North Dakota’s First River Otter Season Since 1920 Closes After Seven Days

North Dakota’s first otter trapping season since 1920 closed Monday after trappers reached the predetermined limit of 15.

Well, that didn’t take very long. …

I was out of the office Monday, so I’m a day late on this one, but the North Dakota Game and Fish Department on Monday announced the immediate closure of the state’s first river otter trapping season in nearly 100 years after the predetermined harvest limit of 15 otters was reached.

The season was open to North Dakota residents only, and there was a limit of one per trapper. The season opened Nov. 27 and would have continued through mid-March or until the harvest limit was reached. As it turned out, reaching the harvest limit took only a week.

The otter season was North Dakota’s first since 1920. I first reported on plans for the river otter season last December. Here’s the story.

Here are some other outdoorsy nuggets of note that have occurred in the past few days.

New pike regs set for Minnesota anglers

If you’re an angler who likes keeping northern pike on inland waters in northwest Minnesota, you’ll have a chance to keep several more beginning Saturday, May 12, when new regulations take effect.

The new regulations technically take effect March 1, but fishing for pike isn’t allowed on Minnesota inland waters until the May 12 opener.

The regulations split the state into three zones to address the different characteristics of pike populations in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources said Monday in a news release.

In the north-central zone, which encompasses most of Minnesota including the northwest, anglers will be able to keep 10 northern pike, the DNR said. All pike from 22 to 26 inches must be released, and anglers can keep no more than two pike longer than 26 inches in their 10-fish limit. Pike taken by spearing follow the same rules, although one pike can be between 22 and 26 inches and one can be longer than 26 inches.

The goal of the regulations in the north-central zone is to reduce the overabundance of small pike.

Here’s a look at the regulations in the northeast and southern zones.

Northeast: Anglers can keep two pike and must release all northerns from 30 inches to 40 inches in length, with one longer than 40 inches allowed. The goal is to maintain the opportunity to keep pike while protecting the large fish already present in this part of the state.

Southern zone: There’s a two-pike limit with a minimum size of 24 inches for both anglers and spearers. The goal is to increase pike numbers and improve the size of fish that are kept.

The new regulations, which came after an extensive public-input period, originally were supposed to take effect last spring but a legal snag delayed the process. In February, an administrative law judge ruled the DNR first had to repeal a one-pike-over-30-inches regulation that existed in state statute before she could sign off on the stage.

That rule was rescinded during the 2017 Minnesota legislative session. Here’s my March 6 story about the delay.

North Dakota Game and Fish announces changes to fishing proclamation

As I reported in a Sunday column, deer hunting issues dominated the agenda during last Tuesday’s fall North Dakota Game and Fish Department fall Advisory Board meeting for District 4, which drew a full house to the Red River Archers’ indoor range in Grand Forks.

Fishing was a secondary topic, at best, which is to be expected so soon after deer season, but Game and Fish Department  staff also outlined a number of fishing regulation changes set for April 1, when the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Proclamation takes effect.

Here’s a summary of the changes Game and Fish provided at the meeting along with reasons for each of the changes:

Extend the archery fishing season to year-round.
– The archery community has addressed a number of issues in the past years and at their request, the Department now supports a full 365 season for the taking of rough fish with a bow.

The transportation of live white suckers, other than within Richland, Cass, Traill, Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties, is illegal.
– Since live white suckers are only legal bait in the Red and Bois de Sioux rivers, there is no need to transport them outside of this area.

The beginning of the darkhouse spearfishing season would change from December 1 to whenever ice-up occurs.
– When ice-up occurs in North Dakota is unpredictable. However, whenever it does occur, thereafter ice conditions continue to improve (no significant melting) thus safety concerns (e.g. opening large holes in the ice) are reduced. This is not true in the spring, when warm weather can create unsafe conditions … therefore the closing date of March 15 will remain.

A few changes to the paddlefish snagging regulations. Snagging days will begin at 7 a.m. (was 8 a.m.) and close at 7 p.m. (was 9 p.m.). Also, the season length will be shortened to 21 days (May 1 –May 21).
– These changes are an effort to both extend the paddlefish season to more than a few days (most years the season lasts only 4-6 days as an early in-season closure occurs due to the harvest reaching the cap of 1,000 paddlefish) and to improve safety conditions at the Confluence area (due to snagger congestion). A daily closure at 7 p.m. will allow for a more orderly and safe situation for snaggers backed up at the cleaning station. Reducing the overall season length to 21 days is more of a paper exercise as history has shown little use in the back half of May.

Reduction of the statewide daily and possession limit for bluegill to 10/20 respectively (was 20/40).
– The number of quality bluegill fisheries in North Dakota is limited. Reducing the harvest somewhat, should help maintain the size of bluegill in some lakes. Bluegill populations are more in line with crappie where populations can be managed over a longer time (versus yellow perch populations which are tied closely to weather patterns and fluctuations in water levels).

Standardize the trout possession limit with most other species (double the daily) – 6 in possession.
– Although this will have little/no impact in the field, this further helps simplify the fishing regulations as trout possession limits would be double the daily which is the same as other game species except paddlefish, muskie and channel catfish (from some waters).

Eliminates walleye length restrictions on North and South Golden, Alkali (Sargent Co.), Lueck, and West Moran lakes and Tosse Slough.
– Despite minimum length restrictions for these species being in place for a number of years, all biological data collected from angler use and population surveys have not yielded positive results. These are unnecessary regulations, thus the need for removing them.

Clarification that underwater lights used solely to attract fish and not attached to a lure are illegal.
– It is already illegal to introduce anything into waters of the state for the purpose of attempting to attract fish. As originally intended, underwater artificial lights are included.

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