are reeled to the surface from deep water. Barotrauma injuries include things like eversion, prolapse, torsion and volvulus of the stomach, hemorrhaging of internal organs, hematomas, and loss of vision. Most internal injuries are not visible to anglers, but one obvious symptom of barotrauma is the over-inflated swim bladder, which will push the fish’s stomach out of its mouth and make it impossible for the fish to swim back to the depth it came from.

Healthy fish on left. Fish with barotrauma on right.

What is “fizzing,” and does it really work to increase fish survival?

Fizzing, or venting, is the procedure of puncturing a fish’s swim bladder with a sharp object, like a hypodermic needle, to release the excess gas and deflate it. Some anglers promote this as an effective means of quickly getting fish back to their original depth and pressure. However, the true effects of fizzing are not well studied, and North Dakota Game and Fish does not promote this. By puncturing a fish’s swim bladder, the fish will lose its ability to regulate buoyancy until the puncture wound heals. Fizzing fish, or returning them to their capture depth by any means, can relieve some symptoms of barotrauma. However, many of the internal injuries from barotrauma are not remediated simply by returning the fish to its original depth. The few studies on this matter have shown that even if a fish swims away after it’s been fizzed, it may have lasting injuries that lead to death at a later time.

I’ve read that reeling in a fish really slowly can help. Is that true?

In most cases, no. Some fish species, like salmon, pike or catfish, have a pneumatic duct that they can use to release, or “burp,” gases from their swim bladder. But many species in North Dakota, like walleye, perch and bass, do not have this duct. They regulate gases in their swim bladder through their bloodstream, which takes quite a long time. So when most anglers consider reeling a fish in slowly (say 3-5 minutes) to allow them to release gas from their swim bladder, it’s not nearly slow enough to be effective (more like 20-30 minutes).

What does the Department suggest an angler do when it comes to this issue?

As stated above, there is no immediate and certain fix to deal with fish that are released after being caught from deep water. Again, the Department strongly recommends that if one is fishing in waters deeper than 25-30 feet, that the angler makes a conscience decision to keep everything that is caught – or – simply spend your time fishing in shallower depths where barotrauma is not an issue.

How about the few lakes in North Dakota that have length minimums in place?

Most of the waters in North Dakota that have length limits do not have much for deep water to start with. In the few lakes that have deeper water and length restrictions (e.g. Jamestown and Pipestem reservoirs), anglers should simply avoid fishing the small areas that hold deep water.

Paddlefish Snagging FAQs

What is a paddlefish, and where are they found?

Paddlefish being released into river

Paddlefish represent an ancient lineage of fish most closely related to sturgeons. There are only two species of paddlefish in the world; an extremely endangered (possibly extinct) species found in China, and our North American species, currently found in 22 states throughout the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.

The North American species has also recently been introduced into several rivers in Europe and Asia.

Fossils of extinct paddlefish species from 60 million years ago have been found in the Missouri River basin near Fort Peck Reservoir.

The North American species has a mostly cartilaginous anatomy, an elongated, flat, paddle-shaped rostrum, smooth skin, small eyes, and a large, toothless (except when very young) mouth. Their overall coloration ranges from light bluish gray to blackish, with a whitish belly.

Within North Dakota, paddlefish are found in the Yellowstone River and throughout the Missouri River mainstem. The population that resides within Lake Sakakawea and upstream in the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers (known as the Yellowstone-Sakakawea stock) is the only stock in North Dakota which currently supports a snag fishery. There is another smaller stock in North Dakota which inhabits Lake Oahe and the Missouri River below Garrison Dam.

What do paddlefish eat, and how do they do it?


Paddlefish feed mostly on tiny animals called zooplankton. Very young paddlefish, with help from their small teeth, selectively feed on individual zooplankton. After their first year, paddlefish use filament-like gill rakers to filter zooplankton from the water. Paddlefish also eat aquatic insects and, occasionally, small fish. Because paddlefish won’t bite large bait, anglers hoping to harvest a paddlefish must participate in snagging.

