Did you know it's been nearly 20 years since the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has required licensing of ice fishing houses or shelters? While most young hard-water anglers don't remember that provision, I still get questions from time to time about fish house licensing.
These days, while no license is required, fish houses do need some type of identification if they are left on the ice unoccupied. In the past, that meant putting a name and phone number or address on the shelter, but nowadays, you also can generate a personal identification number through the Game and Fish licensing system to use instead of name and/or address. That's a nice option for anglers who'd rather not have their name displayed on their ice house.
While many other regulations have been consistent for years, those too generate requests for clarification for whatever season is coming up or in progress. Here's a short review of some of the rules that guide fishing through the ice.
• A maximum of four poles is legal for ice fishing. Game and Fish implemented this rule statewide in 1996. Prior to that, you could use two poles while ice fishing.
• Mechanical devices that set the hook are legal; however, the use of any device that automatically retrieves the fish is illegal.
• There is no restriction on the size of the hole in the ice while fishing. This rule came into effect in recent years in part to allow people to fish with a hook and line in a darkhouse spearfishing hole. The caveat to this is if you intend to fish through a hole that is larger than 10 inches in diameter, you need to have a marker with you at the time you create the hole. That is, if you cut a hole for spearing or fishing, you can't wait until you quit for the day to look for a stick or branch to use to legally mark the hole.
• Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal.
• The daily limit is a limit of fish taken from midnight to midnight. No person may possess more than one day's limit of fish while on the ice or actively engaged in fishing. Clarification of this rule is important because it's not uncommon for some ice anglers to spend the night in their fish house. If you are in a fish house, it's pretty much the same as being in a boat. You can't have more than one day's limit in possession, even if you caught them on different days. If you catch a limit of fish, you need to get them at least to shore if you want to catch and keep fish of that species after midnight.
For all the rules that apply to ice fishing, plus an extensive list of fishing questions and answers, check out the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov.