Published February 17, 2013, 04:49 AM

DOUG LEIER: Late winter can offer best ice fishing of the season

As February passes the halfway mark, you’ve noticed the days, both in front and in back, are adding sunlight, and the balance of winter has begun to shift toward spring.

By: Doug Leier, Grand Forks Herald

As February passes the halfway mark, you’ve noticed the days, both in front and in back, are adding sunlight, and the balance of winter has begun to shift toward spring.

But even though the spring snow goose season is on the way, there’s still likely a good month or more left for ice fishing — and perhaps some of the best ice fishing of the season, at that.

One of the big considerations this time of year is when to pull a permanent fish house off the ice. Legally, of course, fish houses in North Dakota must be removed from all waters by midnight March 15. But it’s a good idea to watch the weather and remove those houses early if a prolonged warm spell is in the forecast. In such cases, fish houses either can get frozen in solidly when melted ice refreezes, or the ice can continue to deteriorate to the point that it becomes dangerous to approach with a vehicle.

Even if you do take a fish house off early, shelters can be used after March 15 if they are removed daily.

Some other fish house regulations include:

• Fish houses do not require a license.

• Occupied structures do not require identification. But any unoccupied fish house must have the owner’s name and either an 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.

I also should mention the battle against aquatic invaders continues year-round, and anglers are reminded that regulations designed to reduce the spread of aquatic nuisance species also apply in winter.

It’s important to reiterate that only legal live bait can be transported in water in a container of up to 5 gallons in volume. Fish cannot be transported in water, although a daily catch can be packed in snow.

Other simple methods to prevent winter ANS introductions are:

• Do not use illegally imported baits.

• Do not empty a bait bucket into any water body.

• Do not drop plant fragments into the water.

• Dispose any unused bait into the trash.

If you haven’t made it out ice fishing yet this winter, here are a few more reminders on North Dakota regulations:

• A maximum of four poles is legal for ice fishing.

• Tip-ups are legal, and each tip-up is considered as a single pole.

• There is no restriction on the size of the hole in the ice while fishing. When a hole larger than 10 inches in diameter is left in the ice, the area in the immediate vicinity must be marked with a natural object. See regulations for more information.

• It is only legal to release fish back into the water immediately after they are caught.

• Depositing or leaving any litter or other waste material on the ice or shore is illegal.

Any dressed fish to be transported, if frozen, must be packaged individually. Anglers are not allowed to freeze fillets together in one large block. Two fillets count as one fish.

The daily limit is a limit of fish taken from midnight to midnight, and no person may possess more than one day’s limit of fish while actively engaged in fishing. The possession limit is the maximum number of fish that an angler may have in possession during a fishing trip of more than one day.

Leier is a biologist for N.D. Game and Fish Department. Reach him at Read his blog at