What is the purpose of the rostrum?


The rostrum supports an electrosensory system that detects weak electrical fields. The rostrum, as well as the head and gill flaps, is covered with tiny sensory pores that detect the weak electrical field generated by small food organisms.

Very young fish do not even have a rostrum. But by the time a fish reaches 8 inches, the rostrum may be nearly half its total length. As fish get older and larger, the rostrum becomes comparatively shorter in terms of its proportion to the total length of the fish. Adult paddlefish can function and survive without a rostrum, but it appears that those fish that have lost all or part of their rostrum feed less efficiently and are thinner than those with intact rostrums.

What is the life cycle of paddlefish in the Yellowstone-Sakakawea stock?

Mature paddlefish migrate upstream out of Lake Sakakawea into the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers to spawn. Most fish make this migration in early spring, but some start the previous fall. They spawn during high runoff in late spring or early summer. Most fish deposit eggs and milt on flooded gravel bars in the lower Yellowstone River, but some fish migrate up the Missouri River and even into the Milk River in Montana. Soon after spawning, adults typically move back downstream into Lake Sakakawea.

The eggs are fertilized by milt as they are released from the females. When exposed to water, the eggs become very sticky and adhere to gravel and cobble substrate. Incubation time varies depending upon water temperature; eggs hatch in about 7 days in 60°F water. After hatching, young (larval) fish drift downstream, eventually reaching the headwaters of Lake Sakakawea where they spend their first few months. Because of greater zooplankton abundance, older juvenile and adult fish also utilize the upper portions of Lake Sakakawea. With the exception of spawning migrations, paddlefish remain within Lake Sakakawea. Paddlefish typically mature at about age 9 or 10 for males, age 16 to 18 for females. Tagging studies have shown that males spawn more frequently than females. Males spawn every year or every other year, while females typically spawn every second or third year.

What do we know about young paddlefish in Lake Sakakawea?

Aerial photo of Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers

Larval paddlefish grow rapidly. By late July they’re typically 5-6 inches long, and 10-12 inches by late September.

From mid-July through September they’re found in the headwaters of Lake Sakakawea.

Young paddlefish swim in loose groups, selectively feeding mainly on zooplankton, and especially on a large zooplankton called Leptodora.

The rapid first-year growth is an important survival tactic, since they’re comparatively weak swimmers and vulnerable to being eaten by fish and birds.

Studies have shown that young paddlefish grow faster when Sakakawea’s water elevations are high and rising, since zooplankton is more abundant under these conditions.

How can you tell how old a paddlefish is, and how long do they live?

Paddlefish Dentary

The best way to determine age is to use the lower jaw bone called a dentary. Dentaries are removed from the majority of harvested fish during snagging seasons, then cleaned and cross-sectioned. Annual rings are counted on the cross sections (much like aging a tree using tree rings).

Paddlefish can live to age 60 or older, with females typically living longer than males. Most of the larger fish (more than 50 pounds) are females ranging in age from 15-40 years and averaging about 27 years, while most of the smaller fish (less than 40 pounds) are males from 9-40 years and averaging about 20 years. Maintaining a wide range of ages is important to the health of the population.

How big do paddlefish get, and why are females typically larger than males?

The largest paddlefish on record was speared in Lake Okoboji, Iowa in 1916. It was 85 inches and weighed an estimated 198 pounds. More recent official state records are a 144-pound fish snagged in 2004 in Kansas and a 142.5-pound fish snagged in 1973 in Montana. The current North Dakota record is a 131- pound fish snagged in 2016. Fish living in lakes and reservoirs often grow faster and larger than those living solely in rivers, because reservoirs usually contain more zooplankton.

Male and female paddlefish have evolved different strategies for passing genes to the next generation. For a female, the larger she grows the more eggs she can develop and the more young paddlefish she can potentially produce. For a male a larger size is not nearly as advantageous, because even a small male produces millions of sperm, more than enough to fertilize all the eggs from the largest female.

