The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has sent out a “strong recommendation” to angler groups and other cooperators — about 160 in all — across the state asking them to postpone placing fishing piers into the water after ice-out this spring to avoid potential congestion issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department sent out the recommendation Wednesday, according to Greg Power, fisheries chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck.

Unique piers, including those left in the water year-round, will need to be handled via signage — either informational signs or signs indicating complete closures, Power said.

Fishing has been encouraged as a way to get outside during the pandemic as long as anglers adhere to the 6-foot social distancing guidelines. The request to delay putting fishing piers in place isn’t a move to close the fishing season but could affect some community fisheries, Power said.

That’s especially true where the department stocks rainbow trout, he said.

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“In some cases, if it’s inevitable that our trout stocking will draw a crowd to a constricted area, we likely will cancel or postpone the stocking,” he said.

The department’s action doesn’t affect docks adjacent to boat ramps, Power said. Most of the docks along the Missouri River already are in place, and there were more than 150 trailers at some ramps last weekend, he said.

“A fishing dock is a known pinch point for traffic but it's usually very fleeting,” Power said Thursday in an email. “We weighed the idea to recommend ‘no docks’ but the backlash would be severe, boat damage could be significant and we would increase the risk of personal injury, especially ankles and legs.”

Most docks, but not all of them, already are signed to No Fishing so that also should help keep some traffic off, he said.

In other North Dakota fishing-related developments:

  • Game and Fish likely will greatly modify the paddlefish season near the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers that is scheduled to open May 1 because of COVID-19 concerns.

  • The department has revoked all April-May fishing tournaments and alerted all other organizers of tournaments set for June through October that their permits may also be revoked in the future to lessen social distancing concerns.

  • “Social distancing” signs were developed and have been or will be placed at most Missouri River boat ramps and the wingwalls, with plans to sign more than 16 other ramps and access sites across the state as the ice recedes and numerous but small areas where shore anglers are known to crowd.

As has been the case for the past couple of weeks, everything is subject to change, Power said.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to