In the spring of 2000, the new North Dakota fishing proclamation carried a provision that eliminated the requirement for licensing winter ice fishing shelters.

 And yet, after nearly 18 years, I still get a fair number of phone calls, emails and personal visits while I’m out and about from anglers who inquire about ice shelter identification and licensing.

It’s a reminder that it doesn’t hurt to review the rules and regulations 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.

  • While fish houses no longer require licenses in North Dakota, if they are left on the ice unoccupied, like for part of a day or overnight, they must have identification on them. This can be the owner’s name and address, the owner’s name and telephone number, or new this year, a registration number issued by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The identifying information must be displayed on the outside of the structure in readily distinguishable characters at least three inches high.
  • 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/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 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.