Why are paddlefish relatively common in the Williston area when they’re so rare or no longer present in other areas within their range?

The short answer is habitat quality for paddlefish, which is generally much better for all life stages in Lake Sakakawea and the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers than elsewhere. Paddlefish are finicky spawners, requiring a combination of high flows, right water temperature, and a good substrate of clean gravel and cobble. The Yellowstone River is still a free-flowing, naturally fluctuating river that provides adequate spawning habitat most years. When Lake Sakakawea has a high water level, paddlefish generally find abundant food for growth and maturation. During extended periods of low lake levels, however, plankton is far less abundant, and survival of young paddlefish is greatly reduced.

In other parts of its range, habitat quality is generally much poorer. Dam construction, dredging, channelization, and excessive water withdrawals for irrigation and municipal and industrial use have significantly changed most large rivers in North America. Few rivers today provide the proper combinations of flow, temperature and gravel substrates suitable for paddlefish spawning. In many states, paddlefish populations have been greatly reduced or even eliminated because of lost spawning habitat.

Why not just stock more paddlefish?

The best management approach for long-term sustainability of paddlefish in North Dakota is to maintain quality habitat for sufficient natural reproduction and recruitment.

Stocking efforts in the state have yielded mixed results.

Larger fish (4 per pound) stocked in 1995 in Lake Sakakawea have recruited to the fishery, but smaller fish stocked in 1997 (10 per pound) have not, suggesting that larger fish at stocking are preferred.

Even in the successful stocking of 1995, naturally recruited fish have made up about 95 percent of this year-class, so natural recruitment is the key to a good fishery.

Stocking has its uses, however.

The most recent stockings of tagged young-of-year paddlefish have occurred in 2007, 2011 and 2018 to better understand juvenile paddlefish survival in years of low reservoir water levels and high river and reservoir levels and to have some known age fish in the population to compare with estimated ages from jawbones.

Why is there a paddlefish harvest cap?

Snaggers on bank of Yellowstone River

The harvest cap is intended to keep the adult population from dropping below its current level.

Age information is used to estimate how many newly recruited adult fish are entering the population compared to the number of fish being harvested or lost to natural mortality.

A harvest cap of 2,000 fish, equally split between Montana and North Dakota, is appropriate based upon current rates of recruitment.

Changes in the allowable harvest will be made, as necessary, to prevent the population from declining.

Is the Yellowstone-Sakakawea paddlefish population increasing or decreasing?

The paddlefish population in the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers prior to construction of Garrison Dam was much smaller than the booming population which developed during the years when Lake Sakakawea first filled. Initial flooding of productive uplands released many nutrients into the newly formed reservoir, resulting in excellent rearing conditions and high survival of young paddlefish. In the years since the late 1960s after the reservoir filled, however, the population has gradually declined because of lower productivity (a natural process in reservoirs), and harvest and natural mortality of fish produced during the filling period.

Population estimates indicate that the adult population has declined from more than 100,000 fish in the late 1970s to somewhat less than 50,000 in recent years. Studies have shown that although paddlefish reproduction is occurring, the overall recruitment of young fish hasn’t been high enough to offset mortality of adult fish. Fortunately, the 1995 year-class has reversed the downward population trend. This robust year-class was produced under ideal conditions of high Yellowstone River flows and rising water levels in Lake Sakakawea. From 1999 through 2007, drought and water depletions greatly reduced Yellowstone River flows, negatively affecting paddlefish spawning and reproduction. The lower than normal inflows, coupled with excessive rates of water discharge by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, consequently lowered Lake Sakakawea’s water level far beyond that desired for good paddlefish recruitment and growth. Greatly improved water flows and lake levels since 2008 have provided better conditions for successful reproduction and recruitment, especially in 2011, which appears to be providing the next large year-class of paddlefish.

