Weather Forecast


OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Some North Dakota refuges open to late-season upland game hunting, New Minnesota catch-and-release pike record, Upper Red winter fishing regulations stay the same etc.

This 45¼- inch northern pike caught in May on the Rainy River by Matthew Swanson of Woodbury, Minn., is Minnesota's new catch-and-release state pike record. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

Refuges open to late-season upland game

As in previous years, several national wildlife refuges in North Dakota will open to late-season upland game bird hunting the day after the deer gun season closes.

Arrowwood, Audubon, Des Lacs, J. Clark Salyer, Lake Alice, Lake Zahl, Long Lake, Lostwood, Tewaukon (pheasants only), and Upper Souris NWRs open Monday, Nov. 26.

However, portions of each refuge are closed to hunting. Hunters should contact refuge headquarters for information on closed areas and other restrictions:

• Arrowwood, (701) 285-3341.

• Audubon, (701) 442-5474.

• Des Lacs, (701) 385-4046.

• J. Clark Salyer, (701) 768-2548.

• Lake Alice, (701) 662-8611.

• Lake Zahl, (701) 965-6488.

• Long Lake, (701) 387-4397.

• Lostwood, (701) 848-2722.

• Tewaukon, (701) 724-3598.

• Upper Souris, (701) 468-5467.

Details on each refuge also is available by going to and clicking on "National Wildlife Refuges."

National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters are reminded that use of nontoxic shot is required on all USFWS lands. State regulations found in the North Dakota 2018-19 Hunting and Trapping Guide apply. Seasons for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridges and ruffed grouse close statewide on Jan. 6, 2019.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

First time's a charm for Minnesota pike angler

Minnesota anglers who want to catch a state record northern pike now have a new mark to beat after angler Matthew Swanson of Woodbury, Minn., has claimed the record with a 45¼- inch northern pike caught on the Rainy River.

The record surpasses the first ever record set in early October when Maddy Ogg caught and released a 43½-inch pike from Mille Lacs; however, Swanson reeled in his pike five months earlier, in May. The Department of Natural Resources received Swanson's application on Oct. 29 and certified the fish soon after.

Swanson was on an annual Rainy River pike fishing trip with his dad and brother. Swanson reported that after three days of fishing, he had not landed any large pike, but his dad and brother had caught several over 30 inches. His father fishes spring pike with streamer flies on 30-pound test wire line. Using his dad's setup, Swanson took a few casts and the water around his fly exploded — he had hooked a big pike.

After a brief fight and some careful netting, Swanson had caught the 45¼-inch northern pike. They handled the large pike carefully to get a couple of pictures and a length measurement before releasing the fish.

"Because this was to date my first and only pike on a fly, it was a very memorable experience," Swanson said.

Cool spring and fall temperatures make for excellent catch-and-release conditions. The DNR announces new state records in news releases, on social media and on the DNR website. Find current records and guidelines for each type of state record at

-- Minnesota DNR

N.D. darkhouse spearing opens at ice-up

North Dakota's darkhouse spearfishing season opens on most state waters whenever ice-up occurs. Legal fish are northern pike and nongame species.

Before this year, the darkhouse spearfishing season had opened Dec. 1.

People who participate in darkhouse spearfishing first must register online at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, In addition, anglers age 16 and older must possess a valid fishing license.

Spearers and anglers are reminded that materials used to mark holes must be in possession as soon as a hole greater than 10 inches in diameter is made in the ice.

North Dakota residents who do not have a fishing license may spear during the free winter fishing weekend Dec. 29-30, but they still need to register to spear.

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 and spearers should refer to the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide for more information.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Fishing tournaments require 30-day notice

Organizers planning fishing tournaments, including ice fishing contests this winter in North Dakota, are reminded to submit an application along with fishing tournament regulations to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department at least 30 days before the start of the event.

The 30-day advance notice allows for review by agency staff to ensure the proposed tournament will not have negative biological consequences or conflicts with other proposed tournaments for the same location and/or time.

Fishing tournaments may not occur without first obtaining a valid permit from the department.

In addition, the number of open-water tournaments on lakes Sakakawea and Oahe, the Missouri River and Devils Lake are capped each year, depending on the time of the week, year and location.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

Upper Red walleye regs continue for winter

Anglers fishing Upper Red Lake this winter will continue to have a four-walleye bag limit, with only one walleye longer than 17 inches allowed.

The same regulation has been in place since the May 2017 fishing opener. From December 2017 through November 2018, anglers harvested approximately 235,000 pounds — a record high for annual harvest since walleye fishing resumed on the lake in 2006.

Red Lake's walleye harvest is managed under a joint harvest plan. The Red Lakes Fisheries Technical Committee revised the plan in 2015. The revised harvest plan recommends an aggressive approach when walleye spawning stock is in surplus, as it currently is. An Upper Red Lake Citizen Advisory Committee reviews walleye harvest totals and regulation options and provides recommendations for regulations for the state waters of Upper Red Lake.

Eventually, there may be a need to make adjustments to size or bag limits if spawning stock declines and needs more protection, but for now, the opportunity to harvest some fish over 17 inches is popular with anglers, and it meets harvest plan objectives by spreading harvest over a wide range of sizes and removing some of the surplus spawning stock.

More info:

-- Minnesota DNR