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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Darkhouse spearing sets record in N.D., Tentative North Dakota hunting openers, DNR proposes tighter rule for submitting bear tooth samples on harvested bears etc.

Darkhouse spearing participation and pike harvest set a record last winter in North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department said. (Photo/ North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

Darkhouse spearing sets record in N.D.

The popularity of darkhouse spearfishing in North Dakota set a new record last winter for participation and number of pike speared, the Game and Fish Department said.

According to statistics compiled by Game and Fish, 3,717 participants speared 28,138 pike last winter, besting the totals established during the 2015-16 season of 3,289 participants and 17,269 harvested pike.

The average pike speared last winter weighed 7 pounds.

The number of anglers who registered was 5,387, and 3,772 of those were from North Dakota. Minnesotans accounted for 1,197. The average age was 45, and 90 percent were male.

Devils Lake and Lake Sakakawea accounted for 30 percent of the spearing harvest in the state.

Everyone who participates in darkhouse spearfishing first must register online at the Game and Fish website, www.gf.nd.gov.

In addition, spearers age 16 and older must possess a valid fishing license.

When a hole greater than 10 inches in diameter is left in the ice after a darkhouse is moved, the area in the immediate vicinity of the hole must be adequately marked with a natural object or a brightly painted or colored wooden lath.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

NDGF sets tentative hunting openers

In an effort to help hunters prepare for next year's hunting seasons, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has compiled its best estimate of opening dates.

Dates become official when approved by governor's proclamation, but the tentative openers for 2019 are as follows:

• Spring turkey: April 13

• Deer and Pronghorn Bow, Mountain Lion: Aug. 30.

• Dove: Sept. 1.

• Youth Deer: Sept. 13.

• Grouse, Partridge, Squirrel: Sept. 14.

• Youth Waterfowl: Sept. 14.

• Early Resident Waterfowl: Sept. 21.

• Regular Waterfowl: Sept. 28.

• Pronghorn Gun: Oct. 4.

• Youth Pheasant: Oct. 5.

• Pheasant, Fall Turkey: Oct. 12.

• Mink, Muskrat, Weasel Trapping: Oct. 26.

• Deer Gun: Nov. 8.

• Deer Muzzleloader: Nov. 29.

More info: www.gf.nd.gov.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

DNR proposes bear tooth rule

Beginning in 2019, successful bear hunters in Minnesota would be required to submit a bear tooth sample to be eligible for the next season's bear license lottery under a new rule proposed by the Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR for many years has required hunters to submit bear tooth samples. In response to low compliance, the agency two years ago began mailing letters reminding hunters to send the samples. The proposed rule would give hunters an incentive to follow the legal requirement, and the DNR would stop sending the letters.

Biologists use the tooth samples to determine the age of each harvested bear and ultimately estimate how many bears live in the state.

The change is the only new proposal in a rule package that moves dozens of temporary wildlife rules that have been in effect for several seasons to permanent status. Because the rules are already in effect, hunters won't notice a difference when they become permanent.

An example of a temporary rule that would become permanent is sandhill crane hunting, which has been open in northwest Minnesota by temporary rule since 2010.

A copy of the draft rules and more information about how to comment is available online at mndnr.gov/input/rules/wildlife.

The DNR will accept written comments supporting or opposing the rule changes through Tuesday, Jan. 22. Submit comments to Jason Abraham at jason.abraham@state.mn.us or by postal mail to Abraham at Box 20, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020.

-- Minnesota DNR

Unattended fish houses must float in N.D.

Any fish house left unoccupied on North Dakota waters must be made out of materials that allow it to float, the Game and Fish Department said in a reminder.

Regardless of the structure, if it's left unattended on the ice, it must be able to float. If it doesn't float, it must be removed when the angler leaves the ice.

Other fish house regulations in North Dakota include:

• Fish houses do not require a license.

• Occupied structures do not require identification. However, any unoccupied fish house must have an equipment registration number issued by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, or the owner's name, and either address or telephone number, displayed on its outside in readily distinguishable characters at least 3 inches high.

• Fish houses may not be placed closer than 50 feet in any direction to another house without consent of the occupant of the other fish house.

• All unoccupied fish houses must be removed from all waters after midnight, March 15.

Anglers should refer to the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide for other winter fishing regulations.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

DNR loosens Leech Lake walleye regs

Leech Lake anglers will be able to keep a wider size range of walleyes starting on the 2019 fishing opener, the Minnesota DNR said.

The new regulations, which take effect Saturday, May 11, will remove the 20- to 26-inch protected slot and replace it with a regulation similar to the statewide regulation, but with a four-fish walleye limit, only one of which can be over 20 inches.

Currently, anglers on Leech Lake can keep four fish, but must immediately release any walleyes within a 20- to 26-inch protected slot limit. Only one fish over 26 inches is allowed in possession. The four-fish walleye limit on Leech Lake has been in effect since 2005.

-- Minnesota DNR

DNR to enroll cropland in water quality effort

The Minnesota DNR has committed to pursuing certification of 15,000 acres of croplands it owns and manages as part of a statewide effort to protect water quality.

The effort falls under the Department of Agriculture's Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. Farmers and agricultural producers are certified for voluntarily managing their land in a way that conserves the state's water.

To date, the program has evaluated and certified more than 450,000 acres of Minnesota farmland. With the DNR's commitment, 465,000 acres will be enrolled into the certification program.

"The DNR needs to be a leader in ensuring croplands we manage contribute to water quality goals," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said. "The certification program demonstrates to us, and to the people of Minnesota, that we are using best practices in our land management activities."

The DNR's small farm fields, mainly scattered across western and southern Minnesota, are managed to provide a supplemental food source for wildlife, particularly in winter months, to increase wildlife viewing or hunting opportunities, or to provide alternate food sources for wildlife to prevent crop damage on private lands.

In most cases, the DNR uses agreements with local farmers to plant and manage the fields. In return for planting and managing the crop, the cooperating farmer harvests a portion of the field for themselves and leaves the remaining crop to stand through the winter.

More info: www.mylandmylegacy.com.

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know:?

• It is illegal to import minnows and other forms of live aquatic bait into North Dakota. Anglers should buy bait from a licensed North Dakota retail bait vendor. Bait vendors can properly identify species and have taken steps to ensure all bait is clean of any aquatic nuisance species. More info: gf.nd.gov.

• Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is the 14th-least visited national park in the country with 237,250 visitors annually, according to the website farandwide.com, which developed a ranking of the 30 least visited sites in the National Park System. Isle Royale National Park in Michigan waters of Lake Superior was the fourth-least visited national park, with 28,1976 visitors annually, the website said. Topping the list of least-visited national parks was Gates of the Arctic in Alaska's arctic region, with 11,177 visitors annually.

• The National Wildlife Refuge System has set its fee-free days for 2019 in the 30 refuges that normally charge entrance fees. The free days are Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Feb. 18, Presidents' Day; Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day; Oct. 13, the first Sunday of National Wildlife Refuge Week; and Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

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