What is the greatest threat to paddlefish?

The greatest threat is the loss of habitat for successful spawning and recruitment. Paddlefish need natural, free-flowing rivers to reproduce effectively. Without spawning habitat there’s really little that can be done to maintain viable populations over the long term. Water withdrawals from the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers are reducing available habitat. Protecting and enhancing habitat and flows in these rivers are critically important for the long-term survival of the stock.

Snag fisheries are regulated to ensure that the Yellowstone-Sakakawea stock is not overharvested. Illegal fishing is a major threat, however, and has been documented in several other states. Any illegal harvest activities should be reported.

How do research and monitoring lead to better paddlefish management?

Tagged paddlefish

Unique and important fisheries resources need to be managed carefully and conservatively.

Intensive research and monitoring are necessary to properly manage this resource.

Because the Yellowstone-Sakakawea stock is a shared resource between North Dakota and Montana, fisheries staff from both states and scientists from the University of Idaho work together to research and manage this stock.

Department Apps

NDGF Mobile App

Does the Department have a Mobile App?

Yes. The North Dakota Game and Fish App is maintained by the Department for smartphone users. It allows users to

  • download licenses, certifications and regulations onto a smartphone for easy, offline retrieval,
  • access hunting and fishing maps,
  • purchase and manage licenses,
  • find nearby wardens, district offices, vendors, hunting units and deer head collection sites,
  • receive alerts and messages from the Department,
  • submit harvest reports,
  • and more.

Learn more about the app and how to get it on our NDGF Mobile App page.

NDGF Web App

What is the Department's primary web application for hunters and anglers?

The NDGF Online Services web app is the main web application used by the Department for licensing, lotteries, electronically posting lands, registering watercraft and more.

This web application can be accessed from most browsers (it does require you allow the site to run JavaScript to function properly).

The URL for the site login is which can be accessed via the "MyAccount" link at the top of this page.

The Department's mobile app incorporates the Online Services web app.

What is the Where to Fish web app?

The Where to Fish web app is incorporate into the main NDGF website. It can be accessed via the Where to Fish link under the Fishing menu (the direct URL is

This web app allows users to search fishing and boating data and maps (ex. stocking data by lake, fish species in a lake, fishing opportunities within a certain radius of a town, lakes with boat ramps, fishing pier locations, etc.)

What dynamic web maps does the Department offer?

The Department maintains several web maps including the Hunting Atlas and the Fishing and Boating Atlas.

For a list of maps and geospatial resources offered by the Department, see our Maps page.

Mapping FAQs

Maps FAQs

Where can I find a full listing of NDGF map offerings?

Mapping Data FAQs

What geospatial data access does the Department offer?

Department data can be found on the North Dakota Geographic Information Systems site. See our Web and Data Services page for more information.

Where can I find geospatial data for environmental review purposes?

Commercial Apps

Mapping Apps

Are there commercial mobile apps for hunters that use NDGF data?

Yes. There are some commercial mobile apps available (paid subscriptions) that use NDGF data such as PLOTS locations and electronically posted land maps. Learn more on our Maps page.

Reporting Forms

Bands and Tags

Where can I report a banded bird?

Reporting by the public of banded birds is critical to migratory bird conservation. Bands found on birds taken during hunting seasons, on bird carcasses or band numbers read or photographed on live birds, should be reported. The information will be forwarded to the appropriate researchers. The individual reporting the band will receive information on the bird and on where and when it was banded.

Where can I report a tagged fish?

Biologists tag fish to assist with various population studies. If you catch a tagged fish, please fill out the online reporting form.

Anglers who include their name and address on the report will receive a brief history of the fish they caught from the local fisheries biologist.

Important information to report includes species, length (inches), when and where the fish was caught, and the tag number/color.


Where can I report an aquatic nuisance species sighting?

Where can I report a furbearer sighting?

Where can I report dead or sick wildlife?

Where can I report the location of an active bald eagle nest?