OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: North Dakota Game and Fish plans elk survey in 2019, Upper Red walleye harvest near record etc.

NDGF plans winter 2019 elk survey The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is planning an elk research project to begin next winter in western North Dakota in an effort to learn more about the distribution of elk in that part of the state. The p...

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The North Dakota Game and Fish Department will be collaring about 60 cow elk in the winter of 2019 in hunting units E2 and E3 of western North Dakota as part of a study planned to learn more about the distribution of elk in that part of the state. (North Dakota Game and Fish Department)
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department

NDGF plans winter 2019 elk survey

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is planning an elk research project to begin next winter in western North Dakota in an effort to learn more about the distribution of elk in that part of the state.

The project, which will get underway in 2019, is set for elk units E2 and E3 in the western and southwestern parts of North Dakota, said Jeb Williams, wildlife section chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

As part of the study, Game and Fish will put tracking collars on about 60 cow elk in the two units, Williams said.

The study is a follow-up, of sorts, to a culling effort Theodore Roosevelt National Park conducted a few years ago that significantly reduced elk numbers in the park, Williams said.


"We didn't really know how that was going to influence the elk population in places like E3, the elk unit outside of that Theodore Roosevelt National Park vicinity," Williams said. "What we've come to find out is there were some elk that dispersed out of Theodore Roosevelt National Park that essentially aren't coming back to the park.

"That's a good thing as far as elk and hunters go and hunting opportunities out there, but now we just need to find out a little bit more about them, about the areas they're using and go to, along with reproduction and things like that," Williams added. "It will be an interesting project."

The focus of the project and others like it is on cow elk because the necks of bull elk tend to swell during the rut, making the collars an impediment, Williams said.

-- Brad Dokken

Upper Red nears record winter harvest

Ice fishing on Upper Red Lake has slowed in recent weeks, but the walleye harvest is on track to set or approach a wintertime record, numbers from an annual winter creel survey show.

According to Henry Drewes, regional fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji, anglers through January had kept about 125,000 pounds of walleyes.

The wintertime high for Minnesota's portion of the lake was slightly more than 140,000 pounds in 2015, DNR statistics show. Anglers harvested 109,327 pounds of walleyes in the winter of 2017, according to DNR creel survey results.


"If we have an average February, we'll be right in that area" of 140,000 pounds, Drewes said. "Catch rates and pressure have really tapered off in the last (few weeks). I think that's related to winter fatigue and a slower bite."

Wheel houses, which have exploded in popularity among winter anglers in recent years, now account for more than 80 percent of the ice fishing pressure on Upper Red, Drewes said.

Anglers on Upper Red can keep four walleyes, of which only one can be longer than 17 inches. Walleye and northern pike season on Upper Red and other Minnesota inland waters closes Sunday, Feb. 25 and reopens Saturday, May 12.

The Minnesota DNR manages 48,000 acres of Upper Red, while the remaining 72,000 acres are within the boundary of the Red Lake Indian Reservation and managed by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa.

-- Brad Dokken

April 10 is deadline for N.D. youth grants

April 10 is the deadline for North Dakota wildlife, shooting, fraternal and nonprofit civic organizations to apply for grants through Encouraging Tomorrow's Hunters, a Game and Fish Department grant program to assist in recruiting the next generation of hunters and shooters.

According to Game and Fish, the program currently helps fund about 40 club and organizational events and projects each year, with an average grant of $1,550. The maximum grant allowed is $3,000.


Grant funds help cover event expenses, including promotional printing; event memorabilia such as shirts, caps or vests; ammunition and targets; and eye and ear protection.

Past funding has enabled groups to conduct youth pheasant and waterfowl hunts or sponsor trap and other shooting events, including archery and rifle shooting.

One change from previous years is that grants related to the High School Clay Target League now will come out of a separate fund and will be limited to newly formed teams in 2018. All other shooting events, including summer youth trapshooting leagues, remain eligible for Encouraging Tomorrow's Hunters grants.

More information, including a grant application, is available on the Game and Fish Department website at, or by contacting outreach biologist Pat Lothspeich at (701) 328-6332.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Registration required to darkhouse spear

Anyone who darkhouse spears in North Dakota, regardless of age, first must register with the state Game and Fish Department.

Free registration is available on the Game and Fish website,, or through any Game and Fish Department office.

North Dakota's darkhouse spearfishing season closes March 15. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.

A valid fishing license is required for everyone age 16 and older.

All waters open to hook-and-line fishing are open to darkhouse spearing except:

• East Park Lake, West Park Lake, Lake Audubon - McLean County.

• Heckers Lake - Sheridan County.

• Larimore Dam - Grand Forks County.

• McClusky Canal.

• New Johns Lake - Burleigh County.

• Red Willow Lake - Griggs County.

• Wood Lake - Benson County.

Anglers should refer to the 2016-18 North Dakota Fishing Guide for more information.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Did you know?

• Joel Huener, longtime manager and assistant manager of Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, retired Feb. 6. Huener came to Thief Lake from Utah in 1996. Assistant manager Kyle Arola will oversee the WMA in the interim, and plans are in the works to fill the manager position as soon as possible, said John Williams, northwest region wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji.

• The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is offering a wild game processing workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at the department's district shop, 3001 E. Main, in Bismarck. The event is open to participants age 15 and older. The fee is $25, and participants will take with them several packages of fresh sausage. Info/registration: Brian Schaffer, education coordinator, (701) 328-6312 or .

• The Minnesota DNR has hired Joe Albert as new communications coordinator for the agency's Enforcement Division. Albert, who for the past 14 years was an outdoor editor and reporter, has a variety of responsibilities, including developing communications strategies that increase public understanding of the division and the work of its conservation officers. He also will be the division's primary media contact.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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